Manzano’s impossible dream

Many joking comparisons have been made between Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and lead character of ‘The Office’ David Brent after the former's cringe-worthy motivational tactics were caught on camera in the documentary ‘Being Liverpool’.

If a Spanish television channel had recorded a film called ‘Being Mallorca’ in the last two months, similarities might also have been drawn between Wernham Hogg’s finest and Gregorio Manzano.

The Coach began his third stint at Mallorca in early February following the sacking of Joaquin Caparros and introduced himself to the squad by showing them a DVD of the finest moments in the club's history. In their next game, they snatched an undeserved point against Osasuna thanks to an injury time equaliser. Manzano’s next act was to make the players train using bibs with words of encouragement such as ‘strength’, ‘responsibility’, ‘commitment’ and ‘attitude’ written on them.

Strangely enough, this tactic also seemed to work and, again thanks to a last-minute goal, Mallorca won at fellow strugglers Granada, achieving their first victory in 10 League games.

For their latest home match, a must-win game with relegation rivals Celta Vigo, Manzano tried yet another motivational idea. He invited Mallorca-born Paralympic Gold medallist Xavi Torres to speak to the team.

“When you are in a complicated situation, the important thing is to turn it on its head and look at it as a challenge,” the swimmer told the players. Perhaps it was a coincidence, but this idea paid off too, and thanks to a goal by Giovani dos Santos in the 93rd minute, Mallorca beat Celta on Monday night and moved off the bottom of the table. They are currently one point behind Granada, the last team above the relegation zone.

These acts may seem unusual, but Manzano is not like many Coaches. He had no career as a footballer, instead practicing as a psychologist, which might explain his fondness for motivational exercises. At the age of 27 he was given his first coaching position with an amateur club in his native Jaen and in the next 30 years has coached 16 teams, including Atletico Madrid, Malaga, Sevilla, Racing Santander and Mallorca.

Manzano has a complex history with the Islanders. He has taken charge of the team for more games in the top flight than any other Coach, lead them to their second highest ever finish and won their only trophy, the Copa del Rey in 2003, famously beating Real Madrid 5-1 on their way.

Undeniably a huge part of Mallorca’s history, Manzano has also threatened to make the club history when he sued the board after not receiving €2m in wages. He initially refused to sign the terms of the club’s administration agreement, putting the future of the entire entity in jeopardy, before eventually giving in.

It is this last point that fans remembered most when he was re-appointed in February, with scores of people turning up to boo him during his first training session. They would have been unlikely to forget, either, that he had previously insulted the fans, claiming they would rather eat paella than go and watch their team.

Manzano and his players ignored the jeers and have got on with the task he was hired for – keeping the club in La Liga. Caparros left the club 19th in the League table, on 17 points from 22 games. Manzano has won 10 points from nine matches, notching up an average of 1.1 point per game in contrast to the 0.8 his predecessor managed. Achieving a point from his first three games back in charge was not the best of starts, but back-to-back wins over Granada and Sevilla changed the landscape, prompting Manzano to remark: “What seemed impossible is now possible.”

It was no surprise when Mallorca lost to Real Madrid and Barcelona but they had hoped for better against bottom side Deportivo, to whom they lost 2-3. Before the match with Celta, Manzano offered an armistice to the supporters he had previously mocked, saying: “We have two tasks – win the game and thank our fans for the effort they made in the last game [Son Moix was almost full against Deportivo]. They turned up to support us but we let them down.”

Despite an uninspiring performance against Celta, Giovani bundled the ball home in

stoppage time to make amends.

“Winning often costs the world, sometimes it requires a miracle,” said Manzano after the game.

Because of Giovani’s miracle, Mallorca can still make the impossible possible.