world : Redundancy & love - how Motherwell made Portugal boss Martinez

world : Redundancy & love - how Motherwell made Portugal boss Martinez
world : Redundancy & love - how Motherwell made Portugal boss Martinez

Monday 1 July 2024 10:30 PM

Nafeza 2 world - Roberto Martinez pushes open the door of a lively Motherwell barbers and sheepishly sits down.

He does not have an appointment but gets lucky, and the barber - perhaps confused about a lack of hair to cut - calls him over before getting to work.

There is still not a flicker of recognition about who he is, so imagine the reaction from staff and other clients when the small talk reaches the stage of asking 'what is it you do, mate?'

The answer to that question was that the Spaniard was having a bit of time off from overseeing Belgium's golden generation of Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and the rest.

Maybe that is something Martinez enjoys about his trips back to Motherwell, on the outskirts of Glasgow. After all, the west of Scotland has a habit of bringing you back down to earth, intentional or otherwise.

It is also the birthplace of his wife, Beth, whom he met during his one-year stint playing in Lanarkshire, an experience that was "very good because it wasn't good," the Portugal head coach revealed in 2014.

Anyone plugged into the Motherwell social media algorithm might be accustomed to the odd bit of Martinez content appearing on their feed.

During the festive period in 2018, he was pictured with one of the chefs at the Moorings Hotel. In 2021, an image circulated of him watching local boys club Motherwell Phoenix train.

"It's not everyday Roberto Martinez turns up and watches your training session and takes a genuine interest," they tweeted, external at the time.

The Spaniard was in the midst of a six-year tenure as Belgium boss at that point.

Under Martinez, Belgium celebrated three straight years as Fifa's top-ranked nation, but he was unable to guide a star-studded team to a major honour.

He did, however, lead them to a World Cup semi-final in 2018 and the last eight of Euro 2020. He lost to the eventual tournament winners on both occasions - France and Italy.

Those six years with Belgium came after guiding Swansea back to the second tier of English football, winning the FA Cup with Wigan and securing a fifth-placed finish at Everton.

But it was nine months in Motherwell that shaped Martinez. It was where he met his future wife, with whom he has raised two children.

There was no romance on the pitch, though. The former midfielder failed to live up to the hype after arriving from Wigan in 2001.

Sixteen appearances, just eight of which were starts, then redundancy - along with 18 other players - when the Fir Park club went into administration.

"Motherwell was a very good experience because it wasn't a good experience," he recalled.

"As a manager it has helped me immensely. Being able to understand a dressing room undergoing administration was at the time very hurtful, but it has made me the manager I am now.

"As a whole I really enjoyed Scottish football. It wasn't a success from a personal point of view at the time, but it has become one of the biggest footballing lessons in my development as a manager."

Martinez also had to deal with relegation at Wigan, a sacking at Everton and a shock World Cup group exit with Belgium before resigning in 2022.

Would any of those have hurt as much as being made redundant as a player? It's certainly played a part in his resilience as a coach.

Now Portugal boss, he is again overseeing another crop of world-class talent with huge expectancy.

Martinez has lost just three of his 18 games since being appointed last year. He won all 10 of his Euro 2024 qualifiers with 36 goals were scored and just two conceded.

Portugal have backed that up with two wins - against Czech Republic and Turkey - from their opening two group games at the finals and progressed as Group F winners following defeat by Georgia.

Slovenia are next up in the round of 16 on Monday (17:00 BST) live on BBC One.

There's arguably no stronger squad in Germany: Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo, Joao Palhinha, Vitinha, Rafael Leao, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Joao Felix and Diogo Jota to name a few.

And, obviously, Cristiano Ronaldo. The list does not end there, either.

Whether the pressure that comes with boasting such a select is a good thing remains to be seen, but Martinez's similar experience with Belgium could well be crucial in leading him to his greatest feat.

If he goes on to lift the trophy in Berlin next month, there would be no reason for him to go unnoticed by his next Motherwell barber with a Euros winners' medal round his neck.

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