He arrived in the red and gold club with Real Madrid’s motto of “winning is in our DNA,” on his lips. Having coached superstars like Lucas Vasquez, Diego Llorente, Casmiero, Denis Cheryshev and Rodrygo in in the youth system of Los Blancos, East Bengal fans had hoped that Manuel Manolo Diaz would be the perfect replacement for Robbie Fowler to take charge of their beloved club, despite last minute tussle between the club and investor Shree Cement.
But things went downhill once the season started and after going 8 matches without a win, including a humiliating loss in the derby against ATK Mohun Bagan, his sacking was inevitable. He had come with lofty aspirations but left disappointed.
In an exclusive chat with Indian Express he talks about his time in Indian football and also takes a dig at East Bengal’s ‘management.’
East Bengal is facing ATK Mohun Bagan this Saturday. Do you think East Bengal under new coach Mario Rivera can manage to win against a team that drew their last match against Odisha FC?
Let’s wait to see how the game goes. In my opinion, they cannot.
Do you still follow East Bengal matches from Madrid?
I just follow the results. Nothing more.
Looking back at your stint with East Bengal, what do you think actually went wrong? You have managed some famous footballers at Real Madrid over the years. What happened here?
I have already said that East Bengal does not have the level to compete in the Indian Super League (ISL). The fault lies with the management for making the squad. We can’t just only blame the players.
Besides, I did not sign any current players in the squad. I just recommended two names, one Sidoel Darren, second one was Antonio Perosevic. The squad does not have depth to compete in a top league like ISL. The team was poorly-made. Moreover, six foreigners were chosen who had no ISL experience. I should have spoken to previous coach Robbie Fowler before taking up the job.
Whom among the management team are you referring to?
Srenik Sett (from investor Shree Cement) is a very bad professional. The players told this to me as well. It is a shame that a team like East Bengal with so much rich history and legacy has managers like Sett, his son or the colonel (CEO Shivaji Samaddar). They are not professional at all. Even the players do not want them. The investor should not have put these people in those positions to begin with.
There were questions raised too when you did not play Adil Khan. And that you could have handled the team in a better way.
Of course (there were allegations). Adil Khan refused to play in a game and to me, it was a very serious lack of professionalism. If you talk about his skills, I think he is a player of poor quality.
Were all the footballers happy under your coaching?
Everything seemed perfect to me. But the management made a mess from the very beginning.
After your departure East Bengal under interim coach Renedy Singh showed some gritty, spirited football. What is your take on that?
Phenomenal. Everything seems very good to me.
After several winless matches even former boss Alejandro Menendez Garcia took to Twitter to confirm that he has not recommended your name?
For all East Bengal fans 👇🏼 pic.twitter.com/JPKJiK1m99
— Alejandro Menéndez (@Alemengar) December 24, 2021
Do you intend to come back to Indian Football or to East Bengal in the future?
With this management in East Bengal right now, it is impossible. If there is any serious project from East Bengal or any other side with a squad of players who will be able to compete and win the ISL, then of course.
What are your current plans after leaving East Bengal?
Well, being in contact with football in my country again and waiting for a project to return to training!