Most of you know that Michael Laudrup – the man who played for both El Clásico clubs and won five La Liga titles in a row has now found managerial success in Qatar.
But, What you probably didn’t know is that throughout his Qatari journey, his assistant coach has been Albert Fernández.
In this interview, I find out about what brought Albert into coaching, his journey so far and the state of football in Qatar. He talks about the influence of the Aspire Academy, the surprising football infrastructure in the country and the opportunities for Spaniards abroad in general…
When did you make the decision to pursue football coaching and what motivated you to do so?
I decided that after an injury to my ACL, it was a good way to keep working in football and a good challenge to develop a future career in coaching.
What were your first thoughts when Girona offered you a position in 2005?
I was there as a football player so it was very good to coach there – a team from my city, my club and where I had always been. I learnt from people I knew and improved my level with all the professional people working at the club. I had no doubts it was a great place and chance to get knowledge and an easy way to start because I knew the club philosophy, the people in charge at the club, etc.
What were your various responsibilities there and how would you describe your six year stint there?
In Girona I did almost everything. I started as a coach of the youngest teams, growing and becoming a technical director in the youth teams, coaching the reserve team of the club, working for the main team in scouting opponents and players…. so I can say it is my home and it was where I developed my knowledge from the beginning.
Your first senior manager role was at UD Cassà – how would you describe your experience there?
It was a great experience! The team had very young players but their skills were good so we grew up together – myself as a coach and the young players – in a hard league. I was 28 years old and the players had either just finished the U19 league or had one or two years experience in the semi-professional leagues in Spain.
You became the technical director of Dnipro Academy in Ukraine, what were your initial thoughts when they offered you a role, and did you find it difficult to leave Spain?
It was not so difficult to leave Spain because it was a chance to get involved in the professional world despite being in another country, with another type of football and a higher level than in Girona or the teams I had coached. At the time Girona was in the 2nd division in Spain and Dnipro was a UEFA League club from Ukraine with a big and ambitious project for the main team as well as for the academy. So we moved there with two more Catalan coaches and Jordi Gratacos as Sporting Director.
How would you describe your time in Ukraine, and later in Bahrain as an U19 coach?
Both of them were a great experiences as a human and as part of a football career. In those countries we were working with people with a very different point of view and different methodologies of football, so the situation asked us to find a way to transmit our style of play and training methodology to people who were used to doing things in a very different way. We went deep on our way of transmitting information and our beliefs on our style of play.
Having worked in Ukraine, Bahrain and Qatar, what motivates you to grab such international opportunities, and do you think more Spanish coaches should do so?
A lot of Spanish coaches are now working abroad and more will surely try to do so. The reason why is because outside of Spain clubs are hiring Spanish coaches thanks to the success of Barcelona, Real Madrid and the victories of the Spanish national football team.
How would you describe your time in Qatar so far?
Life in Qatar is pretty good and comfortable. To live in Doha is very easy for us because the country has adapted to foreigners in many ways. Football and sports in general are developing quite fast because the Government invests and supports a lot of sports here. For example the Aspire Academy has better tools than a lot of professionals clubs around the world so as a professional you feel useful to the players and you have a lot of tools to help them to increase their level.
Many Spaniards are now moving to Asian countries such as Qatar – do you see many Qatari players and managers moving in the opposite direction?
Some players are doing that already. Because of the Aspire project some players are moving to a Belgian club or a Spanish one as the Aspire Academy owns those clubs or has a very good cooperation with them. They send the players to Europe to help them to develop their level and to get to know the different way of football in Europe. Regarding the coaches, however, they are not moving abroad too much as far as I know.
You’re currently an assistant coach Al Rayyan, having been one at Lekhwiya. How difficult is it to balance responsibilities, and how different is the pressure to succeed at both places?
In any club the responsibility and the pressure is high at different levels. So I can say after some years of experience that you learn to manage the responsibilities at the different levels you are working at. In football you are always under pressure – you just need to learn to pay attention as much as the pressure deserves, I mean you learn to react to the pressure and to keep calm under those different situations.
What are your goals for the rest of the season with the team?
Al Rayyan is a big club in Qatar and under Laudrup’s guidance we will try to get some titles for the club and the fans this season. We will work very hard to achieve our goals – although in football you can never say you will get success for sure. One of the greatest things about football is that you can never 100% control the results. There are rival teams, injuries, mistakes or even well-intentioned decisions from a lot of different moving areas that make it very difficult to say anything for certain in football.
What advice would you give to anyone trying the enter the football coaching arena?
First of all, we all need to be ready to work really hard and to spend a lot of time in this job to achieve success. We always need to be ready to fail and to succeed because both situations are inevitable as a football coach. Put a lot of thought and perseverance into your targets and never give up because at any moment everything can change in a good or bad way so we must be always be ready to face the changing situations.
What are your plans for the future?
It’s very difficult to plan anything but we’ll see what future holds and I will be ready for anything. I hope to keep learning from one of the best midfielders in Michael Laudrup.
What do you do in your free time?
I try to enjoy my family and friends as much as I can. I keep track and see a lot from the different places I have lived in and I like to experience the different cultures that are in the Middle East. I try to learn from all different cultures, places, and people, enjoying life with my family – and then visit my friends and people in my city Girona as much as I can!
A huge thanks to Albert Fernández for taking the time to do this!