Miguel Ángel Angulo: In Yaroslavl the ball was floating in the puddles and the referee was shouting: “Hey, you! Come on!”
The former attacking midfielder Miguel Ángel Angulo dedicated 13 years of his playing career to Valencia CF team and now he is the head coach of Valencia CF Juvenil, that beat their peers from Zenit twice in UEFA Youth League. After the game in St. Petersburg Angulo gave an interview to Sportsdaily.
— Many football fans remember with nostalgia not only that Valencia CF where you played, but also the teams you played against. Was the end of 90-ties really a special era?
— First of all it was the wonderful epoch in the history of Valencia CF itself. Every year we were playing in the Champions League and were among the best teams of Spain. In all the competitions where we participated we were winning titles or fighting for them to the end. Talking about other teams, yes, it was an incredible decade. For example the UEFA cup had the same level of competition and players’ level of excellence as the Champions League.
— The facade of the Mestalla Stadium is decorated with the images of the former Valencia CF players. I was looking for your photo there, but I couldn’t find it. Maybe I wasn’t attentive enough?
— There is my photo on the facade (smiling). There are photos of the whole team: Cañizares, Albelda, Baraja, Mendieta. Valencia is a kind of a family club. The players who are loyal to the team are really appreciated there. I passed 13 years of my playing career. I think I have deserved the respect and I was always trying to repay the fans for their love with the games, goals and titles.
We thought it was impossible to be in finals for two years. After every game we were jesting: “ Well, OK, in the next stage we are sure not to be through”
— What was happening in Valencia´s changing rooms when you lost second consecutive Champions League final to Bayern Munich? Was it a tragedy for a team or you managed to take it easy?
— Actually everything was vice versa. For Valencia the season 1999/2000 was the first one in Champions League in 20 years. We practically had no players who had the experience in this tournament. We played absolutely without thinking about success, we were just passing from one game to another. All that season we passed in the atmosphere of fun and happiness. Real Madrid, our opponents in the final game, were much more experienced team. They could anticipate every situation several moves ahead. 3:0 was the victory that they completely deserved.
When we started the 2000/2001 season, we also couldn’t believe that we would be able to be through till the finals. We thought it was impossible to be in finals for two years in a row. After every game we were jesting: “Well, OK, in the next stage we are sure not to be through” (smiling). When we qualified for the final, we thought that Europe trusted us, that it was sure to be our chance. It was much sadder to be beaten by Bayern then by Real Madrid. The second time we were closer to the success, but we brought the matter to the penalty shootout, ant it is always a lottery [1:1, penalty shootout — 4:5]. Nevertheless that experience was very useful for us. It made us to be a mature team and we managed to win La Liga and the UEFA Cup in 2004.
— This is not a good example. I think that especially before the finals we weren’t able to relax. It was especially visible in Paris. Everybody shrunk into himself. Cañizares, Roberto Ayala, Claudio López – these were all the players from that squad that had the serious experience of participating in Champions League. The rest of our players had no clear idea about it. We were too nervous and anxious and got “burned out”.
— You didn´t play against Bayern. Were you injured?
— No, I wasn’t.
— Have you done something wrong?
— Well, the coach decided he couldn’t count on me (loughing).
— Is there something that you would have done in different way if it had been possible to play again those Champions League finals?
— Nobody knows what and how one has to act while doing something for the first time. I think we believed in ourselves and didn’t betray our objectives, traditions and rules. We were training as usual when we were preparing for another games, were following the same schedule, keeping the same diet, etc. We didn’t change anything. And I don’t think that if we had changed something we would have been stronger. In all fairness, in those two finals there were a team of Valencia CF, that played well and there were an opponent team that in both cases was stronger and that we didn’t manage to beat.
— I can hardly agree with it. That team were really a single whole. It was a wonderful combination of the mature players with their experience and the young players with their ambitions. Albelda, Canizares, Carboni — all of them live in Valencia and we often meet and spend time together. And neither that time nor now we had anything to quarrel over.
— You were so tied to the club that you even came back to Valencia from Arsenal, that you already had to undersign a contract with…
— It was a complicated story. I had a very big wish to play in Arsenal because I liked English football. On the other hand, Valencia CF was for me something really important, like a second home. I couldn’t imagine myself in another club and I think I’ve made a right decision.
— Did you change your mind in the day of the contract signing? Were you afraid to stay in England without paella and horchata?
— Of course, England is completely different world. It’s not only because of different food, it’s also another culture, another climate, another time zone. But of course, I could get accustomed to it. I remember, we were discussing the details of the contract and next day I had a medical inspection. So, that night, before the medical inspection I started to have doubts.
