‘We have one of the best defensive lines in India’: Juanan

After having won the 2016-17 Federation Cup, 2018 Super Cup and 2018-19 Hero Indian Super League in his five nostalgic years at Bengaluru FC, Juanan is a BFC legend through and through.

In the four seasons of Hero Indian Super League, the center-back played 71 matches in which he made 91 tackles, 433 clearances and 89 blocks. Forget last ditch tackles, his contributions in the final-third especially from set-pieces is what makes him such an iconic figure in the Hero ISL.

And not to mention his bequest in Bengaluru FC’s run to the final of 2016 AFC Cup. With glorious years in Bengaluru, Juanan now joins Hyderabad FC on a one-year-deal.

Ahead of the upcoming Hero Indian Super League 2021-22 season, indiansuperleague.com caught up with Juanan to discuss the pre-season atmosphere inside Hyderabad FC’s camp and the club targets for the upcoming season.

Sometimes as a player, it can get difficult to push yourself to the limits when you have won it all. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with Juanan.

Speaking about his personal goals for the season he emphasised, “For me, the most important thing is to help the team. I have experience in this league and for me it is important to help the whole team, not just the defence. I have been in the country for a while now and I will work hard for the team and also to improve every player in the squad.”

The Nizams had a confounding last season. The possession-based approach to football with high tempo while keeping a very good blend of talented youngsters and experienced players caught everyone’s eye.

On the decision to join the Hyderabad FC, the center-back declared, “I am really happy here. Last season, the football HFC played was really nice. We were probably one of the best football playing teams in the country and it was really nice when Coach Manolo called me here.”

Keeping in mind his goal scoring record, he further added, “I think I'm stronger in defence. Last season, I had an unfortunate injury in the second half but managed to score two goals in the first half. If you ask me, yes, I would like to score more goals but let’s see.”

The Nizams finished in fifth place last season and missed out on the semi-final spot only by a margin of two points. The club would aim to break into at least top four this season as the camp looks to grind in the pre-season to fulfill the club's ambition.

Speaking about the atmosphere in the pre-season camp, Juanan said, “I think it is still the same as last season. They have the same mentality even now. Last season, they played really well and it is really important to continue that project. When all is good, there is no need for change. We know we need more points to qualify for the playoffs and we are training hard with that as one of the goals for the season.”

Hyderabad FC has made headlines with some statement signings in the face of Bartholomew Ogbeche, Edu García, and Juanan himself.

Talking about the club’s intentions for the season, he informed, “The main objective you have when you start a season is to win. We want to win every game and with the team that we have, a place in the Top-4 is very achievable. But at the start of the season, it is important to take it game by game and see where we stand on our way to achieving our goals.”

Some of the stand out performers for the Nizams last season were their youngsters. The fullbacks Ashish Rai, Akash Mishra and Sana Singh caught attention. Their contribution both defensively and in the attacking-third earned them a call-up to the Indian national team.

Expressing the role these players will play in the season he said, “I see these players have fans from the national team as well. They are probably three of the best defenders in the league at the moment. They are young players but their mentality has matured and with them, I think we have one of the best defensive lines in India.”

The addition of Juanan would provide the defensive solidity required to challenge for the top spot. The club eyes to up the ante to deliver on those expectations as they take on Chennaiyin FC in their opening fixture on 23rd November.

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