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29 December 2022

INTERVIEW - Javier Mascherano : « The important is the way that you take »

« It was a long time ago !”, says Javier Mascherano with a smile when we showed him some pictures of the Maurice Revello Tournament 2003, a competition that he took by storm as has been named best player of the Tournament. The former Albiceleste international, who has 147 caps to his name, returned to the Tournament last summer with Argentina's U-20 side, this time in the role of coach. The former midfielder, who is now in charge of a team packed with talent, is preparing to take part in the Sudamericano U20, organised by CONMEBOL and leading up to the FIFA U-20 World Cup in June, from 19 January to 12 February. During the 2022 edition of the Maurice Revello Tournament, Mascherano gave us an interview at the Argentina team hotel. His past as a player, his new job as a coach, the new generations, his philosophy... The two-time Champions League winner with FC Barcelona answered us in all frankness.

Javier, when you see these pictures, what does it feel like ? What does the Tournament represent for you ?

It shows how fast life goes ! It was a very good moment in my life. The Maurice Revello Tournament was a good tournament for Argentina, for me also as I won the Best Player award. I have some moments in my mind but I have to say also that twenty years ago, it was a long time ! It’s really good to coming back here, to live new moments in this part of France and hopefully we can come back in the future.

You were a young player when you played the Maurice Revello Tournament back in 2003. What did the Tournament bring to you ?

Obviously, for players in this age, it’s really good to come here and compete against other national teams that we are used to face.
Comapred to the 2003 edition that I played and where we came with a team in the good age to compete, this year we knew that we were bringing players younger that the other participating nations. It was difficult for us but that’s a good experience for our team to compete with older players. The experience we can get from these games will be good for the future.

Today, you’re here as a manager and not anymore as a player. What’s the difference between the two jobs ?

It’s totally different ! When you’re a player, you play. As I said to my players, the main thing in football is the player. The rest, we can help them, give them some tools, but the football is for the players. Not for the coaches, not for the medias, not for the fans : for the players.
The biggest difference compared to my time as a player : when you’re a player, you think sometimes or a lot in yourself. When you’re a coach, you have to think about the common good. You have to create the good atmosphere, the right context to help players to give their best.

Javier Mascherano and his 2003 Tournament best player award

In 2003, you were a young player. In 2022, you’re a young coach : what do you expect from this first competition as a manager ?

We are bulding the team which is called to compete in the U20 World Cup qualifiers in 2023 (Editor’s Note : that’s to say the U20 South American championship, from 19th January to 12th February, which serves as a qualifying tournament for the U20 WC). We are trying to build a good team and a good human group. That’s the first step. We are going to continue to give our experience to the players, to build them the right context. In order to give them all the options to show their potential. That’s the main thing for me.

You were a captain when you were a player. Was it a logical follow-up to become a coach ?

It’s totally different. When you’re a player, sometimes you can play and think into the team. You can manage your teammates. But it’s totally different when you’re a coach, when you have to put yourself in front of your players and say : “I’m the coach, you have to follow me because I’m trying to give you my vision about how we work to be successful”. The two things are different. It’s more difficult when you’re a coach but I like this role where I try to give my players the best options to play.

What is your philosophy as a manager ? Do you have any models ?

Yes, of course, we have some models. Our idea is to be protagonists of the game, having the possession, creating chances, trying to take in the control of the game. This is the model that I have in my head, and I try to transmit it and to give options to my players. I want them to be as closest as they can to my model. I mean, I am here to try to give the the tools to them in order to develop the game that we want.

Javier Mascherano during the 2022 Maurice Revello Tournament

Do you think that it's possible to create this game plan during the international breaks ? It’s different to work on this with a national team and with a club.

Yes, it's not easy. National teams are not clubs. It’s difficult when you have your model in your mind to convince the players. But we try to train with them every week as much as we can. I am happy for that because when they play, I can see my idea in the pitch. So obviously, we have a lot of things to improve and we will need some time. But since I train these players, I can start to see things that I like.

« The new generations are not patient »

You have talked about tactics. We saw an article before the Tournament on the medias which was saying that when you have been appointed as a coach, you have introduced some rules like no phone during the meals…

(He cuts) No, I saw the article but that is not true. We have some rules because in an organisation, you need to have some rules, but it’s not like this. This is not the army (he laughs). They are professional players, they need some help but no… I don’t need to treat them as soldiers. They are well educated, we try to be good with the people that help us. But for me, it doesn’t work like this.

You have seen many generations of players as a player and now as a coach. What is the main differences you have noticed between your generation, for example, and the generation of your players ?

I think the new generations are not patient, you know, they want everything now. So it’s difficult for example if you want to put them in front of the TV, try to have their attention for half-an-hour. And that happens with my children also, they need to have everything quick, fast. And life doesn't work like this. Sometimes, you need to be patient to get to the top and as I always say to them, you need to drive your way because in football, you can arrive to the same result with different ways. The important is the way that you take. So in Argentina, we are trying to take in our way. I try to make them follow us. 

How would you assess your team's participation in the 2022 Maurice Revello Tournament?

I can say that we competed at a good level. Obviously, we are sad because of how we lost against France (2-6). We expected before the match to have a very hard game because they are older than us and they have a lot of more experience than us, but I thought that we could compete against them and have a best game. We couldn't, that is the truth, but we finished the Tournament in the best way against Japan (3-2 win).

By Amayes Brahmi & Mathieu Lauricella