Though one of the keys to Monterrey’s success in the last three years has been continuity and the club’s faith in their core players, the small number of fresh faces brought in have consistently helped strengthen the side ahead of each new challenge. And among these timely signings one name immediately springs to mind: former Argentina international Cesar Delgado.
An integral member of Los Rayados’ side ahead of their second trip to the FIFA Club World Cup, thanks in particular to his vision and knack for creating goals, El Chelito Delgado spoke exclusively to FIFA.com about the lessons learned from Japan 2011, his hopes for this year’s Far Eastern adventure and the objectives set for Victor Manuel Vucetich’s charges.
FIFA.com: Come Japan 2011 you’d only been at the club for five months, so do you feel a more settled member of the side this time around?
Cesar Delgado: I’m feeling really good. It’s true, when I came [to Japan] around this time last year I still didn’t know my team-mates all that well. Right now I’m feeling very good and I’ve settled into the squad: I know the lads well now. Nery Cardozo and Jose Maria Basanta have helped me, they’re great people. They helped me adapt quickly to the team, and I can only thank them for that.
One year on from Japan 2011, and having thoroughly analysed what went on, what do you think Monterrey need to do better this time around?
There are always things to improve – there’s always something to correct, to work on. And I’m talking about in every area: mental and tactical. The coach will take care of the latter, while it’ll be down to us to do what he asks of us and keep improving as a team. Take the game against Kashiwa [Reysol in the quarter-finals of Japan 2011], which we had in our grasp but couldn’t put our chances away. In the end it went to penalties, which everyone knows is a lottery, and we lost. Japan was a really great experience, even though we got knocked out. We’re hoping that at this World Cup we can go all the way to the final and win it.
Going on your own experience of Mexican and European football, what differences would you highlight between the two?
In fact there are very few differences, despite what many people think. One that I can see and is noticeable is the different type of playing surfaces. Here in Mexico the grass is longer and they don’t water the pitches before a game. Over in Europe it’s completely different: pitches are always watered beforehand and it changes the pace of the game. There are players that come here from Europe and can’t get used to it, due to the altitude, the heat or the kick-off times, but to be honest those few things are the only ones I’ve noticed.
The FIFA Club World Cup features clubs from across the globe, while you have further experience of a similar competition having come second with Argentina at the FIFA Confederations Cup 2005. What do you think is most important at tournaments with such a wide variety of playing styles?
Keeping your concentration out on the pitch is so important. You have to be aware of the very smallest details so as not to be caught out in any situation. You have to play as a team throughout the whole match and keep the pressure on your opponents in every area of the field.
Would you like to break back into the Argentina set-up?
I’d love to, but I think it’s very difficult.... There are so many great players, we all know that. But being in Mexican football also makes it very difficult, because not many people [in Argentina] follow it - I don’t know why. That said, I was here in the Mexican game when I played for the national team under Marcelo Bielsa. But anyway, you never stop dreaming of being involved. You have to be at the top of your game to do that, so that’s what I train towards every day.
Now that you mention Bielsa, he’s a coach whose methods have earned him widespread attention and admiration. What do you think of him?
I learned so much from him. He’s a true great, he’s the boss. He’s a footballing perfectionist, he wants everything to go just right, everything balanced - just perfect. I think he’s the best coach I’ve ever had, by a distance.
One last question, back on the subject of Japan 2012: are Monterrey capable of bringing the trophy home?
Yes, that’s what we all dream about. We’ve got a great squad, a great team and we all want to have an outstanding tournament. We know how important this competition is and about the great teams that’ll be there, so our main objective is to reach the final and win it. We’re hoping to achieve what no other CONCACAF team has done. That’s our ultimate goal and we’d love to do it. We want to rise to the occasion on this new adventure, one which is so important both for the club and for us players.