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Like players, referees should also analyse and improve their games, says FC Goa's Manuel Lanzarote

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Like players, referees should also analyse and improve their games, says FC Goa's Manuel Lanzarote

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Subhayan Dutta


FC Goa's new fan-favourite, Manuel Lanzarote, has been a lynchpin to the side's unstoppable run in the ISL so far. In an interview with SportsCafe, the ex-Barcelona academy player opens up about tiki-taka gameplay, the close understanding between players, and how close is ISL compared to La Liga.

FC Goa have been surprisingly domineering this season so far, rightly receiving dividends for the massive risk and investment that they put at the end of last season by ending Zico’s three-year reign at the helm. The decision to part ways with the Samba tactics in favour of Barcelona’s tiki-taka seemed like a terrifying prospect for a club that had failed to win anything since the inception of this tournament, but many are now left stunned how the complete revamp has borne fruition in such a short time.

The new coach, Lobera, was a largely unknown prospect and as Zico had imported players from Brazil, the former Barcelona C manager, too, decided to bring in players from the famed La Masia academy, where he had begun his coaching career 16 years back. They signed six Spanish players this season, three of them – Sergio Juste, Edu Bedia, and Manuel Lanzarote – have previously represented Barcelona B in the past.

The Barcelona pedigree had shown a glimpse of their genius in their very first game against Chennaiyin FC where the Spanish Armada of Gaurs completely destroyed Chennai on their home turf with Lanzarote and Ferran Corominas playing significant roles. Fans had never seen a more domineering display by any side in the Indian Super League before, and although their hopes were flickered by a loss away against Mumbai City FC in the immediate next game, Goa have been unparalleled since then. They have scored 17 goals in the opening five games with the Spanish duo directly involved in 13 of them. However, while the natives were unlikely to have a hard time getting Lobera’s tactics, one could only admire the Indian lot indoctrinating the tiki-taka play in five months.

Along with Lanzarote and Corominas, stands Mandar Rao Desai, who have been equally impressive in Goa’s free-flowing impeccable build-ups every game. One would expect this gameplay to need tremendous coordination and understanding among players to be executed this aptly and the language to play a major barrier, but Lanzarote has surprisingly it to be no problem at all.

“It’s (language) a little difficult at the beginning yes but once you know each other… It’s not a difficult concept. We just keep the ball and ensure we play incisive football. It's about understanding each other strengths and trusting each other,” said the former Barcelona academy player in an interview with Sportscafe.

However, while no side seem to have found any answer to Goa’s onslaught, many have managed to limit the threat. Delhi, in the last game, had almost negated it in the entire first-half before a defensive lapse saw them conceded. Quite surprisingly, with Coro and Lanzarote tightly marked, it was Mandar who looked lethal quite often before he was denied by the crossbar.  The Spaniard was all praise for his Indian teammate, who brings extra sharpness up front.

“Mandar is a good player with a long history with the club. He certainly has qualities that we use to the team's advantage. He is someone who is very professional and works very hard. So, when he moves around, it helps us as he creates space for the others to move into and also gets himself into good attacking positions,” said Lanzarote.

Scouting has always been a huge challenge for clubs in the ISL especially when one is looking for players, who would make an instant impact in the short four-month long tournament. With five goals and three assists already, Lanzarote would definitely be on the roaster in the next transfer window.

The Catalonian had never left Spain in his entire career barring one season with Greek side Asteras Tripolis, and it turns out that the Gaurs were actually lucky to get him just at the right time.

“I had a few options last year as well but we decided to hold off on it as my wife was expecting a baby. But this year, when the offer came, I was very happy to discuss things with the club and after speaking to my family, we decided to take the decision to come to India to start a new adventure and experience something different,” revealed Lanzarote.

Apart from playing in all the top three divisions of La Liga as well as Greece’s top-flight league, Lanzarote has also played in the Europa League, and the ISL hasn’t looked any less competitive to the winger.

“The standard in the ISL is actually pretty good. Obviously, the levels vary a little bit but I wouldn't say the ISL is too far off the standard of some of the divisions I've played in,” he said.

The only punctuation to Goa’s winning run has been their 2-1 defeat against Mumbai City FC in the second game, which came under a lot of criticism following the wrong offside decision that could have seen the outcome very differently. ISL hasn’t been exemplary in terms of refereeing this season and Lanzarote hope they will improve as the season progresses.

“We hope the referees can also analyse their games and improve themselves as the players try to do the same,” the Spaniard concluded. 

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