TMW EXCLUSIVE – Albania coach Reja: “Asllani, Kumbulla and Broja need more minutes”


Edy Reja he has been the technical commissioner of Albania for over three years. Tomorrow he will face Italy, it could be his penultimate outing at the helm of the Balkan national team because his contract expires in November and only after Saturday’s match against Armenia will he sit around a table with the President of the Federation to discuss the future of he. With esteem, with serenity. Because under his management Albania grew and even came close to the play-off phase for qualifying for Qatar 2022: 18 points in group I behind England and Poland, which won the last direct match in Albania. “We tried – Reja told exclusively a -. One point against Poland was enough and we conceded a goal 10 minutes from time due to a mistake. Too bad, we did very well by winning twice against Hungary, we scored 18 points. We believed it a little bit, it was a particularly positive moment”.

Is there disappointment?
“It was the last match, if we won we’d go to the play-off. And Russia wouldn’t have been there, so we had the road paved… There’s no disappointment but at a certain point we hoped, yes.”

Constantly growing national team, with a large colony of Italian footballers
“There are a lot of them. There’s Djimsiti, then Kumbulla who is a very good boy but unfortunately he’s not finding much space at Roma. Ismajli is growing at Empoli, a great scorer. If he were a little calmer in the possession phase ball could become an important footballer, as a big player. And then Hysaj, Bajrami and Berisha, our captain”.

And the young Asllani, who is finding little space at Inter
“He needs to play. Mine is a selfish speech, as coach of Albania: I hope that both he and Kumbulla accept a loan in January to find more space”.

Did you mention it to Asllani and Kumbulla? What do they say?
“Yes, I told them. They’re not very happy, but what can we do? I’m under contract with two big clubs. Having said that, I hope something can happen, given their age they should play more.”

Your new star plays in England: Chelsea’s Armando Broja
“He has great potential. He’s a structured player, 190 cm tall, has technique and great speed, you don’t catch him when he starts. He only has one phase, which is possession. He should improve the second because when the action is over it helps little. From this point of view this year he’s doing a little better, but certainly the fact of playing 20 or at most 30 minutes doesn’t help him”.

In the summer there was a queue for him: Atalanta, Milan and Naples on his trail
“It’s true, Napoli above all wanted him. Giuntoli was interested, I know he even spoke to us… But he aimed to stay at Chelsea, a club which then also renewed his contract”.

Perhaps De Laurentiis also called her to ask for information
“I was talking to Giuntoli, because he’s the one who makes the transfer market. And then when I hear from him the president never makes these speeches, he doesn’t deal with technical issues. He just wants to know if the players are fit from a physical point of view”.

What do you think of this Serie A?
“It’s surprising, with the slow start of Juventus and then the decline of Inter. The championship says that Napoli will go all the way, they have an adequate squad. Spalletti has given the team great stimuli and there are no prima donnas “Everything falls within the context of normal players, there are no longer the Koulibalys and Insignes who could have had something more from the point of view of the character. Even in the defensive phase they work well, once the ball is lost, everyone makes themselves available to recover it. It means that the group works”.

Naples even stronger than that of the 91 points?
“He has something extra. He plays just as well and Spalletti worked very well there. But he’s more of a group: he takes out one, then another, and everyone accepts the coach’s decisions. This is fundamental above all in a square like Naples that always tries a point of reference like Maradona was, always look for the idol”.

Now there is Kvaratskhelia
“It’s true, but she’s emerging now. She’s a bit on everyone’s lips but she’s not a prima donna. And she’s not the only big acquisition. Have you seen Kim? She has a great pedal stroke, she recovers on an impressive 7-8 metres. And then allow me an honorable mention…”

“I have to praise Lobotka. He’s a crazy footballer, he has a dynamism and a technique that I don’t see in other players.”

And the rivals?
“Napoli is going very fast, scoring those points is something incredible. They’re galloping like crazy, it’s exaggerated. If Napoli drew two instead of winning, they were still within reach, but if they travel like this, who gets it?”

What national team do you expect?
“I expect Mancini to be able to give space to those who have had less. Not an experimental national team, but with some innovations”.

What explanation did you give about Italy outside the World Cup?
“We coaches always hold in great consideration whoever brought you to the top and made you get the great result, even if maybe that player is no longer well and doesn’t have the intensity he used to. The problem is that in the national team you don’t in time to recover. You don’t have time, every game is crucial. From this point of view, we shouldn’t look anyone in the face.”

Too many debts of gratitude, in short
“We also saw it with Lippi in 2010, you still bet on certain players because they tell you they’re fine and you trust them, but maybe that’s not the case. I understand it: it’s difficult to take out important players, but you don’t make formations with debt of gratitude. And then there was also bad luck, with all those missed penalties”.

Was it right to confirm the coach after the debacle in Palermo?
“Yes, of course. I thought there could be a change, but he worked hard by winning the European Championship with a team that no one thought could win. He created an extraordinary group, they went beyond their limits at the European Championship”.

And what will its future be?
“I have a great relationship with the president of the Federation, I’m calm. After these friendlies we’ll take a few days to decide what to do and then we’ll get together to make a decision”.

What game do you expect tomorrow?
“When you play against Italy, there are reasons. There is great expectation on the part of the people, the Albanians have great consideration for the Italians, they see all our games and know all the teams well. Albania could be considered a rib of the “Italy and the match must be a celebration, I hope a good game comes out and I hope that Albania does well. I’m not saying getting a positive result but a good performance, yes. It would mean having taken further steps forward”.



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