Mumbai City FC head coach Sergio Lobera spoke to the media for the first time since his appointment over a virtual press conference from the club’s bio-secure bubble in Goa on Tuesday afternoon. He spoke about Indian Super League (ISL) outfit’s ambitions, his philosophy of wanting to win matches while playing beautiful football and scoring as many goals as possible, the City Football Group’s involvement and more.
Lobera’s team will begin their ISL campaign this Saturday with a match against NorthEast United FC and have been branded as genuine contenders for the ISL title.
Following are excerpts from the press conference:
Q> At FC Goa, you pioneered a stylish, attacking brand of football. Can we expect more of it now that you are back in the ISL at a new team?
Lobera: The style is non-negotiable. You know what my idea of playing is, and I followed the same at three seasons at FC Goa. It is important for me that spectators enjoy the football that we play – of course, winning the matches is important, but I also believe in having my team play an attacking brand of football where we are also able to create a balance. I want my team to be able to play beautiful, possession-based football, and also close down teams to quickly win back possession.
I want them to play more in the opponent half and try to score as many goals as possible and try to maintain a clean sheet as well. For me, it's important to win and play beautiful football.
Q> How happy with the team that has been assembled for the ISL?
Lobera: I am very happy with the team I have. We have been working for a long time to get these players and I am satisfied. I think we have special players and we are building something special. I am trying to get the players to play in our style and hopefully, we can perform when the season gets underway.
We have some amazing players who have had great careers, but the most important is to improve the level of the Indian players. For me, as a coach, I need help of foreign players to improve the Indian players. It’s impossible to win a trophy if the Indian players aren't at the level, and it is also impossible to win when your foreign players do not gel with the Indian players. So as the coach, I need my foreign players to play a big role on and off the pitch.
Q> With so many quality players in each position how do you see the team lining up?
Lobera: The formation is plausible to change because finally you need to play with the best players. Our style of play or our philosophy is not to stick to one formation. We can play in 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-2. The most important thing as a coach is to find the best way possible and the players have to understand. I try to manage these situations, when you have very good players in the squad, you need to manage well. It's a challenge. But that's what I want, I want to work with the best players and try to work well as a collective, as a team.
Q> How do you plan to tackle man-management this season, given you have such big names in the squad who wouldn’t like to be on the bench?
Lobera: It is part of my job. If you don't want to have such problems, you just get 11 players, you may win matches but it is impossible to win the league. I need a full squad to win the trophy. As a coach, I have to improve the level of the players tactically, technically, physically, mentally. But you also have to manage the group well. Everyone has to be aware of the collective objective, the team comes first.
Q> Do you see yourselves as favourites for the ISL?
Lobera: In my opinion, it is going to be the most difficult and competitive season till now. I want to respect all teams, and obviously if I say we are favourites, maybe it’s not respecting the other teams and maybe it is not true. We have some great teams who have great players and have won the titles. Our dream is to work hard and to try to finish in the best position that is possible, and the best position is number one. We need to keep working and at the end of the season, we will see.
Q> How beneficial is the involvement of the City Football Group?
Lobera: The benefits of having the CFG advise us are plenty - the advice we get and the support is very important for me. I think there are a lot of people with great football knowledge at CFG, and as a coach, you can improve when you work with such people. I speak everyday with different departments, who provided us with a lot of things including analysis, and the different learnings from their 10 teams around the world, especially lessons learnt under these unique circumstances.
We are working together with big ambitions and also keeping our long-term plans in mind. In my 25-year career, I have worked at some great clubs including Barcelona, but I can tell you that I have never worked before in this way and it is amazing to be working with Mumbai City and CFG.