100 days before the World Cup, Roberto Martinez evaluates the mad Devil’s summer: “I have two major concerns” | World Cup 2022

On holiday in Ibiza, the phone never stopped. Roberto Martínez saw it constantly moving around his Red Devils this summer. Exactly 100 days before the World Cup, the national coach evaluates the key files with us. “Whether Romeo Lavia is an option? Sometimes players develop faster than expected.”

National coach, not to start immediately about football: how was your holiday?

“(laughs) Fine. I’ve been away for two weeks and I’m taking next week off. Then we go with the family to our house in Ibiza, but of course it never stops 100%. This week I traveled to Eindhoven to watch PSV – Monaco A great match with two young Belgians, Johan Bakayoko and Eliot Matazo.”

So we are immediately back to football. It was a busy summer around our Red Devils…

“No fewer than nine Belgians under the age of 24 made a transfer in a major competition. And another two took the step higher from Belgium. These figures prove that we are working well with our national youth teams. It was also for the experienced internationals a positive summer.”

For Toby Alderweireld, for example.

“Antwerp’s project was the perfect step for Toby. They want to compete for the title, with him as a key figure and captain. Well, even when he played in Qatar, I never worried about Toby. But the better league, players and greater responsibility will only help towards the World Cup.”

His long-standing partner Jan Vertonghen is not doing so well for the time being. He lost his starting spot at Benfica.

“A new coach came in who is trying out some things. Benfica is a demanding club – you always have to win. I believe that Jan is now encountering a bump in the road, but that it is just a snapshot. Moreover, Benfica plays European So he will definitely get his minutes.”

“Jan has experienced this before – so I’m not really worried. We have to look at the situation in September, because every player needs match rhythm at a World Cup.”

My two major concerns are Adnan Januzaj and Jason Denayer. They are currently both without a club. In 5 weeks there is an international match, in 13 weeks the World Cup…

Robert Martinez

That threatens to become a problem for Dedryck Boyata and Jason Denayer as well.

“(nods) I won’t deny that’s a problem. But Dedryck did a good preparation at Hertha Berlin, he will find a new project. My two big concerns are Adnan Januzaj and Jason Denayer. They are both currently without club. In 5 weeks there is an international match, in 13 weeks the World Cup… So that’s a problem, but also an opportunity for other players.”

In the back we spontaneously think of Arthur Theate and Wout Faes. One has already made a big transfer to Rennes, the other may go to Torino.

“I’m happy to see that we were behind them before their big transfer. It’s great to see the development of all those talents. Are they ready to play a role at the World Cup? answers. For me it is an open battle between the experienced and the young players.”

You emphasized earlier that it is a risk to switch clubs with a view to the World Cup.

“The transfers of Charles De Ketelaere (to AC Milan) and Amadou Onana (to Everton, ed.) were courageous, but at the same time rational. Both players have thought about it carefully: they made the step to make progress. Then it goes. to a rational risk that you must be able to accept.”

Another Devil who changed clubs and even positions: Axel Witsel at Atlético.

“Diego Simeone played him out in the three-man defense during the preparation. It will be interesting to see if that will also be the case in league matches. Atlético may not see him as a central defender, but they saw an option in Witsel due to some injuries. He is especially important for the Red Devils in midfield.”

Romelu is a footballer who carries his human side with him. He has to be happy to perform and in England that was simply no longer the case

Robert Martinez

The future seems assured there. Romeo Lavia impressed at Southampton last weekend. Only he was never part of the selection… Doesn’t that mean a World Cup anyway?

“(laughter) No. Sometimes players develop faster than expected – Romeo is one of them. Just like Johan Bakayoko, Zeno Debast and Koni De Winter. During the World Cup selection I will keep that in mind. We are open minded .”

“Young people just have to play in a competitive championship. Lavia did that for 90 minutes against Tottenham. That proves that you can’t stop development.”

How relieved were you when Romelu Lukaku found a way out at Chelsea?

“I was very happy for him. His smile returned, as did the will to shine again in Italy. Look, Romelu is a footballer who carries his human side with him. He has to be happy to perform and in England it was. simply not the case anymore. Now he is ready for a big new challenge.”

“Divock Origi and Christian Benteke also found them. With Michy Batshuayi it remains to be seen where he will go, but with the Devils he has always performed. We have to decide in a few weeks whether we will go to Qatar with two or three deep strikers .”

Last but not least: Eden Hazard. On Wednesday evening, he stayed on the couch for 90 minutes in the European Supercup.

“Yet Eden underwent a very interesting change in his mindset. He has a goal again and feels fit. Eden can trust and push his body again. That is perhaps even more important than the number of minutes he will make at Real. I see again happiness at Eden.”

“Dries Mertens is also almost young again due to his new project at Galatasaray. And what Kevin De Bruyne is doing at Manchester City should not be underestimated. Sometimes the biggest challenge is staying with a club that is making rapid progress.”

“So it was a very positive summer for the experienced players. The same applies to the young people, but the risk is greater there. We will see what the next 18 weeks bring…”

View the full conversation with the national coach



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