Raffo: We’ll become the best Academy in Europe

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

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FCSD

After the presentation, the new director of FC Shakhtar Academy answered the questions from reporters

- I've already met the Academy teams that I am going to work with, and I understand that we are in for a great lot of work. Nevertheless, I believe we will manage to attain together the goals we are facing, and we will be the best Academy in Europe. I am grateful to everyone who will make up my team, being eager to work for the benefit of Shakhtar. I have no doubt that we will become the best. Once again I want to express my gratitude to Sergei Palkin for picking me. I think that together we’ll manage to achieve the goal of the Shakhtar Academy being the best in Europe. I'm sure that taking as a basis the methodology of work of Barcelona for developing young players, we’ll achieve the result and prepare quality players for the first team.

- You’ve worked at the Barcelona Academy in Argentina for five years and said that you were going to switch to the methodology of that club. How difficult will it be?
- First of all, we have the idea that the methodology for developing football players with different styles exists. Nevertheless, all those players were creative. That’s exactly the goal of Barcelona’s work. I understand that an individual moving to another country faces a different culture and mentality. We will try to gradually achieve the proper development of the players, for them to showcase their creativity, to feature diverse styles, to operate in different roles. We’ll be improving their qualities. This will not only influence the team as a whole, but also help the guys themselves to progress, enabling them to end up in the first team. That’s the goal of developing any young player. I understand that Shakhtar already has its own history not only in Ukraine, but also in Europe, so I’ll try to adapt as soon as possible. We managed to implement the methods for developing youth in Argentina, where the work was recognized internationally. We proved that such a methodology is possible even in those countries. With the entire management team and the club board we will agree on a certain style of the Academy. We are not going just to copy everything. Our objective is working with the youngest football players, and eventually they will be able to use the acquired skills in the game. Working together, we will make sure that the guys achieve the desired goal and turn up in Shakhtar’s first team.

- We are glad to see you in Ukraine! You are a representative of the glorious football state. Did you work with any people who had forged that glory?
- Yes, I was lucky to work in the largest football organization in Argentina. I communicated with people like Menotti, Bielsa, Abelardo, I met with good coaches practising different styles. Seeing how they work at Barcelona, I realized that everything originated at Ajax, after which the experience was picked up by the Catalan club, and only then the ideas spread all over the world. In 1974, Mr. Menotti took charge of Argentina national team as manager. He met with Michels, who had created the renowned football powerhouse, and asked how he’d managed to attain such heights. The Dutchman replied: I am an absolute admirer of Argentine football. I, in turn, after seeing Argentine football and realizing that much is based around the players’ creativity, managed to structure it and translate it into some ideas. Therefore, what we are going to use at Shakhtar is a methodological thing. I learned a lot from the Argentine football when I was very young and played in Argentina. So the main objective of our work is that the children in Ukraine could develop their creativity. By the way, I’ve seen many talented boys here. Our objective is to make them feel proud of being part of Shakhtar, who allowed them to develop and grow into the best players not only in their country, but also in Europe. Also our mission is that every coach at the Academy gets inspired by this philosophy and helps to fulfil our ideas. Now we are all facing real teamwork.

- Do you plan to invite as your assistant someone you worked with in Argentina?
- Most likely, I won’t, because I’ve seen a great desire of the people who already work here. They want to develop, to study, to learn methodology, to translate ideas, to pass them on to the boys. I can see pride in the eyes of coaches, their assistants, of all those involved in training, in the fact that they belong to this club. I think they are interested in making Shakhtar even stronger. Therefore, our major objective is not only to instruct the young players, but also to help the coaches implement the things that we are going to introduce them to.

- Back to your working experience at the Barcelona Academy. What’s the secret behind training at that club?
- They managed to understand and learn the principles that allow a player to fully develop and use his creativity. Everything we see at the team and individual level is not accidental. First of all, it’s necessary to create a clear plan that would allow the player to show his strong qualities and understand – as a result of our work on holding the ball, controlling the ball, and thanks to the Coerver Method – how they can use those qualities in the teamwork. As a result, we will see what Barcelona is. There are two aspects. First, the boys must understand that they have a certain talent, while the coaches, for their part, must see it and not limit it, continuing to develop it instead. Secondly, Barcelona over many years has developed a certain philosophy, and subsequently implemented it. The famous generation of Barcelona, which has been fruitful for a decade now, was being created for nearly 30 years. Nevertheless, I am sure that even one day is a step forward. In the near future we will see that Shakhtar wishes to take such steps.

- The practice of exchanging coaching experience is very popular in the world. Do you plan to train Shakhtar coaches at other clubs, in particular at Barcelona?
- Yes. New experience enriches us. As far as I know, Mr. Palkin communicates with the representatives of Barcelona, the cooperation between the two clubs is becoming ever closer. But, I can assure you, we will interact not only with the Catalans, but also with other football organizations. We want to get all the best that exists around us, that we have access to.

- What famous Argentinians of Boca Juniors could we know and what world-renowned stars did you bring up?
- For example, Rodrigo Bentancur, who was signed up by Juventus. I can also name Leandro Paredes, who used to play for Roma and who recently moved to Zenit. There is also a 16-year-old Kalidou. He is not that famous yet, but he moved to Inter Milan for 15 million euros. Those are the three most well-known transfers in the last five years. Overall over seven years, Boca Juniors sold their young alumni for 50-60 million, which is a certain success of the Academy.

- Signor Jorge, the example of Ukraine national team coached by Andriy Shevchenko shows how difficult for the Ukrainian players is mastering the playing style you’ve just mentioned, – the creative and fluid one. Don’t you fear facing a similar style incompatibility?
- To understand the process, I want to mention this: it’s preferable to make the biggest changes and do restructuring of the player’s performance not when he has been playing for many years. They learn playing football similarly to learning languages, from an early age. Therefore, the coach must ensure that the individual feels like a child, because back then the guy acted with complete creativity and freedom. Launching this process at the Academy, those features have a direct impact on the principles that the boys should be taught at age 16 and below. We will work with the players of the currently available age. In two or three years we will see a new generation, which is much more sensitive. That is, adults already know something and it’s very hard to retrain them. My first impression is that we have many boys with huge talents. For instance, Arabidze, Kaschuk and others – they have great potential. Our objective is to enable them to make it to the first team, as it happened to Kovalenko. We will train twice a day, so that the players could not only practise interplay, but also their individual brilliance, progressing in the areas which they are lacking so far.
 
- When did you first hear about Shakhtar? Perhaps, you would recall some game?
- As soon as the club becomes a confident player in the international arena, naturally, people learn about it. Basically, for me the starting point was the year 2009: then Shakhtar won the UEFA Cup. That season, the Miners just grabbed the headlines. By the way, this recent Saturday the team won the Ukrainian Super Cup, and on Sunday, as my friends and family told me, the Argentine TV showed replays of the goals scored in that meeting. I think that in recent years Shakhtar has become the most renowned and recognizable club in Ukraine. I want to mention quality of the players coming to the club, in particular from Latin America, and the performance. Also important in terms of publicity is the constant participation of the Donetsk team in the Champions League.