The final day of the UEFA Conference for European National Team Coaches in Madrid was dedicated to the success of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) as sports director Fernando Hierro and technical director Ginés Meléndez explained the philosophy and principles that laid the foundations for Spain's UEFA EURO 2008 and 2010 FIFA World Cup triumphs.
Hierro said that at the core of what the senior side has achieved over the last two years has been the RFEF's commitment to its grassroots and youth-team programmes, the reward for which was the final triumph against the Netherlands in Johannesburg in July.
When a good job is done at youth football we reap the benefits," Hierro said. "This World Cup victory is an acknowledgement for all those who have worked with the youngest players for all those years.
"The philosophy of Spanish football is to develop our players from grassroots with our own personality, our own way of understanding and style of football. It's easy to say with hindsight after winning the EURO and the World Cup, but our great philosophy is to build upon the successes of youth football."
Spain have won the UEFA European Under-19 Championship four times and the U17 title twice, and Hierro pointed to the regional structure implemented by the RFEF and its excellent relationships with the clubs as key reasons behind this expertise in developing young talent.
Meléndez has played a leading role in the process. He told the conference what the RFEF looked for in a player and the importance placed on character as well as skill. "We want the players to be very level-headed, psychologically and emotionally stable. Euphoria or sadness [after a match] can lead to a drop in performance.
"Group cohesion is very important.
We work on values which are fundamental in life but also in the development of a player. They will be better players if they are good people. We have two fundamental goals: training and educating young players."
Given the influential part the RFEF's youth programme has in player development, both Hierro and Meléndez stressed that it is not so much the senior side shaping the way the youth teams play, as vice versa. "Winning with the youth teams is something that really leaves a mark," Meléndez said.
Earlier, Monday's working groups had reported back to the conference with feedback on a variety of topics including the international calendar and ways of improving relations between national teams and clubs.
UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh also led a discussion on the future of international football and the challenges that lie ahead. "We need to consider where the game is going and how can we adapt," he said. "Front-line coaches think of the next match, but from time to time we need to take a wider perspective."
Mr Roxburgh assured delegates that their proposals and ideas will be followed up at UEFA, before thanking the RFEF for hosting the event. "It was fantastic to bring the conference to Madrid and it was appropriate to be here with our colleagues from Spain to celebrate winning EURO 2008 and the World Cup."
The last word, though, went to World Cup-winning coach Vicente Del Bosque, who insisted that despite Spain's recent achievements, they will not be resting on their laurels. "Let me thank UEFA for this wonderful event and for paying such a tribute to the Spanish national team," he said. "We are delighted. We have had an exchange of views between the national team coaches here, a wonderful discussion and personal contact.
"Spanish football is in very good hands thanks to the RFEF and the clubs. I think we are on the right track, but we must not rest on our laurels. We must look to the future and continue on the same path."
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