Bengaluru: Bengaluru Football Club Head Coach Albert Roca will be leaving the position at the end of the 2017-18 season, the club announced on Thursday. The Blues’ Spanish manager opted not to renew his initial two-year deal owing to personal reasons, bringing an end to an impressive spell that saw Bengaluru FC become the first Indian club to make the final of the AFC Cup. His success was also highlighted by the Federation Cup (2017) and Super Cup (2018) titles that the club won to maintain the Blues’ record of winning a trophy every season since its inception in 2013 and more recently, guiding the club to a fourth consecutive appearance in the knock-out stages of the AFC Cup.
“Bengaluru FC and more importantly Indian football will always be grateful for the path that Albert Roca has shown us. Even in difficult situations he stayed true to his philosophy and brand of football and that is a testament to the manager and person he is. His idea of how the game is to be played is what we need to be able to compete in Asia and on the world stage. He will always have a place at Bengaluru FC and we wish him the best for his future,” said club CEO, Parth Jindal.
The former Barcelona assistant coach who arrived in the country at the start of the 2016-17 season, left a lasting impression on Indian football with his philosophy. The Blues, who had established themselves as a reckoning force in Indian football, further increased their dominance under Roca as they began to play some of the most attractive, possession-based and free-flowing football.
Roca said though short, Bengaluru FC would always remain a special story in his career. “It was one of the toughest decisions I have had to make in my managerial career but it’s the right one. Bengaluru FC has been an experience I will always carry with me, no matter where I go. The owners, the management, my staff, players and most importantly, the fans walked with me every step of this journey and I can never forget the love and support I have received here. I will miss being on the touchline for this club, but will always follow its progress,” said the Spaniard.
Roca’s first assignment for Bengaluru FC was the knock-out stages in the AFC Cup from where he went on to steer the Blues all the way to final in Qatar where they went down 1-0 to Iraq’s Air Force Club. He then put behind a disappointing fourth-place finish in the I-League to beat arch rivals Mohun Bagan and win the Federation Cup. Forced to rebuild the squad completely at the start of the 2017-18 season due to the Indian Super League draft, Roca got down to business as the Blues became the first Indian side to reach back-to-back semifinals at the continental stage. After falling short to Tajikistan side FC Istiklol in the Inter-zone final the 2017 AFC Cup, the Blues arrived into the expanded ISL amid much fanfare. However, Bengaluru didn’t take time to settle in into the new league, smashing one record after another as they finished the league stage in pole position with a record tally of 40 points and 13 wins and made their way into the grand final in their first attempt. He then got the team to put aside heartbreak in the final of the ISL, spurring them on to a flawless and triumphant Super Cup campaign a month later.
In his two seasons at Bengaluru, Roca managed a staggering win ratio of over 60 per cent while achieving a record 15-match unbeaten run for the club in early 2018. In fact, the Blues even went on to log six-match winning runs on three different occasions. While establishing their name on the continental stage, the Blues also remained unbeaten at the Fortress under the Spaniard.