ISL final: Friends turn foes as Cuadrat and Lobera gun for maiden title

While FC Goa and Barceloan FC will throw everything on the line to secure their maiden Indian Super League title, Sergio Lobera and Carles Cuadrat have nothing but respect and admiration for one another.

Both Carles Cuadrat's and Sergio Lobera's careers were shaped during their time at FC Barcelona.   -  ISL SPORTZPICS

Carles Cuadrat and Sergio Lobera will be the two Spanish managers in the spotlight when Bengaluru FC faces FC Goa in Sunday's Indian Super League final. While they both have their distinct coaching methods, both of them were groomed and moulded at the same institution - La Liga powerhouse FC Barcelona.

The two Spaniards met back in the late '90s and forged a strong bond. They learned the nuances of coaching at Camp Nou and eventually their careers took them on different paths.

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As fate would have it, the two would later be reunited in India. Cuadrat joined Bengaluru FC as Albert Roca's assistant coach in 2016 and the very next year, Lobera was roped in as FC Goa's manager. The two have faced each other in the ISL four times, and Bengaluru has won thrice, but their biggest test will come on Sunday when their teams clash in the final at the Mumbai Football Arena.

While both teams are hungry for success and will throw everything on the line to secure the title, the two coaches have nothing but respect and admiration for one another. The two shared a warm embrace and exchanged a few pleasantries during the pre-match conference and Cuadrat went on to fondly talk about how Lobera assured him that joining the ISL was a good decision.

“I am very grateful to Sergio because before I moved to Bengaluru, I spoke with him over coffee and he said 'just do it.' He convinced me that it would be the right decision. It's a special moment, especially now, because we are meeting each other in the final,” he said.

Cuadrat appears to have the upper-hand going into the final as his side defeated FC Goa in both their league clashes. However, he wrote away any possible advantage by recollecting a moment from the 1999 UEFA Champions League final.

“I was in the tribune of the Camp Nou in the 1999 Champions League final. Bayern Munich was winning 1-0, nothing was happening and then in a few moments, Manchester United scored twice and took the trophy,” he said. “One moment you have a hand on the trophy, and then in another moment, the other team is celebrating with it. That is football, and we have to see what happens.”

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The Bengaluru coach added that it would also be a special evening for Spanish midfielder Dimas Delgado too, who honed his skills at Barcelona's youth academy. Both Cuadrat and Lobera were a part of the club when Delgado signed with Barcelona B on 2006.

Lobera said he was looking forward to an exciting contest with his old pal. “It will certainly be interesting as we have shared a lot of good moments together. I am pretty ambitious and looking forward to facing Bengaluru FC – which got the better of us in the last two occasions,” he said.