The Lever of La Paz – 6 – Fútbol Boliviano

This is episode six of a wider series. To start at episode one, please click here.

I don’t have a crystal ball. I am not in the witches market of La Paz with my tarot cards.

HM: Welcome back to another episode of Fútbol Boliviano, everyone’s favourite English language podcast about Bolivian football. I’m Hugo Montes, and with me today, as ever, is my esteemed co-host; writer for The Athletic and theangrylinesman, Mark Garner. Mark, how are you?

MG: I am great, Hugo. “Everyone’s favourite?” Really?

HM: Well, maybe I should have said the only English language Bolivian football podcast, but let’s not sell ourselves short!

Tonight we have with us a special guest. It’s only the current manager of La Paz’s own The Strongest, Fernando Teixidó!

MG: Fernando, how are you? We at Fútbol Boliviano were so relieved to hear you have recovered from your car crash. That must been a living nightmare!

FT: Thank you guys, I am happy to be here. Both here, on your show, and still here after the crash. I was shaken up and spent a few days in hospital. I had a little surgery. That is all behind me now though, family and football is what matters.

HM: Your Club The Strongest side had another incredible campaign this season. That’s two league titles in two league campaigns where you didn’t lose a single fixture, coupled with two Copa Aerosur wins. I mean, you’ve lost four games in total in your two years here. How has your experience in Bolivia been?

FT: Thank you kindly. I have had great fun here. Altitude and car crash aside [laughs]. Credit has to go to the boys in that team though. Their commitment to my tactical philosophy and commitment to each other is like something I’ve never seen. They are a wonderful group.

HM: It’s funny you should say that, Fernando. How would you respond to those who have said you have ‘ruined’ the Boliviano with your dominance? Or more specifically, by buying up the best talent from your domestic competitors?

FT: Listen. My recruitment team do a wonderful job of identifying key talent and recommending them to Roberto (Sensini, The Strongest director of football) and I. As you know well, the homegrown registration rules here in Bolivia make purchasing the right talent who do not already play in this country an incredibly tough challenge. You will also know that it is a challenge I have not taken lightly. Yes, there have been many players come in from other Bolivian teams, but think of Andile (Jali, South African), Jairo (Concha, Peruvian). Think of Alexis (Aris, Peruvian). Think of Maktom! (Brazilian). Each player at my club fits like a jigsaw piece. If a high number of them need purchased from other sides in our division, then that’s the way it has to be. I will not apologise for this.

HM: You’ve earned a lot of praise for your narrow 4-3-1-2 tactic this season. Something I noticed is that your wingbacks seems to be everywhere. Can you tell us a little bit about your thinking there?

FT: To me, my wide defenders are crucial. I play a narrow system with three deep central midfielders. One stays, one goes, one pivots. I like my two central defenders to do exactly that, defend. I like my number 10 (currently the aforementioned Jairo Concha) to roam and pick holes. With a two striker system, we are always a goal threat, but what I have described so far is relatively static. Our fullbacks are our mobility from back to front. You see?

MG: It is very ‘Carlo Ancelotti in his Milan days’. Is Carlo an inspiration for you?

FT: I take inspiration from everywhere, but I would be lying if I didn’t say his system with Pirlo, Kaka, Cafu and Maldini excited and inspired me. But I think I don’t speak only for me. I think all football fans could and should say this.

HM: You’ve had a challenging time in the Copa Libertadores, Bolivian sides usually do, although reaching the second round matches the furthest The Strongest have ever been in the competition historically. How do you go one step further?

FT: I think a lot about this. Last year we played all six group games and did not lose one. Yes we drew five of six, but we did not lose a game. This year we won five of six and drew the other. This is what I want. No one is more disappointed than my staff, players and I when we are put out from the competition. Our dream is to compete with the best teams in South America, but that is a serious challenge.

MG: Surely Fernando, it’s a challenge due to the massive contrast in the money available in other leagues in the CONMEBOL region. Argentinian and Brazilian clubs have the biggest budgets. I mean, looking at industry papers, your most valuable player is considered to be worth around £200,000. Bahia (second tier club in Brazil who defeated Teixidó’s Strongest to eject them from this year’s competition) have teenage substitutes valued by football’s financial experts at upwards of £5million. How can you possibly compete?

FT: I will not deny that economic factors make our position more difficult, but you will not find me blaming this. I have one more chance to go further, and this year we plan to.

HM: Thanks Fernando. I wanted to ask you abo…

MG: Wait, Hugo. Fernando, you said you have “one more chance.” Is your time at The Strongest drawing to a close?!

FT: I have always said it’s my job to push and help this club achieve the next level of their development. I have a contract which runs until the end of 2021. My targets were to win the Boliviano and Aerosur. I have done this, twice. My current plan is not only to do this for a third time for this club, but to push forward in continental football. This means getting beyond that Libertadores second round. That is my dream. After this, I don’t have a crystal ball. I am not in the witches market of La Paz with my tarot cards. I am a football coach and I want to win. Sometimes it is better to stay and sometimes it is better to leave. Thank you.

HM: Thank you Fernando, that’s quite a headline, and a good place to end our podcast tonight.

MG: Thank you for listening. Tonight we found out that The Lever of La Paz may very well become The Leaver of La Paz!

HM: Sometimes I hate you, Mark.

What a turn of events!

So Teixidó may very well be in his final campaign at The Strongest. Will he make it three titles and three cups from three seasons? What about those Libertadores ambitions? Can The Strongest go further, or is there a ceiling for Bolivian clubs that no amount of climbing will smash?

I’ll keep this short, given that the transcript of the podcast was lengthy. This may read like a series of bullet points, but I don’t want to take up your whole morning / afternoon / night! (delete as appropriate).

26 games. 23 wins. 3 draws. A domestic cup victory and a 2nd round Libertadores exit to a wealthy Bahia side. It was another strong campaign (pun intended).

Oh and only the most insane cup match against our biggest (and stadium-sharing) rivals Bolívar. What a night!

I am proud that the Bolivia national team features mainly players from my club. With Diego Bejarano on that list also joining the club in the downtime between seasons, that is 16 of the current squad currently in our team. Domestic domination is a minimum expectation.

Happily I received notifications of improvements to our data, youth and training facilities, as well as the pitch being relaid. Sadly, our intake again this year seems poor, although a forward and a defensive midfielder with promise? That’s definitely an improvement.

The next section will cover our mammoth recruitment drive over the past year. I’ll drop a gallery of screenshots of our captures and let you be the judge. Who is the best signing of the below? Who could be a mistake? Answers on a postcard on Twitter via @FM_Stag please. First to comment wins a prize.

I know that’s a lot of new players in a single season, but I am determined to coast the league and cup, and really focus on the Libertadores this year. When I received a notification that our budget had been increased to £4.3million, I knew I had to break from my usual approach and become transfer happy. Fingers crossed this is the group to push us to the next level.

More of this please!

Moving into what could be Teixidó’s final year in Bolivia, it’s continental progress or bust.

Oh, lastly, I have a channel on FM Slack now. Get involved! #fmstag is the channel name. Ping me a message on Twitter if you have any issues joining!

Thanks for reading.

FM Stag

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