The former Real Madrid Castilla manager has replaced Robbie Fowler at the Kolkata-based outfit.

In a surprising turn of events, SC East Bengal announced a replacement in the coaching staff ahead of the 2021-22 Indian Super League (ISL) season. The Red & Gold Brigade replaced head coach Robbie Fowler after an underwhelming campaign with Spaniard Manuel ‘Manolo’ Diaz, a former Real Madrid Castilla manager.

The Kolkata giants are not only changing their coach, but their philosophy as well. They will endure a change in style, system, and thinking within the club. In Diaz, they get one of the best youth coaches in Europe in the last few years.

The fact that Diaz was part of Real Madrid’s coaching structure for over a decade speaks volumes of his ability. He managed their youth team, as well as both their reserve teams. The Spaniard comes aboard with bags of experience and knowledge.

Career

Manuel Diaz began his management career with the Juvenil (U-19) team of Real Madrid in 2002. He worked as a coach with the youngsters, helping them improve and teaching them.

In fact, He was a coach in the Madrid academy when the likes of Juan Mata, Marcos Alonso, Juanfran Torres, Lucas Vazquez, and Alvaro Morata were all children. He possibly helped groom them and help ease the transition from youth to a professional level.

After five years of working for the Madrid youth side, he had a very brief period of managing in Mexico. In 2008, he was appointed the head coach of a Spanish fourth division side Navalcarnero. He worked there for a year before returning to Los Blancos as the manager of their C (Reserve) team in 2009.

Having worked four years managing that team, he earned the chance to manage the Real Madrid Castilla team in 2013. However, his initial stint ended in disappointment as they suffered relegation from LaLiga 2 that season. After being let go, he took over Segunda Division SD Ponferradina and managed them for a few years.

Being impressed by that, Real Madrid called him back in 2018 as the head coach of their Castilla side, replacing Santiago Solari – who took over the senior squad. However, this time Manuel Diaz excelled as he lead them to the qualifiers of the Segunda Division B league and almost helped them qualify for the Spanish second division.

Surprisingly, he left after that and took a few years of sabbatical. He managed another lower league Spanish side Hercules earlier in 2021 before embarking on a new journey at SC East Bengal.

Tactics

Diaz started his career off as a youth coach. This meant he focused more so on individual development of players than any team’s tactical prowess. It wasn’t until later on in his career that he managed teams.

However, the Spaniard can be a shrewd tactician who shapes his side to play some compelling football. Diaz is a man-manager who knows how to get the best out of his players. A fact that is especially good for the Red & Gold Brigade is that he’s good with youngsters.

Manuel Diaz can get the best out of East Bengal’s potential young gems in the squad. However, while long-term gain will earn praise, Diaz should produce immediate rewards too. To his credit, Manolo excels at getting the best out of their limited resources.

He took over the Madrid Castilla side in 2018 in a decent position. He helped them get back from there to qualify for the playoffs – which they narrowly lost.

The Spaniard also deploys an attractive playing system that should please East Bengal supporters. He deployed a 4-3-3 attacking formation for Madrid’s Castilla side in the 2018-19 season. He did, however, emphasize on the attacking part in it. In the 30 games he took charge, Madrid Castilla won 14 of them and scored 49 goals, conceding 40 goals at that!

Diaz’s teams are clinical in possession and did not take things slowly when going forward. Diaz ensured that his side’s link-up play and combinational play with passes remained unpredictable throughout. Not just that, but he urges them to experiment with their attack and not follow one rigid routine.

Out of possession, his teams are normally very well set up and operate as one unit. He also urges flexibility in his system, meaning his side can change up their formation at will during games to combat different styles.

Apart from his tactical style, he is also a vocal figure from the bench. He loves talking to his players during the games and ensure they learn from their mistakes. Similarly, he’s also one to analyze his own errors and fix them in the future.

In Manuel Diaz, SC East Bengal gets a grounded coach who works for his team’s success rather than his own. One intent on learning all the time, he’ll probably need some time getting accustomed to the ISL system – but should boon rewards as the season moves forward.

Things to watch out for

All through his managerial career, Diaz has worked with young players and excelled at getting the best of them. He excels at helping players get through those transition period in their career smoothly and meet the expectations on them.

What will be most fascinating is how he works alongside former India U-17 captain Amarjit Singh Kiyam in particular. The midfielder has joined SC East Bengal on loan this season and probably needs some expert handling to become a senior team regular.

Manuel Diaz could help Amarjit fix his weaknesses and make him a stronger, more impactful player. He can also make good use of his leadership skills to shape him into becoming this dominant midfielder to take control of games for SC East Bengal.

Another player who can excel under Diaz’s guidance is Subha Ghosh. Manolo managed Vinicius Jr for a short period at Real Madrid Castilla. If he can help the Brazilian take that step forward in his career, he can perhaps get the best out of Ghosh as well.

It’ll also be interesting to see the kind of foreign talents Diaz brings with him and how they help the Red & Gold Brigade to excel. Manolo is one who excels working with players and he’ll really have to work his man-management skills to have SC East Bengal fighting for the ISL title next season.

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