ISL- Indian Super League

Profile: Who is NorthEast United’s new head coach Juan Pedro Benali?

Keshava Verma

May 27 2023
Juan Pedro Benali

The experienced Spaniard has previously coached in three different continents.

NorthEast United FC have appointed Spanish manager Juan Pedro Benali as their new head coach for the upcoming 2022-23 season on a one-year deal, with an option for another year. The 54-year-old, who has tons of past experience in three different continents – Asia, Africa, and Europe, is now burdened with the responsibility of resurrecting a bottom-rung NorthEast United, who have suffered a pretty disastrous fate in the past two years.

Speaking on the appointment, Mr. Benali said “It is a great honour for me to accept the appointment as the Head Coach of NEUFC. I am incredibly excited to embark on this journey with the club as we look to build a competitive team that can challenge at the highest levels.” 

Mr. Benali also commented on the talent that exists in the region, and said, “The NorthEast region is the heart of Indian football and is home to some of the country’s best footballing talent that we will look to nurture. The region also has very passionate and knowledgeable fans, and I will try my best to make them proud.”

With the Spaniard now ready to take the reins at NorthEast, let us take a look at his profile to get a better understanding about the coach, and what he can deliver to this NorthEast United side.

Who is Juan Pedro Benali

Born in the mountainous terrains of Spain, Juan had grown a strong bond for the game from a very early age. His great understanding of football, fused with the passion he held, helped him become the manager of Las Rozas CF at the mere age of 28.

From there on, it has now been three decades since Juan has been on the sidelines, guiding different teams towards achieving silverware and glory. The Spaniard has a pretty diverse portfolio, as he has managed tons of different teams from various nations, and has also served as the technical assistant of the Finland National team. 

The manager also has an amazing connection with the Indian Super League and has been following the competition for quite a while now. “I have diligently followed the league, observing many players who have either played alongside me or competed against me such as Hugo Boumous, Noah Sadaoui, Mourtada Fall, and Zaid Krouch. As well as having the pleasure of working alongside distinguished professionals like Sergio Lobera, Stuart Baxter, and Miguel Ángel Portugal who competed in this league,” Juan asserted.

Work Experience

As already mentioned, Juan started his managerial journey at Las Rozas CF, which had been newly promoted into the Spanish fourth tier. Juan did an excellent job with the small time club, and helped them stay up despite having a pretty poor team at his disposal. Impressed by the youngster’s work, Atletico Madrid offered him a position of being the Technical assistant at the club.

Thereafter, in the summer of 2000, Juan was appointed as the manager of Moroccan outfit SCC Mohammedia, where he led the club to an incredible run of form, and took them all the way to the semi finals of the Arab Cup. 

Juan’s also added silverware to his name in 2003, when he won the UAE Cup with Sharjah Football Club. A few years later, his role as head coach of Vissel Kobe in 2008 resulted in the team getting promoted into the J-League as well as winning the ‘Best Attack’ award in Japan.

Since then Juan has continued to fulfill a diverse set of roles – manager, technical assistant, sporting director – at a number of clubs. His latest work experience came in Morocco, where he was serving as the manager of Ittihad Tanger FC.


Juan has a preferred attacking style of play, which he has displayed throughout his managerial career. He usually fields a 4-2-3-1 formation, and demands a lot from his players in terms of their positioning and passing. 

Juan’s idea of a constructive attacking play starts from the back, with the defenders having much of the ball at their feet, from where on it is the responsibility of the defensive midfielders to open up the gaps and provide the connection between the defence and the attack.

This sort of a possession based play, also provides for a strong defensive structure, with the central defenders very much operating as a second line of defense. 

Career Highlights

Although Juan has helped a number of clubs to achieve astounding success throughout his career, his biggest career highlight so far would be his memorable run with Al Gharafa SC in the Qatar Stars League. Juan and his men, despite being the underdogs, embarked on an excellent journey and finished second in the table, level on points with the champions. 

NorthEast have made an incredible move, by acquiring the services of such an experienced manager, who shares the philosophy of the club, and believes in the development and nurturing of young players. With Juan, Northeast now have a long term plan they can work on, and if everything goes well, we might see an incredible turn of events at a club, which represents the heart of Indian football.

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