“Ferran Torres would be a luxury for Barça”

Who was going to tell Thomas Christiansen (Denmark 03/11/1973) that in the midst of a pandemic he would embark on an adventure in Panamanian soccer. The Spanish-Danish, former Barça striker and Bundesliga top scorer in 2006, took advantage of the competitive break to lead the Panama team, which is struggling to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar. Hand in hand with Christiansen, the modest Central American team is standing up to a priori more powerful teams, such as Mexico or the United States, and seeks to seal its presence for the 2022 appointment.

In the middle of the pandemic, he left everything to go to Panama. How was that?

I ended my commitment to the Belgian Royale Union Saint-Gilloise and my agent put my name on the table for the position of Panama coach without even my knowing it. There was a positive response. They liked my profile and I decided that being a coach was something that appealed to me.

What is found on arrival?

In Panama there are things that are lacking. But they really want to improve. That has motivated me. I have seen in Panama a possibility to go and try to change the football situation, the way of acting and thinking. It is a long process, but it is being very beautiful and I am enjoying it.

How do you rate your first year at the helm of the Panamanian team?

Very positively. The players have gotten my message, my way of playing. We have automated many mechanisms. The good thing about the biotype of the Panamanian player is that they have significant physical potential, technically also very good. Perhaps tactically it is where it may be lacking a bit, due to the shortcomings they have had in their training. That has been lacking, but I would like to implement it, introduce a game model, but all this takes a while.

Talk about leaving a legacy, was that the main reason for signing?

There were several important aspects. First, bring a selection. Second, qualify for a World Cup. And third, leave a legacy. Not to go there just to work on a selection, but also to do things well. I want people to be happy and excited about the work we are doing there.

Panama is close to qualifying for Qatar 2022, do you think it is possible?

The truth is that things are going very well. When you start these qualifying rounds, you see from the ranking that Panama is the last one, but we have gotten good results. We are in the fight, tied with Mexico, and we have Costa Rica within five points. There are six days left and we are going to fight it. It would be a dream to go to the World Cup.

Is there a young Panamanian talent that we should follow?

There are interesting players. César Yanis is in Zaragoza. I have had it in all calls. He is a smart player, a winger who can play on both sides, even as a midfielder. He is very skilled. He has not had the opportunity to play a lot, but if he has minutes it can be very interesting. We also have Yoel Bárcenas, from Leganés or José Luis Rodríguez, at Sporting …

On the current situation of Barça, how do you see the team?

It makes me a bit sad because for me Barça has to always be fighting for the League or the Champions League. This year is difficult. The ‘post Messi’ situation is generating many doubts and it is a shame. But there are cycles that happen and now with Xavi we are going to see what happens.

How do you see Xavi’s arrival at the club?

Well, difficult because of the situation in which the club is sportingly and economically. It is not easy, but it is time to bet on the people at home. There are very talented players who have already debuted, like Gavi or Nico, and there is potential.

Koeman was the champion of these young people, how do you value their work?

It was complicated. I think he did a good job. You cannot blame him for anything. The team was what it was. He was injured and the post-Messi situation was difficult. In addition, it was not possible to sign what was wanted. It was a difficult window. In the end the results condemn everyone and that is why he does not continue, but I do not think that Koeman has much to do with that dismissal, but more to an internal situation that has caused all this.

Speaking of goal. Do you think Memphis has a level for Barça?

I believe that Memphis has the profile and the quality to play for Barça. He scored an important goal against Villarreal. I see him as a good ‘9’, but passing also needs confidence.

Ferran Torres sounds like reinforcement, what opinion does he deserve?

He is a very good player. Ferran would be a luxury for Barça. The question is whether City will let him go.

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