Quique Sanchez Flores, who has a habit of being fashionably late, was bang on time for his pre-match press conference this afternoon, so it was kind of funny that he indulged in a spot of horology when discussing the present David de Gea gave him when he left Atletico Madrid.
“He gave me a clock,” said Sanchez Flores.
What, like a carriage clock or an old grandfather clock?
“It was a watch,” clarified the head coach on the 2011 gift.
Ah nice, what one of those fancy designer watchers with big faces and encrusted with diamonds?
“No, it was an older watch, golden,” he said before gesticulating with his right hand and drawing a line from his left shoulder to the top of his left chest. “Yes, a pocket watch, I think, yes.”
Whatever it was Sanchez Flores still has it and it shows the affection his former players have for him and the esteem in which he is held by the top players in the world. Sergio Aguero and David Silva, for instance, both greeted him warmly after the game at the Etihad Stadium in September.
The world’s most costly defender was another to ensure Sanchez Flores knew exactly the role he had played in his development.
“David Luiz was waiting for me [after his last game with Benfica],” he said. “He waited for two hours while I had a conversation with the sporting director for two hours. When I finished David Luiz gave me a signed shirt and said thank you. This is amazing as a hug is enough for me.”
Sanchez Flores is not one to name drop but the players he has coached (or trained, as he likes to say) reads like a who’s who of world football. Diego Costa, Aguero, Silva, Pablo Aimar, Diego Forlan, Raul Garcia, Simao, Jose Antonio Reyes, Ruben Baraja and de Gea.
Sanchez Flores inherited de Gea when he took over at Atletico in 2009 and found a novice goalkeeper, even more novice than the one who arrived on these shores but it did not take long for the head coach to promote him to No 1 at the Vicente Calderon as a callow teenager.
“When I arrive to train Atletico [in 2009] he was the third goalkeeper,” recalled Sanchez Flores. “After one month he was the No 1. He was amazing five, six years ago and it was an easy decision for a coach as he is a very good player. He has everything a modern goalkeeper needs. He’s really clever and, for me, he is in the top three best goalkeepers in the world.”
There is no old-pals act in the build up to games like this one with Manchester United and the phone lines have not been hot between here and Manchester this week. Sanchez Flores has been focussed solely, since the final whistle at the King Power Stadium, on plotting the downfall of Manchester United.
“With Silva and Aguero I wait until after the match [to speak to them],” Sanchez Flores said. “I don’t speak too much before the match. I wait in my dressing room after my match.”
Hopefully with a nice glass of celebratory Rioja.