Schuster: “The Clásicos turned me on and more when I lived in Barcelona”

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It is Bernd Schuster (Augsburg, Germany, 62 years old) and when a Real Madrid-Barcelona game approaches through the window he is a blessed reference. Although it could also be on the eve of a Madrid derby or an Atlético-Barça match. For something he is one of the only two footballers who has played in all three teams. The other is Miquel Soler. A decade of Clasicos as a player passed through his blonde head and bowed legs. From his debut as a Barça player in 1980 at the age of 21 until his farewell in white in 1990 when he was already 30 years old. Eight seasons at the Camp Nou and two at the Bernabéu: 13 games as a culé (nine wins, three losses and one draw) and six as a merengue (two wins, one draw and three losses).

As a coach, a profession that he misses every other day, he only knew the Real Madrid bench and won the two Clásicos that he had time to play, both in the 2007-08 season. Now, from the sidelines, he talks about everything that comes his way, with that firm conviction that has always characterized him.

From zero to one hundred, how much do you miss football?

Hundred. I miss everything. I see everything. The Leagues, the Champions League, the Europa League and of course I would like to be there. It’s my life. I still see myself as prepared enough to work with a team. With my experience, you see yourself with the ability to manage and overcome any situation and that, the way football is, is an important advantage.

Do you have a very bad time just watching football on television?

I get some ‘pissed off’. Yes, but when he reaches that moment of desperation, what I do is only watch the games that can bring me new things as a coach. I have even taken note when I have seen things that I liked. Now less. There are also no great tactical novelties. You don’t have to move a lot to football and drive it crazy.

“The butcher, the taxi driver, people stopped you on the street and put the batteries on you. It was exaggerated all week”

Are you about to put your arms down and say training is over?

-I’m not one to lower my arms. Of course I would like to have a team, but I am also cold enough to think that it may be the end of my career. Time passes, many young people arrive. When I was young it happened to the older ones. It happens to everyone. My mind is prepared not to have a bad time being at home. No way. I amuse myself as I can with my family, my friends, and waiting. I have full hope, but there is a door that tells me that it can be closed.

And in that dead calm that you live, when Real Madrid-Barça is planted in front of you, you, who have played in both teams, what goes through your body and head.

Those that I had to live as a coach and player return to me. I remember how beautiful it is. I always liked the weeks of Clasico. I put on People talked to you. The butcher, the taxi driver, on the street… I put my batteries. I have experienced them in all colors. To win a League or a Copa del Rey and to save a season… You know that the whole world watches those games. It was a great responsibility, but I always liked them… Then I was at Atlético, but I think it was a little less. Barça-Madrid is the game with the most rivalry that can take place in the world of football and even more so when I lived in Barcelona.

Do you live more than in Madrid?

Yes. It’s a very big thing. There were times when we saved the seasons by beating Madrid. When we weren’t winning the championship, beating them, especially at the Bernabéu, was important to our fans. You made them happy for a day. It would not be correct to say that in Madrid this game is not taken so seriously, of course the Madrid fan wants to beat Barça no matter what! But it takes another way more calmly. In Barcelona it was exaggerated all week.

“It may be that the Barcelona player is more anti-Madrid than the anti-Barcelonist Madrid player”

It may also be because the Barcelona player is more anti-Madrid than the anti-Barcelonist Madrid player.

It may be, that’s why here it was not taken to the extreme that it was taken there.

Despite reaching 15 points, don’t you think that this match seems more important for Barça and Xavi than for Madrid and Ancelotti?

I don’t know, I wouldn’t say it’s like that. Madrid will want to win to reach the top of the League and Barça will want to salvage the season a bit by winning at the Bernabéu, as well as securing their place in next year’s Champions League.

-He coached Real Madrid and won a League. Did he never have the option of sitting on the local bench at the Camp Nou?

-(You think about it…) I don’t know, I don’t know… I don’t think so, that it has never been shuffled. At least I never received a specific offer.

“If after Koeman, Laporta had called me, I would have gone. Nothing scares me. As Xavi has done”

-I have been told that a few months ago, when Koeman was on the edge of the precipice, his friend Laporta thought of you…

-(New silence. Smile) Well… maybe it was there on the list. Maybe maybe. Someone told me something, but I’m not sure if it was so or not. But maybe at one point it could be on that list, but I’m not sure.

-And what about Xavi, how did you see it and how do you see it?

-It had been said for a long time that Xavi would sooner or later be Barça’s coach. It was seen coming. Knowing him, how he sees football, how he likes it… I imagined it, but maybe not so fast. What happens is that in football you never know when he touches you. You never know when. Xavi has had a difficult moment, very, very complicated. Perhaps a veteran coach would have thought more about it than him who is so young… When you are young you want to succeed. Nothing scares you, absolutely nothing. That is why he has come, regardless of whether it was a good time. Jan (Laporta) saw the opinion of the fans, of the Press… That everyone was delighted with his arrival. The great advantage that he has is his youth.

And if, in that difficult moment, Laporta had picked up the phone and said, Bernardo, we need you… would he have gone?

Yes, it would never have been a problem. Just as Xavi has done it now since he was young, I would do it from the experience I have had. Nothing scares me either. I wouldn’t have worried at all.

