In the first two parts of our exclusive interview with Jose Luis Real Casillas, the veteran Mexican coach spoke in detail about his experiences of working with Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez during the striker’s years at boyhood club Chivas Guadalajara and his impact since arriving in Germany.
And while Real Casillas has spent almost 25 years as a player and coach at Chivas, it was elsewhere that he worked alongside another figure currently making waves in the Bundesliga: FC Bayern München coach Pep Guardiola.
'I got to know Guardiola at Dorados'
The Catalan enjoyed a successful career as a midfielder with FC Barcelona in the 1990s, and had spells in Italy and Qatar after leaving the Spanish club. The final chapter of his playing days was written much further afield, however: in Culiacan, north-west Mexico, at Dorados de Sinaloa.
It was there that he crossed paths with Real Casillas in 2005. “I was fortunate enough to be with Guardiola when he came to Mexico – he retired from the game here,” said Real Casillas, effortlessly plucking details from an encyclopaedic footballing memory. “I was sporting director at Dorados and he arrived as a player. I got to know him during his final season as a player and learned about his ideas and the way he thinks - that’s the football we saw at Barcelona.
“You can see it at Bayern too. I really like his philosophy and his style but I don’t think he’s fully implemented it yet at Bayern – although I have no doubt he will do. He arrived taking over from a coach [Jupp Heynckes] who won the treble! That’s the size of the task facing him. I think he’ll win the Champions League but it’ll take time. If they stay patient over in Germany then I’ve no doubt he’ll win it with Bayern.”
Furthermore, Real Casillas believes Guardiola’s impact has already extended far beyond winning silverware: “Here in Mexico we’ve followed the Bundesliga with even greater interest since Guardiola went there – he’s a Latino in Germany! I think from that point on we started learning more about German football over here.”
'The Bundesliga is very competitive'
The 63-year-old explained further: “I think the Bundesliga is very competitive, and any team can beat any other. It’s a very even league and that’s a good thing. We can see all the games here nowadays and that’s great for us to be able to watch Javier [Hernandez] too.”
Indeed, Real Casillas was full of praise for German football in general and recalled the experience of facing Die Nationalmannschaft back in the 1970s. “I played against Germany twice with the Mexico national team – once here in Mexico and once in Germany. Over there we lost 3-2 in Frankfurt and here we drew 2-2 even though we were winning 2-0!”
Lahm is 'a fantastic leader'
That traditional never-say-die attitude has even led to a phrase being coined in Mexico: “Here, whenever you’re going to play a German team we use the expression, ‘If they’re not dead, anything can happen.’ Germany might be losing 3-0 with ten minutes left but they’ll still fight back and draw or beat you! Here there’s a lot of recognition for the mental strength German players have. It’s a characteristic they have and now Germany are world champions.”
While Real Casillas admitted the German player he most liked watching was former 1. FC Köln attacker Wolfgang Overath because of his “terrific left foot, intelligence and great quality,” he also singled out Philipp Lahm, captain of last year’s World Cup winning side, for particular praise, calling him “a fantastic leader.” Guardiola would undeniably agree with that assessment of his captain - and would probably not have anything against Real Casillas’ predictions about Bayern in the Champions League either.
Jose Luis Real Casillas was speaking to bundesliga.com's Jonathan Stockitt.