Acing the defence alongside Chinglensana Singh at the backline for most of the season at Hyderabad FC, Spanish defender Juanan was a wall at the back in the Manuel Marquez-led side’s title-winning campaign in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 season.

Averaging 85 minutes per match, the veteran defender played a huge chunk of matches, 21 out of a possible 23 matches, making 70 clearances, 32 blocks, 29 tackles, and 26 interceptions besides providing two assists in the attacking unit.

“Except for two games, the team has always been a goal down and we have always come back. And that is something we knew in the final that even with a goal down, with the fighting spirit the team had, we were going to have the opportunity to get back into the game. With Tavora's goal, we finally got back into the game and ultimately won it,” the defender opened up on the emotional ride while trailing in the final against Kerala Blasters FC in an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda

A seasoned player in the Hero ISL, the Spaniard has been playing since the 2017-18 season, commencing his journey with Bengaluru FC, cementing his place as the first-choice defender, and proving to be a vital cog in the Blues’ title winning campaign in the 2018-19 season.

“One of the main messages was to tell the younger players to remain calm and relaxed. We had an experienced group of players who had played in many teams and at many different levels. If you’re nervous before any game, it doesn’t help. We stressed on playing a relaxed game as we had the capacity to win the title,” he added on guiding the younger players to maintain composure during the knockout games.

Under the vision of Manuel Marquez, who led a group of youngsters comprising of Akash Mishra, Ashish Rai, Aniket Jadhav, Rohit Danu, Yasir Mohammed at the core of the team, with the right blend of foreign contingent, the likes of Bartholomew Ogbeche, Joao Victor amongst others paved the way for Hyderabad FC to be one of the most feared teams in the league.

“Sana (Chinglensana Singh) is obviously an incredibly good player and one of the best centre-backs in India, which is why he was called-up for the national team. Apart from Sana, Akash Mishra, and Asish Rai helped the defence a lot. Not just in the defence, the other Indian youngsters across the pitch have helped the team a lot,” the defender commented on his relationship with Sana and other Indian youngsters.

From finishing at the bottom of the table in the inaugural season of Hyderabad FC to being the title winners in the 2021-22 campaign, Manuel Marquez has proven across the league as to how a club should be developed, and that followed by continued hard work, the honours will come through.

“Manolo is a coach who works a lot on the tactical part of the game. He talks a lot with his players, and he is very close to them. He makes sure that we feel comfortable. And for a coach who has only been at the club for two seasons to now win the title, it tells a lot about the work he puts in,” the 34-year-old stated on playing under Manuel Marquez and the influence he brings on the team.