Leadership, talent and experience are essential attributes when it comes to captaining a football team. Fortunately for Club de Futbol Monterrey, their skipper Jose Maria Basanta has those qualities in abundance.
Born in Tres Sargentos, Argentina, the 29-year-old central defender made his professional debut with Estudiantes a decade ago and joined Los Rayados five years later. On the strength of his consistency over the seasons and his contributions to Monterrey’s trophy successes, Basanta was then handed the captain’s armband.
Ahead of the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013 in December, the tall stopper gave an exclusive interview to FIFA.com and discussed what will be his and Monterrey’s third consecutive appearance in the competition and the responsibility of captaining the side.
Setting a target
The arrival of Victor Manuel Vucetich in the Monterrey dugout in 2009 marked the start of a golden period in the club’s history, one in which they won two league titles and three CONCACAF Champions Leagues.
Thanks to that hat-trick of regional titles, the Mexican outfit have for the last three years been mixing it with the globe's best at the Club World Cup, a competition that means a lot to the Argentinian centre-half.
“It’s one of a kind because of the atmosphere that surrounds it,” he explained. “The matches themselves are a unique experience because you know that if you make one mistake, then you could be heading home early.”
Though they lost to Kashiwa Reysol on penalties when they made their competition debut at Japan 2011, Los Rayados upped their game the following year, making it to the semi-finals.
The Club World Cup is a source of motivation in itself. The fact that it could be the last one we ever play in makes us even more determined to do well.
“We finished fifth the first time round and came back the next year to take third,” recalled Basanta. “Our objective this year is to go all the way to the last game, though we’re well aware of how tough the tournament is. We know we won’t be facing any easy teams, but we’re going there with that goal in mind. We won’t be feeling as nervous this December as we did when we first went.”
Monterrey will face the winners of the tie between Raja Casablanca and Auckland City in the quarter-finals on 14 December. Win that game and they will take on Atletico Mineiro for a place in the final, where Bayern Munich could well be lying in wait.
“If they’re not the best team in the world, then they’re the second or third,” said the Rayados skipper in reference to the German giants. “They’re very strong opponents, and a team with very experienced and very talented players in every department.”
Pondering the different styles of football that will be on show in Morocco, he added: “Every team has their virtues, and we need to analyse them and work out how to counter them.
"You need to be very organised and focused, and you have to be watchful and stick together. Every team has very skilful players and we can’t afford to give them space. We have to do our jobs, trust in our ability and try to make progress by sticking to those principles.”
Life after Vucetich
With Vucetich, the man they call King Midas in Mexican football, no longer in charge, the task of taking Monterrey to new heights at the Club World Cup will fall to his replacement Jose Guadalupe Cruz.
Assessing the change in the dugout, Basanta said: “We had some great times with Vuce. We enjoyed some unforgettable years and achieved a lot of things. Profe Cruz has his own approach, though, and we have the best part of a month to take his ideas on board and carry out his orders.”
The centre-back, who made his Argentina debut under Alejandro Sabella and played four matches in the qualifying competition for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, added: “We’re playing a new passing game, bringing the ball out from the back.
"The coach wants to see a lot of movement in midfield. He wants us to get behind defences, to play down the flanks and see our wide-men hit the byline every time and send in crosses that can hurt opposing defences.”
Having failed to qualify for this season’s CONCACAF Champions League, Monterrey will not be present at next year’s Club World Cup, meaning Morocco 2013 could mark the end of one of most successful spells in the club’s history.
“I tell the rest of the team that playing in the Club World Cup is a source of motivation in itself,” continued the skipper. “The fact that it could be the last one we ever play in makes us even more determined to do well. As for the team spirit, that’s already there.”
Signing off with a warning for their rivals in Morocco, he said: “We’re hoping that and our commitment to the club and the fans will take us far. We want to make history.”