Delhi Dynamos have a new man at the helm in the form of Josep Gombau. A former youth team coach at Barcelona, Gombau follows in the footsteps of his compatriots Albert Roca and Sergio Lobera by signing up for a coaching stint in the Indian Super League (ISL).
All three coaches have had a connection to the Catalan club with Gombau and Lobera even working together during their time at Barcelona.
The Dynamos might have finished a lowly eighth in the 10-team ISL under Miguel Angel Portugal last year but the appeal of their ‘project’ was too enticing for Gombau to ignore.
“I was in contact with the club for quite some time and I really liked the roadmap that they have in place. For Dynamos, obviously winning is important but what they are also looking at is improving the players. They are not just thinking about themselves but also about giving players to the country, which is clear from the fact that they have the most representatives in the current South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Camp,” Gombau said in an exclusive chat with Goal.
Apart from coaching the youth teams of Barcelona and Espanyol, the 42-year-old’s resume includes stints with Adelaide United and Western Sydney Warriors in the Australian A-League, Kitchee FC in Hong Kong and an assistant coach role with the Australian national team.
Explaining what drew him to a stint in India, Gombau said: “I’ve had past experience in Asia with Kitchee and the football in Asia is only getting better with every passing year and I wanted to experience football in a nation which is growing in this sport.
“The best part about coming to Dynamos is that they are hungry for success. They’ve come close twice in the past by reaching the semi-finals. So for them it is important to break that jinx and I am hopeful that maybe we can go a few steps ahead this year. “
Though he has his eyes firmly set on winning the title with Delhi, the Spaniard hopes to learn as much as possible during his time in the ISL.
“The ISL has grown tremendously well since its first season. It’s steadily becoming a full-fledged league and that gives us managers a lot of opportunities to understand this squad even better. We have some fantastic teams in the league like Chennaiyin and Bangalore (Bengaluru FC) and some really great coaches like Sergio Lobera who I have worked with before as well. This is a great learning opportunity because as a manager you always keep learning every year, but I also want to challenge for the title from the very beginning,” he explained.
From the very beginning, Gombau’s teams have looked to play possession-based football and he believes that it won’t be difficult to incorporate that philosophy with the Dynamos.
“I want to start the pre-season and understand the players. I’ve seen the team play last year and they followed a possession-based style so it won’t be difficult for me to incorporate that in this team,” he said.
“I want to instil that belief in this side that they can go on and win this regardless of how last season went.
“In football, everything changes and players should believe in themselves and things will ultimately start falling into place. “
The side’s campaign last season was defined by their trust in young Indian players like Lallianzuala Chhangte, Vinit Rai and Nandhakumar Sekar amongst others. Having taken stock of the squad upon his arrival, Gombau is excited about its potential, with former Bengaluru FC striker Daniel Lalhlimpuia among those who have caught his eye.
“This is a squad that has very good potential. The players are young and are very focused. Some of the senior players in the side come with a good winning mentality and are players who have previously won a lot of titles in India,” he stated.
“It is important to have such players in the side because their winning mentality helps motivate others in the squad. Players like Chhangte, Vinit and Nandha have really impressed me and then there’s a new signing Daniel who I’ve monitored very closely and I really like him as a player. I am extremely motivated to work with this squad.
“I have worked with a lot of young players as a coach – in Australia, Barcelona, Espanyol so I understand the mentality of these players. The mentality is that they want to get better and want to win and that is the type of players I like working with.”
While Gombau is pleased with the squad at his disposal, he knows that the Dynamos need to add a quality striker up front if they are to have any hopes of challenging in the upcoming season. The national capital-based outfit struggled for goals in the first half of their 2017-18 campaign before skipper Kalu Uche found his scoring boots. The Nigerian has now joined two-time ISL winners ATK and his goals need to be replaced by the Dynamos.
“I’ve discussed that with the management and we are working on finding maybe one or two good strikers in the transfer market. As you have seen that all top teams have one really good goal-scorer and we are looking for someone who can give us that lift in the attacking half. The management understands the sort of players I am looking at in this squad and if we get the players that we have identified then I would say it would be a good transfer market for us,” Gombau said.
The Dynamos were woeful in the first half of last season before turning it around in the latter half as they finished the league stage strongly. Gombau does not want to repeat history and wants his side to hit the ground running from the very go when the league gets underway this year.
“Everyone’s target is to win and mine is no different. We want to be challenging from the beginning. This league’s format is different so even if you do finish fourth, you have the same chance of winning as the one who has topped. But we don’t want to stop at fourth, the aim is to keep challenging from the beginning so that there are no last minute hiccups in the final stages of the season,” he explained.
Whether the Spaniard can turn the fortunes of the Dynamos around in the coming season remains to be seen. He has quite the task in front of him if he wants to succeed in a league which has so far been won by only two teams – ATK and Chennaiyin. He will want to upset that hegemony and follow in the footsteps of Antonio Habas and Jose Francisco Molina in Spaniards to have won the ISL on their very first attempt.