“For a Clásico I stay with Casemiro-Modric-Kroos, for a season with Busquets-Gavi-Pedri”

Nobody better than a midfielder like you, a posh midfielder, to analyze the engine rooms of the two teams: Casemiro-Modric-Kroos against Busquets-De Jong (Gavi)-Pedri. You are the coach, you can choose, which one do you keep?

The Madrid trio have won everything, they have had tremendous success, but they are not so young anymore and you have a veteran, Busquets, and three boys up against you. De Jong is a little older than the other two, hungry, who wants to succeed, win titles. It is not easy to choose. In these games, we coaches are very focused on veterans because they are games that are decided by details and veterans have a lot to say there. Let’s say that for a Madrid-Barça I put the three from Madrid and for the whole season I’ll stay with those from Barça… More or less, let me be understood.

Busquets has worked out well for Barça…

Sure. A great success by Pep (Guardiola) who saw it in the subsidiary and put it in without hesitation. In my team I would always play. He has an advantage, he knows Barca’s style of play. Xavi’s arrival is going to do him a lot of good. In recent times the style did not end up favoring him. He had much more travel, he went out into the open and that did not go with his way of playing. He performs more in tight spaces, with short passes. That’s why we said that with Luis Enrique in the National Team he played better. At Barça he left his place, the arrival of De Jong affected him and now I think he returns to play where he has to play. In the Barça philosophy of play, each one has their space and playing like this will lengthen his career, for sure.

The best midfielder of the last decade…

Kroos and Modric are similar, but many times we don’t compare them because they have more travel, they don’t stay as fixed. For quality I place all three on the same rank… That’s what I sometimes lack from Casemiro, that he had a bit of Busquets, that help at the start of the game. Instead of doing it, Modric or Kroos have to do it. He should be the one to get the ball out because he plays in the right position to do it, ahead of the defence. In the defensive and tactical aspect, Casemiro cannot be said anything. He is very good also in set pieces. He scores goals with his head, but the other thing can be criticized and that is why sometimes I have not valued him so much. His strength is not having the ball, sharing and helping Kroos and Modric so that they don’t have to go down as much and leave them a little ahead of you. I like Busquets better in that position… or how Xavi or Xabi Alonso were in their time. Defensive pivots, but who distribute the game, help the centrals to the exit. I like the midfielder creative, not just containment.

“Casemiro is missing something from Busquets, the help at the start of the game; that way Modric and Kroos would go down less”

How were you…

As was I, more or less. In our time we were not tied so much in that position. They let us go out and support the offensive play. That is the strength of Modric and Kroos, who are very good in the second row, as inside players, they both have a fantastic shot from 18-20 meters, they have a great goal pass, but of course sometimes they have to be too far away . They do not get to accompany the final play.

Pedri, do you think it’s as good as we’re saying or does it still need to be simmered?

He has something very good, he does many things with the ball. He understands the game well. With Messi, for example, he understood each other perfectly. He gave him good last passes. The only thing I would like is for him to have a little more goals on arrivals, to finish off more. With time you can get it, sure. An attacking midfielder who arrives from the second row has to have a goal. He also defends. He is never still. He stands well.

This League belongs to Real Madrid and only Madrid can lose it.

Yes. I never saw Sevilla and Betis as important rivals for the title and with the distance between Barça and Atlético, they can only spoil it themselves.

Do you know Ancelotti?

Yes. I like him very much. I get along with. We played against each other, he at Sacchi’s Milan and I at Real Madrid. We got five. As a player he was already a strategist, so what he has done as a coach does not surprise me. He has a certain coldness when it comes to seeing things. Although he is Italian, he likes good football and he knows how to lead a group. That is a great virtue in great coaches. He has always been on top teams with big stars. He is a natural ‘uncle’. I like him as he is.

“Ancelotti, although he is Italian, likes to play good football. As a player he was already a strategist”

Can you already imagine a Real Madrid with Mbappé?

It seems that way, doesn’t it? He is a player who can mark the next decade. He has a very well furnished head, as they say. Silent, he speaks in the field. He goes, plays and leaves. He doesn’t show tattoos, nor does he wear his hair green or red. In Paris he has known how to be at every moment. First they take Neymar, he doesn’t say anything. After Messi, he doesn’t say anything either. Mbappé-Benzema-Vinicius can form a luxury striker.

And where does Haaland come in?

He doesn’t go in… Well he can go in, but I have my theory about Haaland. I think he should leave Dortmund, but maybe not Madrid. I don’t see him at Barcelona either because of the way he plays. I see you in England. That football is more made for him, at least now.

The best team of the moment?

I like Bayern. Klopp’s Liverpool again this year. He always looks for the goal. Chelsea is glad to see it. I was never convinced by Tuchel, but I recognize that he has managed to find a team and has grown a lot. Not because he won the Champions League, but because he has shown his value as a coach by building a team. He suffered at Dortmund and at PSG.

The three centrals have become fashionable again, something historically very German.

Yes, but that has existed all my life, what happens is that it began to be said that playing with a line of three or five was defensive and it never has been. The Madrid of 107 goals played with three central defenders, but we were an attacking team. Everyone went upstairs and I stayed there with the center backs. Now he doesn’t look so defensive anymore. It depends where you put the full-backs and who the full-backs are.