Can Manolo Marquez be labelled the best manager in ISL?
The tactician is the man behind the evolution of Hyderabad FC into a champion team.
Manolo Marquez has worked wonders at Hyderabad FC. Since his appointment as the head coach of the Indian Super League outfit, he has transformed the fortunes of the club. When the Spaniard arrived in India, HFC was a bottom-feeder club in the ISL, having finished at the last place in league standings during the 2019-20 season.
It was a disaster of a season under Phil Brown who was dismissed midway and Mehrajuddin Wadoo became caretaker manager until assistant coach Xavier Gurri López took over as interim coach. In a disappointing fashion, HFC lost 12 of their 18 league games. The humiliating campaign came to a conclusion with the Nizams collecting only 10 points with two wins and four draws.
Furthermore, the club had the worst defensive record during that year, conceding 39 goals. For a first season in the ISL, it could not have been a worse start. It was clear that the club needed a fresh approach and that is where Manolo Marquez came in.
The arrival of the genius
Manolo Marquez had a huge task ahead of him in his debut ISL season. The expectations were low due to the previous season but hopes were high. However, few could have predicted the change in Hyderabad FC’s playing style, work ethic and overall performance. The impact was immediate. Under the new boss and a new-look team, HFC was a hard-to-beat outfit. In the end, against all expectations, HFC finished fifth during the 2020-21 campaign, narrowly missing out on a playoff qualification.
Just when the naysayers thought HFC had overachieved, Manolo Marquez led the team and did the unthinkable, winning the ISL trophy during the 2021-22 season. Not only that, the Nizams came mighty close to winning the ISL Shield as well, coming second to Jamshedpur FC after leading the standings for the majority of the league’s duration.
Manolo Marquez went through Hyderabad FC’s problems and fixed them one by one. The first step was to make them defensively strong. Then he instilled a particular style, a clear identity and brought consistency. Under Marquez, HFC played attack-minded football with a particular focus on attacking from the flanks. Thanks to this strategy, Akash Mishra and Asish Rai emerged as two of the best full-backs in the country.
In addition, Marquez gave the youngsters a lot of gametime and did not completely rely on foreigners. Players like Mohammad Yasir, Hitesh Sharma, Chinglensana Singh, Rohit Danu and more are reaping the rewards for the trust shown by their boss. Furthermore, signing players like Bartholomew Ogbeche and Juanan meant that the club brought in players with a winning mentality and prior experience of playing in the ISL. In the end, HFC became a well-oiled unit with incredible cohesion between the domestic and foreign players, all thanks to the head coach who had the backing of the club hierarchy.
Humility – the biggest strength
In the last two years, Manolo Marquez has shown great humility. During his press conferences, the boss repeatedly talked about areas to improve despite winning games. His unwavering focus on removing errors or limiting them to a minimum has brought a lot of success to Hyderabad FC.
One can safely say he is the best manager in the ISL today solely because HFC’s success was not a flash in the pan. It was sustained improvement as seen by their semi-final finish in the 2022 Durand Cup. The Nizams have started the 2022-23 season of the ISL with three wins and one draw from four matches, becoming the first team to collect 10 points.
Overall, Manolo Marquez has overseen 53 matches as the head coach of Hyderabad FC (as of 1 November 2022), winning 26, drawing 17 and losing only 10. He has a points-per-game average of 1.79 at HFC, the best number of his career as a manager. Unlike other ISL managers, old and new, Marquez has been very consistent, adapted well to challenges and transformed a club’s fortunes. This fact alone makes him one of the best, if not the best manager in the ISL.