Vicente del Bosque believes England have started to play like several other national sides – but the Spain coach does not see it as a good thing.
England play Spain in a friendly in Alicante on Friday night, looking to build on a record of 10 wins from 10 games in their European Championship qualifying campaign.
Del Bosque does not expect a particularly unique challenge from Roy Hodgson’s side, claiming the increased movement of players between nations has blurred the differences between Europe’s top leagues.
“There is no ‘English’ football any more, I don’t think: no authentic English style,” Del Bosque said in an interview with The Guardian.
“Because of the mix of different styles, the arrival of players from abroad makes it impossible to maintain an ‘English football’. I imagine there are still some idiosyncrasies at English clubs, teams that are very English, but on the pitch it’s difficult to guess where teams are from.
“The purity of each [national] style has been lost. I don’t think there’s much difference between any countries. Maybe I’m missing something but even with the national side England has started to look like other sides on the continent.”
Asked about the regular calls in England for a change in approach, Del Bosque said: “Revolution after revolution, after revolution. You have to be yourself. But you can’t operate in a bubble, looking inwards. It can’t be endogámico [endogamy, inbreeding]. You have to be open, take on board what other countries are doing.
“But football has fashions too and what marks those tendencies, those fashions, is the team that wins. If the Germans win, then the German way must be best; if we win, Spain must have the answer; or France [in 1998]. English football has a lot of very good things and must be itself but that doesn’t mean it can’t modernise or evolve.”
Del Bosque, who revealed Spain made an attempt to nationalise Lionel Messi, also spoke about Spain’s tiki-taka tag.
“It’s a simplification. If you had to put a label on Spain you wouldn’t call us defensive, if you say tiki-taka it implies having the ball, playing attacking football, but we’ve been very defensive too. We’ve been champions scoring very few and conceding very few and we’re still in that dynamic. People don’t call us defensive, and yet …
“I like to remind people that we have our own characteristics, but we are not really any different to France or Germany or the other countries around us. But in the past we always had this complex and now that doesn’t exist. The proof of that are the players who’ve gone abroad and proven to be as good as anyone else.
“Also, we’ve done things the right way: there’s a good structure, an increase in elite facilities, a very good coaching setup, even the [footballing] culture of the general public has improved.
“We’ve worked on the technical side of our game; that’s become the foundation. It used to be the fashion to concentrate on the physical side of the game: physical, physical. But everything’s more integrated now. Watch any session at any team and you no longer see physical work, then technical [work], then tactical [work].
“It’s all linked now. There was also a kind of tactical fever, as if tactics were everything. Fortunately, I think we have found a balance now. We’ve also had a lot of luck along the way; we can’t ignore that. I think we were predestined to become world champions.”
Discuss this on the General Your Say forum.