FutbolJobs rewards the Spanish National Under-21 team for its European Championship runner-up finish.

Premios > FutbolJobs rewards the Spanish National Under-21 team for its European Championship runner-up finish.
Valentín Botella Nicolás presents the FutbolJobs Award to Santi Denia as Spain U21 Coach. PHOTO RFEF

Santi Denia: “Nobody gives you minutes in the first division”.

Valentín Botella presented him with the FutbolJobs Award for the runner-up position in the European Championship achieved in July. I guess it’s a pride to represent this group…
The credit goes to them, to the players. Our job is to make a team, but the credit always goes to them. This is so.

Do you know the soccer employment platform FutbolJobs?
I’m not much of a social networker, although I’ve heard about FutbolJobs. I know it is a platform for job search and always focused on the world of soccer. These initiatives are very interesting.

The U-21 national team has a new group of players. How do you handle this classification?
It is another challenge. It is a new team, with new players. Our job is to select the best players for the matches that correspond to us on each date and then to make a team, so that all that talent, which they have, they put it at the service of the group and the team. That everyone knows their roles, when to play, when not to play, when to be a starter… This is our job. First of all, we have to select because it is the one that takes the most work, then work the games, try to go into detail to get the most out of each player.

For the U-21 national team, it is good news that some teams have to use homegrown players for their first team, something that did not happen before. The clear example is Valencia: Javi Guerra, Diego López, Fran Pérez…
For whatever reason, because of the economic crisis or because they are ready, the coach is delighted that they have minutes in the First Division. And not only in Valencia. For example, Fermín is at Barcelona, Asanne Diao, at Betis, they are getting minutes in the First Division. Nobody gives this to you for free. Either you’re prepared or you’re not going to get any free minutes. It is very important for us that they come with this experience of minutes in the First or Second Division, which is also very important.

Is it much more noticeable that these players have played many games in Primera Rfef, or in the reserve teams?
This is like life itself. The experiences are the ones that place you and this is the highest level. The minutes in Primera demand the maximum from you. This gives you experience and you are placed. This is the best thing for the player’s training: that they have the maximum number of minutes in the First or Second Division, which is also the highest level. For us, we are delighted that they are at the highest level and that the coaches continue to believe that Spanish players are of the highest level, even if they are young.

How are you experiencing the emergence of a young player like Lamine Yamal?
The coaches work as a team, in the lower categories of the RFEF. Being the U-21 coach, I have been able to go as a second with the U-17, or when I was in the U-19, to go with the U-15… And I was lucky enough to go with a U-15 team, helping José Lana, where Lamine was. I’ve known him for two years and when he was younger because we used to watch him in the infantile or cadet teams of his club. I can tell you that Lamine, as an U-15 player, made his debut with the U-19 team, which is the category I managed. We don’t look at the license, we don’t look at age. If he has minutes in the First Division, and more so at Barcelona, it is clear that he is ready to come with the U-21 and even more with the Absolute, as Luis is considering. We are delighted that he is going, because there are exceptional cases such as Lamine.

Another significant case is that of Gabri Veiga who, at the age of 21, has decided to move to the Saudi league…
These are personal decisions and those of the club where he was formed, Celta. They submitted an offer from Saudi soccer and accepted it. They seem to be forming a more competitive league. Our job is to follow up on that league because there are eligible players. We are going to give them time to see how this championship evolves, to see if they continue to invest and if top-level players go there as they are doing, because it is possible that they will keep up the level. We will follow Gabri Veiga who has shown that he has the level to play with the U-21, even with the Absolute. What we want is for him to have minutes and competition rhythm.

But the pace of competition in Arabia is not that of Europe?
I have spoken to him, I have told him what we are asking him here and what he is going to find here.

Simeone, a former teammate of yours at Atleti, commented that La Liga is below others in Europe in terms of energy, pace… Do you agree? Do you notice this in players who are already playing in England at this age, for example?
My scope is not that of a club and he speaks to you from his scope, which is that of a club. We are a reflection of the level of Spanish soccer. And I am delighted with the physical, technical and tactical level of the players who come to the U-21. It is true that everything can be improved, but we are delighted, whether in Spanish, Portuguese, English or even Saudi Arabian soccer.

How have you personally handled the tsunami at RFEF?
It has been a while. This is a judicial process and there are people who will have to make decisions. I will not enter. So much has already been written, so much has already been said, so many hours of television that everything has already been said. We focus on sports work and follow-up.

In the famous RFEF Assembly you were not in the photo applauding Rubiales’ speech. He said it “didn’t work out for him.” Are you proud of it?
I commented on this at the time. It has already happened. At the September press conference I said what I thought and I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

Is the team already qualified for the Olympics, will the team be drawn from the previous group (the one that qualified for the European Championships) or a mixture of both?
The Games are those born after 2001. This new generation are from 2002 and can enter but also many others from 2001 can enter and even others from 2000 who were also runners-up in Europe. Possibly from those born in 2000 will come the three senior U-23 players. Everything needs to be discussed even though we have it more or less organized. Follow-up is during the year. And from what we talk about today to the list that may come out in June is going to change a lot. Because of form, because of injuries, because of everything.

Will there be room for three U-23 seniors or will the RFEF’s historical rule for the last Games be followed in principle?
It is not my decision alone. It remains to be seen, although it is true that historically the players who have played in the previous European Championship have always been used. However, we will have to discuss it with the sports management, with Albert (Luque), with Tito and even with Luis de la Fuente, who has already had experience in the Games, and the decision will be taken as a team.