He cites his influences as "the ones of the 90s decade...Louis van Gaal at Ajax, the Juventus of Marcelo Lippi and Ottmar Hitzfeld at Borussia Dortmund". He has won titles at the U13, 14, 15 and 16 level. He helped Atlético partner up with an academy in Northern Ireland. And now, he is working on a website to help other coaches make it in football. In this interview, coach Jose Gómez talks more about his time at Atlético, his observations of Rayo's academy, his experience with AC Milan and his upcoming website.
When did you make the decision to pursue football coaching and what motivated you to do so?
I've always loved the game. I remember being a child and playing on the streets I grew, watching games with my friends, and I knew every player in the World Cup...and then I came to an age after finishing my degree in journalism, when I realized it was the time to study what I was really interested in: tactics, training, technique...
Were you excited/nervous when Rayo Vallecano offered you a position as a U13 coach in 2003?
Yes, it was my first experience, but I wasn't nervous - rather I was eager! I remember a neighbor, Pablo, who introduced me to a club affiliate to Rayo (ADEPO Palomeras). It was a local competition with 10-year-old players and we enjoyed it a lot. Good friends - everyone was funny! But I experienced the worst thing that made me think of continuing coaching: I thought that because I had won that little league, I was a good coach (laughs).
Did you expect to make the jump to Atlético Madrid within just a year?
No, I didn't. It was also initially an affiliate club (AD Villa Rosa), to work as an assistant coach of the national U19 League - a very high level. I remember the first drill I worked on: the ball went all around my body at the highest speed I had ever seen! I thought the players were going to shoot my head - but obviously they knew exactly where I was without even looking - they were that good.
You spent a long time at Atlético - how would you describe your time there, and how has it helped you in your future endeavors?
I would describe it as the feeling of pride. All of us: players, coaches, our families...were proud of wearing that t-shirt and defending those colors. Speed, rhythm, strength; those skills of Atlético's style have always been present in my way of working.
You played an integral part in forming Atlético's partnership with Saint Joseph’s Boys - what was the aim of the partnership and what was your idea behind it?
Well, it was part of a project for the Foundation. Saint Joseph's Boys was not a professional academy, but they contacted us. Atlético's Foundation has its own schools, not competitive ones, but they follow a set of technical points that are applied with children. I worked on that technical idea for Saint Joseph's.
What were the first thoughts in your mind when AC Milan offered you a position?
The truth is that I finished working at AC Milan school in Ávila, a city next to Madrid. We only went to Italy for a short period of time, to see the Milanello training center and the philosophy of such an historical club. It was a great opportunity, we won the league with the U16 team!
How did it feel returning to Rayo for the 2016-17 season, and do you see yourself coaching there again?
I must admit I haven't enjoyed it much. As coaches, we always have to say the truth. The idea of the Rayo academy is not good nowadays. I found players at a very poor level, both technical and physically. I mean, it's a business for the club, that receives some money from these players and their parents, who take them to train as if it were an extracurricular subject. That's the reason I won't work at the club anymore.
Given that you worked within the youth academies of some top clubs, how well do you think it prepares players for higher level football, and how would you compare it with going from lower league clubs and making your way up?
This is related to what I just said before. I speak with mates and we agree that these clubs have a worse level of players. Real Madrid and Atlético have the best ones, not only from Spain, but the whole world. But I would say that the key of this success is the high level of our own exigency as coaches, and of course the role of an important figure: the physical coaches - underrated, but they're wonderful in Spain.
What kind of projects are you now working on or are interested in?
I'm preparing a project with two of my mates at Atlético, Javier Gámez and Eduardo Barceló. It consists of a web site to launch videos about coaching points, comments on games, archive of the history of football, articles on medicine, drills, psychology... it is a slow process but we want to do it well and in our own style.
What advice would you give to anyone trying the enter the football coaching arena?
To feel the love for the game. Each year, a lot of universities launch degrees in football. That is not bad, but I see young coaches that only feel the attraction for what they see on TV - false messages, succumbing to appearances. If you don't love the competition, and motivate your players to victory, why don't you stay at home and play Total Manager on your computer?!
What are your plans for the future?
I want to consider pushing all my energies on the project I told you about before. I like that kind of work too. But as you know, the green of the grass always call you back...I have some options to coach in Madrid, maybe with lower age groups. Which might even better because you see the energy in their eyes...
What do you do in your free time?
I like spending time with my daughter, going running or biking and always studying new methods and articles about coaching at home. I also like reading magazines or books about history, which is my second passion.