Lagerback: Guardiola has a special form of leadership

How important do you think ego is as a head coach? Is it a role that demands that kind of strong self-confidence and singular direction of thought?
You should never underestimate leadership because you need to get the players on board. What I’ve learned through the years is, if you put forward a question like ‘Why do you win football matches?’ and can answer that as a coach and get the players to understand that, it means you will have motivated players. I try to get them to understand why the way we are working, training and playing means we are winning football games. If they do, they get motivated. That helps to get the right attitude.

You had such a great end to 2018, but you must have had a bit of a wry smile when you discovered you’d be starting 2019 against Spain and Sweden.
Yeah, it wasn’t the easiest two opening games, I can say that! In a way, starting against Spain away could be good. No one expects us to get a point there, but with a tough game and only two days in between like it is now, it’s tough from a football point of view. Then, being a Swede, knowing the coaches in Sweden very well and also a lot of the players, it’s a little bit special. On the football side it’s interesting and should be a really tight game, but on a personal level I’d have preferred to play a different team to Sweden.

While you met last year, and a couple of times with Iceland, this will be your first competitive game against Sweden. How much will that change the experience for you?
I’ve only ever played them in friendlies before and while as a coach you try to get the players to be 100 per cent serious for a friendly, it’s a little bit different to playing competitive games. There’s also a lot more fuss around it, involving media and everything, so it will be totally different. I’m looking forward to it from a football point of view and of course I hope we win, even if I’d rather win against a different side.

How would you describe the neighbouring rivalry between Norway and Sweden?
It is there, but funnily enough I’ve found it’s bigger if you go to the typical Nordic sports – skiing and things like that. It’s a very, very long time since Norway and Sweden played a competitive game [editor’s note: in a pair of 1978 World Cup qualifiers], so this is probably a little bit new, even for me. I think Sweden always looked upon Norway, when it came to football, as kind of a little brother, so I think we really want to show Sweden we can be better than them and take three points.

In this first game you’ll be facing Luis Enrique, who is one of the next generation of top coaches. Is there any you particularly admire?
What Enrique has done at club level – and having had mostly good results with Spain – he is certainly one. The coach I have the most respect for whom I’ve met is Pep Guardiola. That’s definitely a coach who has a special form of leadership. He really wants to organise and push the team in every game they play. I’ve also seen him coach the team and I really have a lot of respect for him.

Is that intensity and perfectionism which he embodies a reflection of where football is going in general, or is it purely his individual personality?
There’s not that many coaches I can see [like him]. You really have to have a strong character to work in that way that Pep has done in his clubs. Even if they have the best players, you still have to organise them, you have to push them to perform week in, week out. These days I don’t think it’s so easy as a coach with well-paid players changing clubs all the time. So, I think Pep is a little bit unique in that way. But if you look at [Jurgen] Klopp, for instance, the way his team is playing, I think he’s certainly similar – despite having never seen him work. I think the best teams need coaches like this, who really push the team, handling all the things inside the club – and the pressure.

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