Winston Churchill had famously quoted that ” Success is never final and failure never fatal. ” The quote aptly suits Carles Cuadrat journey in the Indian Super League. From assisting Albert Roca at Bengaluru to taking over the reins and guiding the club to its maiden ISL triumph in his first season in charge of the Blues, Carles made the perfect start to life as a coach. He continued his good work with the club as he guided them to the playoffs in his second season but his tenure at Bengaluru came to an abrupt end as the club parted ways with the Spaniard after just 9 games in the recently concluded Indian Super League.
Carles a football man through and through became a physical trainer for FC Barcelona and then Galatasaray after hanging up his footballing boots. His relationship with Albert Roca goes back to their days together in the El Salvador national team, where Cuadrat was an assistant to Roca before moving to Bengaluru together. On being inquired about his working relationship with his former boss and Sunil Chhetri, his captain in Bengaluru, Cuadrat was all praises, ” They are both top professionals and more than that top human beings. Very honest in their dedication to their passion, which is football, and very collaboratives with the group to get the best of them. I must say that I learned a lot, from both of them, and it is an honour for me to consider them important people in my life and from whom I have obtained wisdom and examples of behaviour.”
His contribution to Bengaluru can’t only be measured in silverware. While he did guide them to a double of whammy of winning the league and the ISL title, a feat which was unmatched until recently, Cuadrat also brought into the fold of Indian football young talents such as Suresh Wangjam and Ashique Kuruniyan who have been impressive in the ISL and have got themselves a call up from Igor Stimac. Cuadrat was very happy with their success, “I am delighted with the evolution they are having. Both have been 2 very important players this season, taking now part of the National Team list, and they will have a bright future. And I’m also proud that Rahul Bheke and Nishu Kumar came to the National Team working under me. They are 4 Indian players who performed very well during my time.”
Miku was the ace up Roca’s sleeve in season 2017-18 season. The Venezuelan formed a lethal partnership up front with Sunil Chhetri and both accounted for 29 goals among themselves in Bengaluru FC first season in the Indian Super League. To put it into perspective Bengaluru only managed 28 goals this season, Chhetri once again leading the charge with 8 goals. The following year, with Cuadrat in charge of the team, Miku could only play 12 games due to injury, but together with Sunil, they managed to score 15 goals between the two. On being asked about his feelings that the club might have not been able to replace Miku, Cuadrat said “If the budget goes down for your star striker, it’s always going to be difficult to replace that player with less money. It happens in all the clubs in the world. A clear example is Real Madrid after CR7 or FC Barcelona after Luis Suarez. Different players were tried in that position, but their levels of play were different. Each club has a vision, and they have to see what direction it takes to achieve its goals. And every vision has my respect. But it has to be clear if you as a club want to play for Trophies, or develop young talents, or play a special kind of football because to get all the things at the same time is not always possible.”
Cuadrat has been part of Bengaluru for 5 years and has managed as many as 50 games of the club in the ISL. After having spent so much time in the country and having invested considerable energy in the development of the sport in India we at IFTWC wanted to know from him how the game has progressed in the country and Cuadrat was very candid in his analysis “We must be realistic. In my 5 years here I have seen a great evolution. The players are much more professional, they train better, they take care of their habits, they improve their physicality. But that does not mean that they can be competitive at any level, because all countries around are making great progress. I was in Calcutta in October 2019 watching the National Team’s match against Bangladesh, in an awesome atmosphere of fans supporting the team, and the game was really disappointing. It was an important match for the World Cup qualification, and we all saw that the level of play was not adequate. The reality of Indian football is that we were delighted to go 0-0 against Qatar, but then we were not able to win any of the next 2 games against Afghanistan and Bangladesh. In that sense, the ISL has been a great project to improve football and footballers. A great development opportunity. But the country must continue working year after year to consolidate that improvement.”
Cuadrat is a self-professed man of the sport and given his love for the game it would be difficult to keep him away from it. Currently back in Spain, when asked about his future plans, Cuadrat was keen for a new challenge but wanted to wait for the right opportunity. He said “When you don’t have a contract, you need to think carefully about the next step. I’ve been working for the same company for almost 5 full years, and I must calmly study my next step in football. In the meantime, I will be the Studies Director of a University Diplomature in football here in Spain. It is very interesting because I like to help new generations to grow as Coaches thanks to the experience I have of more than 20 years training in Spain, Turkey, Arab countries, Central America and India. I have also received some offers to coach in other countries closer to my home, but I must study each option well and try to make the right decision. I am very grateful to some teams that approached me in the Indian Super League, but I have to see that it is the right time and the right project.”
Cuadrat didn’t rule out a return to the Indian Super League and also said how he was proud of what he had achieved at Bengaluru. “But I am very proud of my time in BFC. We built a champion team and got trophies and good performances for around 3 or 4 years. So for me going back to India would not be to collect a salary or for the fun of training. I would like to make an impact and built a project, keep helping to develop young Indian players and help the success of football in the country. So the next step must be well thought out and I am in no rush for it, and in the meantime, I keep busy watching football, scouting players and working formations. Time will say.”