Spain boss Fuente hopes to tune out noise of crisis ahead of Euros

Spain head coach Luis Fuente during interview with Reuters
Spain head coach Luis Fuente during interview with Reuters Reuters
The way for Spain's men's team to weather the current storm around the soccer federation (RFEF) is to stick together, tune out the noise and concentrate on their performances on the pitch at Euro 2024, manager Luis de la Fuente said on Monday.

As he braces for the challenge of a tough Group B alongside Croatia, European champions Italy and surprise package Albania in Germany, De la Fuente and his players have had to deal with the furore surrounding the scandal-ridden RFEF.

With a corruption probe under way and the fallout from the unsolicited kiss former RFEF chief Luis Rubiales gave player Jenni Hermoso after Spain won the women's World Cup in Sydney last year, the government created a special committee two weeks ago to oversee the governing body until it holds new elections.

"We have to concern ourselves with purely, strictly sporting matters. Which we have enough of," De la Fuente told Reuters in a interview on Monday. "We have to focus on what we can control. This is very, very basic, but it's very real. Stick to football.

"I'm concerned about how the facilities are going to be, the training camp, the pitches, the travel ... And on the pitch, because the players know that we are going to be judged for what we do on the pitch.

"Everything else, all the media noise that exists around us, is not going to help us. So then we have to be totally and absolutely focused on what is, for us, the most important thing: the competition."

Regardless of the buzz around his side, which he knows will be rife, De la Fuente said it will be even more helpful to stick to a philosophy that he has always insisted on - a player's character and values are as important as form and talent.

"What surprises me is that it seems exceptional, something that we should consider as natural. I prefer to work with good people. Of course, great professionals, but also good people," De la Fuente added.

"A good professional, but with doubtful human quality ... that doesn't give me security! I want people around me, good people who are willing to work, willing to sacrifice themselves for the person next to them, who are supportive, generous.

"When you have to manage a group of people, it is much easier to work with those kind of people than with others who can cause you problems. In such a short competition, a step backwards can almost be definitive. We can't afford that."

Familiar faces

To apply his philosophy, De la Fuente, 62, has the advantage of knowing many of the players really well.

He joined the RFEF in 2013 as the Under-15s manager having worked with players like Pedri, Mikel Oyarzabal, Fabian Ruiz, Mikel Merino, Marco Asensio and Dani Olmo as youngsters.

De la Fuente won the European Championship with the Under-19s in 2015 and Under-21s in 2019, coaching many of the players he guided to the UEFA Nations League title last year and who will make the Euro 2024 squad he will announce next Monday.

With Barcelona teenagers Lamine Yamal and Pau Cubarsi breaking out and veterans like Real Madrid's Dani Carvajal and Atletico Madrid's Alvaro Morata still delivering, De la Fuente believes he has a talented group at his disposal with the perfect mix of youth and experience.

"I know Spanish grassroots football very well and I believe we develop the best players in the world. But to become a champion you need to play as a team," De la Fuente said.

"A team that is cohesive, united, a homogeneous group that have a common goal and a clear objective. And I think we have consolidated a great group of people, a great human group.

"Now let football do the talking and let the talented footballers, who I believe we can count on, be the real stars of this story, the stars on the pitch."

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