Who is Benito Floro?
Earlier today, Spanish sports tabloid Marca announced that Benito Floro would be Canada’s next national team boss. It seemed far-fetched, but Sportsnet confirmed the rumour and the Canadian Soccer Association quickly clarified that tomorrow’s “major announcement” would introduce a new head coach. It stands to reason that Floro is currently staying at the Intercontinental Hotel in Yorkville, the site of tomorrow’s press conference, and will start house-hunting in Ottawa shortly. But who is Benito Floro Sanz, exactly? Most media outlets have jumped on the “former Real Madrid coach” tag, but in truth the 61-year-old left Real before current national team members Samuel Piette and Keven Aleman were even born.
Reactions have been mostly positive, with Canadian fans happy to see the CSA shy away from their usual route of promoting from within. It’s refreshing to see us hiring a manager with some pedigree, but Floro has no international experience to speak of and hasn’t coached in Europe for nearly a decade. I suppose tomorrow’s press conference will reveal if he even speaks English. While he qualifies as a “big name”, it almost feels like the CSA has picked one at random – he barely satisfies their stated criteria of CONCACAF experience, save for a relatively unsuccessful spell at Monterrey.
In any case, the job looks to be Floro’s, but he likely won’t take over until interim boss Colin Miller leads the team through this month’s Gold Cup. One sticking point in the CSA’s previous efforts to hire an experienced foreign manager was the cost of bringing in their support staff, such as goalkeeping specialists, youth coaches and the like. At least until Friday, it’s still unclear just how big a backroom staff the new boss will require or whether retired veterans Ante Jazic and Paul Stalteri will carry on in their new coaching roles after the Gold Cup.
Floro has lots of experience, but his playing career was hardly glittering and he was forced to retire from injuries at 26. He took over his first lower division side just two years later in 1976 and moved to Torrent CF in 1980, leading the club from the Valencian regional divisions to the national fourth tier. He bounced around the lower leagues, mostly in the Valencian Community, for a few more years before making his name at Albacete by guiding the club through two promotions to the top flight (Floro is still their longest-serving manager). That’s when Real Madrid took notice.
Floro took over at the Bernabéu for the 1992-1993 season, leading them to a 24-5-9 record but finishing the season on a disastrous note – Real lost 2-0 at Tenerife on the final day to hand the title to Cruyff’s Barcelona. They won the Spanish Cup though, earning him another shot, but he was sacked the following season with a less impressive 14-7-6 record including a 5-0 embarassment at Barça. He might have earned more time if he had cultivated a free-flowing attacking style, but like José Mourinho, his pragmatic approach was seen as boring by some sections of the club’s support.
Floro briefly returned to the Bernabéu in December 2005 as director of football, having been sacked from his last stint at Real Mallorca just eight games into the 2004-05 season. One positive from that job was bringing over his old Monterrey signing Juan Arango, who went on to become one of the most underrated players in Europe. This was after a short time coaching Vissel Kobe in Japan, where he was finally sacked after a 7-0 defeat made for 13 straight losses (like MLS at the time, the league had overtime). He landed in Monterrey and eventually made the playoffs in his third season but promptly resigned in 2002.
Floro then coached Villarreal until February 2004, resigning despite being 8th in the league and active in the UEFA Cup. The outgoing coach cited a lack of effort from his players, and this wouldn’t the last time he would have issues with squad discipline. After working as a pundit and an unsuccessful time at Barcelona (not that one) Guayaquil in Ecuador in 2009, he joined Moroccan side Wydad Casablanca in January 2012 and didn’t take long to complain about a lack of commitment from the players. Some of the roster went on strike against his methods and Floro failed to last a full season, facing another sacking in September.
While he’s worked in high-pressure environments, there have to be some questions about Floro’s ability to manage a modern international side. He’s a respected coach in Spain but hasn’t pulled up any trees in almost 20 years. He also hasn’t stayed in any place longer than three seasons, which doesn’t bode well for the long term project of 2018 World Cup qualifying (Floro has reportedly been handed a 4 or 5-year deal).
That said, he has a reputation as a disciplinarian – Floro has a psychology degree and his hard-nosed approach may be behind his recent hiring. Some supporters have had issues with how seriously our national team members seem to take defeat, and there was a glaring lack of mental strength in the side’s 8-1 collapse in Honduras that ended last year’s World Cup qualifying run. It makes sense that the CSA would go for an experienced coach who can try to fix that problem, but it remains to be seen just how much of an impact he can have. At the very least, he’s starting from the bottom – after Honduras, things can’t get much worse for the national team. CORRECTION: Yes they can.