Spanish head coach Gerard Nus led NorthEast United in the first half of the 2020-’21 Indian Super League. The young coach, who has worked with the “Liverpool FC under Rafael Benitez” and created the foundation for NEUFC’s insipiring run to the semifinals.
In a chat with us, Gerard Nus spoke about how the ISL is developing as a league, how NEUFC scouted players from the I-League and more –
How was your experience with Indian football in general ? How is the standard of the league compared to the other places you have worked at ?
My experience in India was amazing. There is no doubt that Indian football is growing and developing very fast. I feel privileged to have had the chance to be part of its progress.
To be honest, I was positively impressed by the level of players and the organization of the competition. They made a tremendous effort adapting to a worldwide pandemic and this clearly shows the commitment of the country to make football grow.
It would not be fair to compare the Hero ISL with some of the leagues that I have been part of. We must not forget that it is a very young league. We have to be patient and keep supporting the clubs and especially the players. I was runner up of the Premier League with Liverpool FC, a competition that has hundreds of years of history. India can be a very powerful country. The future is extremely exciting.
Many young players came up this season like Lalengmawia (whom you even made captain), Akash Mishra, Liston Colaco. What have you got to say about them ?
My biggest satisfaction from our time at NEUFC was not only achieving an historic season and helping the team to qualify for the playoff, but also to develop young players such as Apuia, Ninhtoi, Gurmeet, etc. We worked very closely with them to help them reach their full potential. I am very happy for them because they worked really hard and they are a clear example for the future generations of the country.
Apuia was selected captain because it was the best for the team, his development and the country´s future. He has the tools to become a great leader and we are very honored that our coaching staff was part of his progress.
The ISL allowed 5 foreigners in the XI till now. From next season, they will allow 4. Do you think this will help develop Indian players ?
Foreign players are essential for the development of Indian players. They bring many great things not only on the field but also off the field. They mentor the young players, they demand a lot from them and they help them grow. In addition, they play a big role in the cohesion and the culture of a team. Nevertheless, to see more Indian players competing on the field has many positive things. Now, it is more important than never to recruit properly and to give them the right coaching, so they have the right tools to perform.
A lot of your players at NEUFC were picked from the I-League (like Britto, Suhair, Chara, Mehta, Gurjinder) something not many teams do. Did you actively follow the I-League for scouting players ? Whats your opinion on the league ?
The I-League has some talented players and I follow it closely. Before arriving to Goa, we knew that we were one of the teams with most players from the I-League. Some of them, they did not have previous experience in the Hero ISL. For this reason, we studied every player of our roster and we met with them one on one to explain the areas of their games that had some room of improvement.
I must admit that it makes me really happy to be able to watch Ashutosh Mehta playing with the national team. We trusted in him and he delivered with great commitment and perseverance. He is an example for many I-League players. Hard work always pays off.
You are only 36 years old . You have managed players of your age and probably some who are older than you. Does it make any difference ?
It is not about the age; it is about working together for a common goal. My obligation as a coach is to improve my players and provide them with the right opportunities. I like to be very close to them and know what they think at every moment. If a player improves, the team improves. A team can only achieve its goals if everyone buys in. You increase team trust and team engagement by gaining the confidence of every individual. Everyone has a role to play and I truly believe that together we are stronger.
You have previously worked with Rafeal Benitez. Tell us about your experience.
Rafael Benitez is one of the greatest coaches to ever coach this sport. His tactical knowledge is unmeasurable, and his leadership skills are top level. He gave me the opportunity to work at one of the best clubs in the world and I will never forget all the memories that we had together. I would not be the coach I am today without our time in Liverpool FC.
Are we going to see you in India again sometime soon ?
Our experience in India was special. Therefore, the door to come back will always remain open because we were able to achieve our goals and we created the perfect structure for a playoff team. With a limited amount of time and under extremely challenging circumstances, we were able to bring players from some of the best leagues in the world, such as Machado, Appiah, Lambot or Camara.
In addition, I must say that Indian fans are incredible, they are exceptional. The culture of football just keeps getting better every year.