The fabulous story of Jonatan Giráldez: from selling on the street to coaching Barcelona | Sports

“Do you want a Hollywood story?” asks Markel Zubizarreta, Barcelona’s sports director. “Talk to Jona”, resolves the son of the Dream Team goalkeeper, while the women’s Barça thrashes Atlético de Madrid, the last stop before facing Chelsea today (13.30) in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals. Jona is Jonatan Giráldez (Vigo, 31 years old). His work from him? Train the Barça female. His life from him? “Each one has his story, I suppose Markel will say it because of my origins,” says the coach. And he starts: “Where do I start?”, At the beginning? He is nervous, but speaks calmly. He thinks about the future, but he doesn’t forget the past. Always, of course, with the ball as a guide. “I arrived in Barcelona at the age of 19. He had just enough, just to pay the first month’s rent: 800 euros. From there to earn a living”, recalls Giráldez. The word win appears and, immediately afterwards, the story begins.

Sport is used to showcasing stories of improvement, generally from sons of extraordinary talent. It is not the case of Giráldez. He does not have any natural gift that can be compared to a winning lottery ticket. Instead, she possesses unwavering determination. “I found a job the second day,” she explains. After browsing InfoJobs, Giráldez found a publication that offered an ideal job for students. “Just what I need”, thought Jona, who had come to Catalonia to complete his training as a physical trainer and coach. Not everything was ideal. Without speaking Catalan or knowing people, she would go out into the street to recruit members for the Red Cross and the Spanish Association Against Cancer. It was not his only difficulty. “In four hours I had to raise the money that would normally take eight.” Immediately afterwards, he is proud: “It was a machine selling.”

Giráldez had created a strategy. The same one that he used to lead the changing rooms, until then only in grassroots football. “If you tell them ‘you have a minute’, no one stops. I was looking to capture people’s attention and then try to generate sales”, he explains. And he gives an example: “If a child passed by with a ball, he would say ‘game’.” The experience lasted five months. Later he went on to prepare desserts at Gino’s and Vips. The salary? Six euros an hour. “She made profiteroles, brownies, tiramisus.” He went on to Decathlon and even replaced light bulbs and batteries at Leroy Merlin. Everything, without losing focus. “I wanted to dedicate myself to football, as a coach, as an analyst or as a physical trainer. The objective has been clear to me since I can remember. I think that’s the only thing I’m good for,” he says.

Giráldez, in the interview with EL PAÍS.
Giráldez, in the interview with EL PAÍS. MASSIMILIANO MINOCRI

After completing a master’s degree on soccer performance, Giráldez did an internship at Espanyol. Then he rang the phone. It was Marc Vives, technical director of the Catalan Federation. There was work and it wasn’t to be a waiter or a vendor. There were 200 euros for her to work as a physical trainer for the under-16 and under-18 women’s teams. “I would have accepted it for free. Little by little the federation gave me different positions. I was an analyst, a teacher at the coaching school and a selector ”, she recalls. Although she still had to earn a living outside of soccer.

Again, Vives appeared. “How much money do you want to dedicate yourself only to this?” He asked her. There was no turning back. He even worked as a match commentator at Mediapro, thanks to the bridge that Natalia Arroyo, today the coach of Real Sociedad, gave him. But Giráldez was not satisfied, not even when they called him from Barcelona in 2019 to act as second coach. In 2021, after Barça’s historic treble, Jona took over the reins of the team. “I asked Markel why he had chosen me.” Zubizarreta’s response did not surprise him: “Football aspects.” Giráldez, however, had a plus that at Barcelona he needed for the first team. “He’s the most competitive guy I’ve ever met,” admits Markel. Even some soccer player has complained about Jona’s entries in the games. “You have to win, right?” he reflects.

Catalan in two days

“When I arrived at Barça, a goal was scored in training and not celebrated. A game was won and it was not celebrated. Today people celebrate when they win and get angry when they lose. That is feeling football, ”he insists. “The result above the game? “Of course not. But in matches you have to learn to manage moments. With a 1-0 in favor you play differently than with 0-1 against. And the only way to learn to manage those emotions is by training them’, and for that you always have to care about the result”. Today, in all the exercises that Barcelona performs, the players compete. Thus they have managed to win 60 consecutive games in the League. A Guinness record statistic.

“Jona doesn’t stop. She always wants to learn, she always wants more. If he says that he learned to speak Catalan in two days, ”explains Zubizarreta. “Two days?” Giráldez replies. “No!” he jokingly emphasizes, “I learned it in one day”. In each job, the Galician coach has looked for a trusted man to improve his Catalan, now it is Jordi Closs, Barça women’s press officer. “There are some videos on Youtube of my first press conferences in the sub-16 of the federation. My Catalan was a real disaster. But I’m not ashamed.” His film of him, Hollywood or not, is not his alone. It is also that of the women’s Barça, which is looking for the fourth Champions League final in its history, always with Giráldez on the coaching staff, first as assistant coach, now as the leader. “What do I expect?”, Finishes her; “Win, what are we playing for, if not?”

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