— And being a family guy…
— I called my mother, then my wife saying: “Well actually I’m not sure”. That’s how I didn’t join Arsenal and stood in Valencia because of my family (laughing).
— Do you see in actual Valencia CF squad somebody similar to the players you played with? Somebody like Baraja or Albelda?
— The times have changed, the football has changed, Valencia CF have changed. We also have to take into account that every coach has his own ideas about the tactics and about the players that are convenient for this tactics.
— Do you remember your goal to Spartak Moscow 13 years ago?
— I remember we played against Spartak, but I don’t remember myself scoring. Was it in Valencia?
— To tell the truth, I don’t remember. I’m sure not to forget how we played in Yaroslavl, knee- dip in water.
— Against Shinnik in the UEFA Intertoto Cup. Wasn’t it you who helped Gaizka Mendieta to take a corner kick from the puddle?
— No, Stefan Schwarz. And it was the real challenge (loughing). The ball was floating in the puddles. When we had to take free kicks or corner kicks the problem was to place the ball. We didn’t know what to do and the referee [Knud Erik Fisker from Denmark] was shouting: ”Hey you! Come on!”.
— And you?
— We told him: “We have no idea how to do it”. He went on shouting: “Come on! Go on playing!” So, we had to use our imagination (loughing). Shinnik don’t play in Eurocups any more, right?
— Shinnik play in FNL — Russian analogue to Spanish Segunda división.
— Somebody has more luck than we did. We spent all the half-time to change wet uniform.
Russian clubs should improve the general training system for the players from the youth teams could make completely their way from the academy till the first team and play there in the highest level as it happens in many European clubs.
— CSKA and Zenit win Eurocups, the stars like Hulk and Garay come to Russia. In your opinion, do Russian clubs still have something to learn from Spanish ones?
— It’s difficult to teach something to somebody and be understood completely and correctly. I’d say that Russian clubs should improve the general training system for the players from the youth teams could make completely their way from the academy to the first team and play there in highest level as it happens in many European clubs. However talking about the game of Youth teams of Zenit and Valencia (the Spanyards won 1:0 in St. Petersburg. —Sportsdaily), it was equal, and it was a good game with the close competition between the opponents. Russian League? It’s level is growing. On the top-level everything is sure to be good in Russia. In the World and European Championships nobody wants to have Russian national team as an opponent.
— Does somebody of your players appear in Valencia CF first team?
— Rafa Mir was included in the squad to play against Zenit [and was in starting XI]. Some players are training with the first team. We are the youth team, the third one in the general club hierarchy, there is also Valencia CF Mestalla, that is the second team.
— What impressed you more in Zenit?
— Apart from Hulk and other stars, your team have a clear understanding how to score a goal, they have a precipitance while attacking and absolutely no superfluous movements. What also impressed me was the way Zenit players acted in Mestalla in the offensive half of the field. As if they were the home team. It seemed it didn’t matter for them that they played in the opponent’s stadium.
— You played under command of Rafael Benítez. Do you believe that Rafa made his choice of the squad for El Clásico under the big bosses’ pressure?
— No, it’s absolutely impossible. And I say that not only because I know Rafa. Florentino Pérez is not one of these people, who can enter the changing room and start telling to the coach what he should do. It’s simply not in his policy, he doesn’t interfere in the team’s daily routine, but dedicates himself to a general management. And I also can’t imagine Benites to change his ideas after having talked with a manager, a journalist or a player (laughing). I think he defined the squad by himself; he risked but made a mistake.
— Do you still think about coming some day to Nueva Mestalla Stadium that has already been being constructed for many years?
— I think for many fans this dream is as big as the dreams about the success and titles. But of course, I’m also a bit sad about it. There are so many memories connected with the old Mestalla, it’s the club’s history and still a beautiful stadium. But the European key-requirement is the comfort on the Stadiums, that s why so many new arenas are being constructed now. But Peter Lim came to Valencia to finish the Stadium, it was a part of his election program, so, let’s see.
Angulo’s partners after the end of their playing career
Santiago Cañizares, 45 y.o. Plays poker and is a spokesmodel of one of the gambling houses. Was married twice and has seven children. Wrote a book Daddy, I want to be a footballer!
David Albelda, 38 y.o. Works as an announcer on the radio Cadena COPE in Valencia.
Ruben Baraja, 40 y.o. Head coach of Elche CF (D-2).
Amedeo Carboni, 50 y.o. An expert on of TV channels in Valencia.
Gaizka Mendieta, 41 y.o. Lives in London with his English wife. TV pundit on Sky Sports.