When manager Albert Roca took over with Bengaluru FC right in the middle of its AFC Cup campaign, he had a definite plan in mind. The three new signings — Juan Antonio “Juanan” Gonzalez (centre-back), Alvaro Rubio and Cameron Watson (midfielders) — along with central defender John Johnson would form a box of four to provide defensive solidity.
It was done after assessing the strength of the opponents with the thought process being that if BFC had to compete on equal terms, they had to limit the number of goals. It did pay dividends, with the club making the Cup final conceding just twice in four games. Goals for his own team, Roca said, would come over time, with the players still adapting to his methods.
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It might well be in the I-League — an entirely different cup of tea — where one might see BFC display the best of both. The evidence from its 3-0 opening weekend victory over Shillong Lajong is a case in point.
“Nothing different,” said Juanan when asked if there will be a change in approach from the AFC campaign. “Alvaro is gone but now Lenny [Rodrigues] plays with Cameron. We continued with the same plan as before. The coach has this mentality and we have continued with it.”
“It was very important to start with three points,” he added. “The game was perfect. The lines from the defence through midfield to the strikers were very good. We controlled it well and the other team didn’t have any opportunity.”
As it was during the Cup campaign, the 29-year-old’s vast experience of playing in the German top-flight and the Spanish second division and training under Jose Mourinho during a pre-season stint while being part of the Real Madrid ‘B’ team, should stand the team in good stead.
“When I was a kid, it was always Madrid. So, when I was first called up by Mourinho, it was great. The best players in the world were there. The training is a bit different because there are always two games per week and the intensity is high.”
“Having played in many teams in Spain and Germany and with this exposure, it’s important that I share my experience with this team. They [players] are very good. I had never played with Indians before coming here. But the lot here, I think, are good.”
BFC will also be competing on two fronts with an AFC Champions League Preliminary Stage 2 fixture due at the end of January. But for Juanan, the primary target is to win the I-League.
“I want to win the I-League. We are playing the AFC Champions League qualification also. It’s difficult but not impossible. The target is to win the I-League.”
As much as he seems to be enjoying his time in India, Juanan has had to make a huge sacrifice.
“It is very difficult to live away from the family. I have a daughter and my wife is pregnant. But this is an opportunity. My wife always understands. Always.”