Josep Gombau is one of the few coaches in India who has been able to leave a mark with his work in spite of not winning silverware. He was entrusted with a project when he signed for Delhi Dynamos and the Spaniard worked tirelessly to execute the vision.
In the two years that he spent in India, he has brought the best from his young players and had implemented a style of football that was entertaining. But what led him to snap his ties with Odisha FC, a club that seemed committed to his methods ?
"It was an excellent experience in India. I and my family had a very good time. I was happy with Delhi Dynamos and subsequently with Odisha FC. The club offered me a contract extension. But I had to decline it. My two kids are six and eight years old. In Delhi, we had good schools. But things were different in Bhubaneshwar. We could not manage the things in the way that we would have liked to. It is necessary to provide my kids with the best possible education. Last season, my family was in Delhi and I was in Bhubaneswar. I do not want this kind of life. I put in a lot of thought. Unfortunately, things cannot change. So I decided to leave," explained the coach to Goal.
Odisha have always promoted young players. The management has trusted young players like Shubham Sarangi, Vinit Rai, Gaurav Bora and others in key positions. While some might argue that this decision has backfired and has impeded their chances of qualifying for the playoffs, Gombau did not share the same view.
"In Odisha, I was working with a group of promising players. They worked extremely hard. They always want to learn a lot. They are intelligent. A coach wants his players to be hungry and I had no complaints. We had five U23 players in the squad on every matchday. If they were not good, they wouldn't have made it.
"Gourav can become one of the best central defenders. For that, he has to improve physically. He has good game reading skills and is also good with the ball. Vinit is also good. Shubham has a lot of potential. Then there is Jerry (Mawihmingthanga), and Nanda (Nandhakumar). I believe each of them can go on to play for India."
Odisha FC's talisman Aridane Santana suffered a hamstring injury against Bengaluru FC on January 22 which saw him ruled out for the rest of the season. He was in prolific form scoring nine goals from 14 matches. Moreover, Marcos Tebar was also sidelined in the same match and he missed the next game against FC Goa where the Juggernauts were defeated 4-2 at home.
Gombau felt that these injuries took the wind off their sails, going into the business end of the season.
"We had the momentum with us. At a crucial point, we lost both Aridane and Tebar. He is not only a striker who scores goals but also links with the midfield and his movements create a difference on the pitch. Also, Marcos was our captain. He led the game from the back. These were two major disappointments. We could have done better with them. But this is football. You have to deal with the injuries and move ahead," commented Gombau reflecting on what could have the turning point of the season.
It has been learnt that the 44-year-old has already signed his next assignment and which will be disclosed within the coming weeks. According to sources, he is set to join Queensboro which plays in the second-tier USL Championship in USA. But he remains open to coming back to India in the future as he has thoroughly enjoyed his stint in the sub-continent and 'remains grateful to the hospitality shown by the Indian people'.