Sousa unveiled as new Maccabi TA boss

Portuguese coach raring to go with Champions League qualifiers less than four weeks away.

June 19, 2013 23:37
3 minute read.
PAULO SOUSA (right) and Jordi Cruyff (left).

Paulo Sousa and Jordi Cruyff Maccai Tel Aviv370. (photo credit: Adi Avishai)

New Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Paulo Sousa held his first training session at Kiryat Shalom on Wednesday morning before highlighting humility, hard work and courage as the main attributes he hopes to instill in his team.

The 42-year-old Portuguese coach was named as Oscar Garcia’s successor last week and will not have long to adjust to his new surroundings, with Maccabi beginning its Champions League qualifying campaign in less than four weeks.

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Sousa refused to comment on Maccabi’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League group stage and insisted his goal is to improve his players and that results will ultimately follow.

“For me it’s an honor to be here,” said Sousa. “It is not easy to find a club where we can match ideas, vision and personalities. My idea is to take it day by day. I want to see my players enjoying coming to training. We will aim to win every game and this is the mentality that we want to have here in our club. We want to build the club up and improve players. For me the most important thing is that this is a team which is looking to continue and develop.”

Sousa enjoyed an illustrious playing career for Benfica, Sporting Lisbon, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Parma, Panathinaikos and Espanyol, winning the Champions League on two occasions.

However, he has experienced far less success as a coach, only spending short stints at QPR, Swansea City and Leicester City in the English Championship.

After less than three months he was fired from Leicester following a poor start to the season and in May 2011 he signed with newly crowned Hungarian champion Videoton. The team ended his only full season at the helm in the runners-up position before reaching the Europa League group stage at the start of the 2012/13 campaign.

Four months later in January of this year he left the club, citing personal reasons.

Nevertheless, Maccabi’s sports director Jordi Cruyff insisted on Wednesday that Sousa was the yellow-and-blue’s first option and that the club didn’t even approach any other coach.

“It’s the start of a new season and hopefully we will have the same success as last year,” Cruyff said. “I’m very happy to bring Sousa on board at Maccabi. He was always our only option. We spoke to him for a long time and we believe he has the right profile to bring us further.”

Cruyff hopes that Sousa can pick up where Oscar left off and build on last season’s league title, the club’s first in 10 years.

“I felt we made a step forward last year,” Cruyff explained. “Oscar helped us take the first important step but unfortunately he decided to leave and we needed a person who would continue in a similar direction but help us take a step further.”

Cruyff also refused to speak about Maccabi’s prospects in the Champions League, but hinted that the club has high expectations.

“Twelve months ago we sat here saying we want to be a club of doers, not talkers,” he said. “But of course we are super ambitious. The fact that we don’t want to say it doesn’t mean we don’t want to do it.”

Cruyff confirmed that star striker Eliran Atar is set to leave the club for France, with last season’s top scorer expected to wrap up a move to Stade de Reims in the coming days.

“He personally called me to ask that we don’t block him from realizing his dream, which is to go to France where his contract is a lot more than any Israeli club can offer,” Cruyff said.

“Who are we to tell a player that you are not allowed to follow your dream and play in a top-six league?”

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