HomeManager in FocusIraola is the real deal

Iraola is the real deal

Published on:

“Football belongs to the footballers, coaches are not that important. The players make us look better and I am lucky to have players who are showing their level. If I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t be achieving anything.”

That is what current Rayo Vallecano manager Andoni Iraola said about the reported interest Leeds United have shown in him ever since Marcelo Bielsa’s departure. Rayo have been somewhat of a revelation for the past couple of seasons after earning promotion two years ago. Their football has earned a high amount of praise after overperforming and that is all thanks to their tactical genius Andoni Iraola.

Vallecano’s famous red stripe is famous in Spanish neighbourhoods, and it represents an entire community.  The club is known for many things but not for their trophy cabinet collection.  Their stadium – the smallest pitch in La Liga – are some of the unique things about the club’s rich off-the-field history.

In other off-the-pitch news, Rayo Vallecano manager Andoni Iraola is on Leeds United’s radar but all of that depends on their Premier League status. Iraola might not want to leave a club in the Spanish top-flight for a club that plays in the second-tier of English football.

Leeds United fans have been accustomed to seeing their team press high up the pitch and win the ball back immediately after it is lost. That energetic brand of football was last seen under legendary manager Marcelo Bielsa. And ever since his departure Leeds have lacked any clear identity on the pitch.

Much like Bielsa, Iraola also likes to adapt on the pitch depending on the strengths and weaknesses of his opponents. A fun fact here is that Iraola played for the Argentinian manager during his time at Bilbao and clearly has learned a thing or two about his philosophy.

All that said and done, how good is actually the Vallecano manager? His team has been surpassing expectations for a few seasons now and it looks like Iraola is ready for the next challenge in his managerial career.


Who is Andoni Iraola?

Andani Iraola has now been in charge of Rayo for nearly three years. The Vallecano manager is the youngest in the Spanish top-flight and even led the team to the semi-finals of the 2021/22 Copa del Rey.

His playing days were largely at Athletic Bilbao where he spent 15 years of his career with the Basque club. Iraola was a right-back by trade showing immense maturity and leadership whenever he stepped out on the pitch. With the influence of managers such as Bielsa and Ernesto Valverde, Iraola decided that the next step in his career has to be as a football coach.

Itaola has done a fantastic job with Vallecano so far in his brief spell. He uses a pragmatic approach whenever the club needs it and is not shy of playing the attacking brand of football whenever needed. His style of pressing is a bit different to the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp. Despite this, Vallecano are still a competent side although sometimes are unable to express themselves in the final-third.

Read more:

Andoni Iraola’s tactics and style of play

The way Iraola commands his teams to press is the most jaw-dropping thing – one which has rarely been seen in football. Before the World Cup break in November 2022, Vallecano had the third-most high turnovers in possession, third-lowest PPDA and fourth-highest buildup disruption percentage in La Liga.

Such are his tactics and pressing that Iraola’s teams are usually protected from the obvious counterattacks that his systems are prone to. Pressing these days is not just about recovering possession from the opponents. Once possession is with Vallecano, Iraola demands that his players pass it straight to the ings to create as much as space there is available in the centre of the pitch.

For the most part of their existence in Spanish football, chaos has been at the centre of the club. Peace or stability has never been the best part of this side of Madrid, But credit to Iraola, he has been the saviour the fans of Vallecas have been waiting for. The Spaniard has got the team playing the kind of football that only a few managers would have been able to pull off.



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by FootTheBall (@foottheballofficial)

Andoni Iraola’s Vallecano analysis

Andani Iraola is a manager that believes in high-risk, high-reward strategies. He likes his attacks constructed and planned well before entering the pitch and his defence to be disciplined and show the no-nonsense attitude he showed during his playing days.

Iraola no doubt asks his team to play with the intensity very few teams can match in La Liga. This has in the past resulted in huge turnovers of injuries and fatigue but the players believe to be the best you need to do the best.

An unusual combination of hybrid marking and the zonal press is what fans have so far understood from watching their Vallecano team. The positives are there to see and Rayo Vallecano will only get better from here as long as Iraola is their manager for the long term.

*This article is sponsored by Mtalkz, an Omnichannel Cloud Communication PaaS Provider enabling businesses to connect, engage and grow customers using

Arnold Lewis
A hardcore Chelsea fan, who is often found playing football on the weekends. He has an exceptional voice and his rendition of old Hindi classic songs will make your heart melt. He is the man with the funky hair.

also read