Teams: Beitar Jerusalem, ISRAEL NT, Inter Milan,
Guy Luzon as a NT Coach?
If there's one thing guaranteed to get Guy Luzon hot under the collar, it's when the media refer to his current success as coach of Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv as a "comeback."
"I have been so successful as a coach," he told Haaretz yesterday, "and the only thing that people remember is my five months at Hapoel Tel Aviv. They make it sound like I was there for 50 years. After all my success at Maccabi Petah Tikva, five bad months at Hapoel Tel Aviv turned everyone against me."
"They said I had crashed," he continued, "they said I was finished, they said I was a terrible coach and they said that I only got my break as a coach because of my family name. The public should decide now whether everything that was written about me was professional or whether it was motivated by a more personal agenda."
I take it you still haven't put your time at Hapoel behind you?
"The criticism [leveled against] me was not professional. For years people attacked me in order to hurt my uncles - Avi and Amos Luzon. My family name drew fire. I met with senior sports writers who told me that they know how much I mean to my uncles - and that's why they did hatchet jobs on me. They told me that if I didn't want to draw fire, I should quit soccer. The bottom line is that I don't carry any scars from my time at Hapoel. I am the same coach I was before, but a different person. I learned a hell of a lot about what happens within a soccer club - but away from the field. I learned that there are plenty of nasty people out there. If I focus on settling scores, I won't be successful in my present club. I need to concentrate all my skills on getting results."
Now things are changing. Everyone recognizes that you are talented and that your family name is irrelevant.
"It's about time. After nine years of coaching in the Premier League, winning the Toto Cup, coming second in the league, winning more than 100 games in total and coaching 25 games in European competitions - twice making it to the second stage - I really think it's about time. So thanks for that."
How did you turn Bnei Yehuda into a Top Three team?
"When I joined Bnei Yehuda, people said I would get the team relegated. They couldn't understand how Bnei Yehuda signed me. But unlike others, they looked at my record before making up their minds. They looked at what I had done over a career, not a season. When I started working in earnest, I realized that the team had a lot of promising youngsters who were hungry for success. I knew right away that I could build a good team, but I had to make significant changes to the way they approached the game. All they cared about was staying in the Premier League, so I made it clear to them that, under me, they should start thinking about winning things."
People say you're the leading candidate to coach the under-21 national team. Could see yourself coaching the full national team sometime in the future?
"I was ready to coach the under-21s two years ago and now I'm ready to take on any coaching position in the national team set-up. I honestly believe I have what it takes to coach Israel - and I'm sure that in the future I will do just that."