Former Valencia player Juan Sánchez revealed in an interview with the club’s website that coach Rafa Benítez was the one who convinced them with his daily insistence that they could win the 2001 league, which broke a drought of more than thirty years for the Mestalla entity without lifting that trophy.
“Benítez told us that we had options to win the League and we thought he was crazy. Every day he told us and little by little the team became convinced “, explained Sánchez, who recalled that he has not lived” a celebration equal “to that one.
The former striker said that the Madrid coach “for more or less that you have played or had some problem showed that he is a great coach, very prepared, and that he brought out the best in all of us because winning a league is not easy.”
The ex-soccer player from Valencia recalled in his career review the importance of coach Guus Hiddink, who was the one who promoted him to the first team in the 1992-93 season.
“He will always be the person who helped me, who trusted me when I was young and gave me the push,” said Sánchez, who recalled that he, too, was partly responsible for his nickname “El Romario de Aldaya.”
“There was a day when he said that Romario and I had a similar goal nose and José Luis Chiclana, who was at SER started with that and stayed there,” he recalled.
“A lot of people believe that playing soccer and reaching the First Division is being lucky and that everything goes well for you, but you have to work hard, make an effort, put aside a lot of things and Valencia has given me everything,” he admitted.
After being recruited from the club in his town by Vicente Guillot, Sánchez went through all the categories of the club but after going up to the first team he was transferred first to Mallorca and then to Celtic, where he was loaned three years and ended up playing five until his return in 1999 “which was what I was looking forward to”.
“When I return to the presentation in 99 and we were taking the typical group photo, people chanted my name and I cried, that was the most special day,” he said.
Regarding the matches, he said he especially remembered his debut and the Champions League semi-finals, in which he scored two goals against Leeds.
“It was the dream match. I have always dreamed of scoring goals in Mestalla for my family and friends and everyone to enjoy. They say that in the first one I put it in my hand, but I put it in everything, with my shoulder. The second kick with the left makes the goal and I see how the entire rostrum rises. It was the most impressive moment of my career ”, he explained.
Sánchez highlighted the merit of reaching a Champions League final with a squad that was not intended for those sets but was “very mentally strong and well-compensated.”