PACHUCA, Mexico – Spain’s Pako Ayestaran, head coach of Mexican first-division club Pachuca, said on Friday that he has found an organization that has faith in the process of developing younger players and sees soccer in the same way he does.
“At Pachuca, I’ve found a club that mirrors the way I think as a coach, a club that believes in the process and the need to promote young talent. You have to give young talent an opportunity because a soccer player can only develop by playing,” Ayestaran told EFE.
Ayestaran’s tenure with Pachuca got off to a rocky start with three straight losses in the 2018-2019 Mexican league’s Apertura tournament, but the team has since won three contests and tied two between Matchday 4 and Matchday 8 of the 17-game competition.
With those improved results, the team has moved from 18th place to 10th in the standings.
With 11 points, the club now is only two out of the playoff zone, but the head coach is focusing more on his team’s play on the field than on the numbers.
Firm in his belief that a squad’s record can be deceiving whether it is winning or losing, Ayestaran is seeking ways for his club to improve ahead of a potential berth in the eight-team Apertura postseason.
“We knew we were on the right path and it was just a matter of time ... When things are going bad, there are some things you’re doing well, and when things are going well there are other things to improve,” he said.
Pachuca has allowed just seven goals through eight Apertura matches – second-fewest of the 18 teams.
While pleased with that stinginess defensively, the head coach said the team can still play more cohesively overall.
“We’re insisting that the players up front help out in defense and that those furthest back feel that they’re part of the offense. The idea is to attack and defend better, but as a group,” he said.
The 55-year-old coach was Rafa Benitez’s assistant at Liverpool when that Premier League club won the 2004-2005 Champions League.
As head coach, he led Mexican club Estudiantes Tecos to the second-division title in 2014 and a year later won the Israeli league crown as manager of Maccabi Tel Aviv.
“The most important aspect of my players is their professionalism and human qualities,” he said, noting that two veteran players – 45-year-old goalkeeper Oscar Perez, who played in two World Cups as a member of the Mexican national team; and 37-year-old Argentine midfielder Christian Gimenez – have accepted being left out of the starting line-up.
Ayestaran has lived in Mexico at various times since 2014 and says the media at times gives an incomplete picture of the Aztec nation that fails to accentuate its outstanding qualities.
“I found a country with people willing to help, caring, and it’s been easy to adapt. As far as the league, for me it’s the best after the world’s five biggest,” he said.