- Live Bayer Leverkusen – Athletic (21.00)
The machinery of Bayer Leverkusen is articulated from one of the BayArena offices. A Spaniard spends a good part of the day there who, as a kid, came to fantasize about being president of Barcelona. After a handful of meetings, with time sewn to the millimeter, Fernando Carro (Barcelona, 1965), CEO of the German team since 2018 and with a contract until 2027, attends EL MUNDO. Yesterday, he did not miss a detail of Atlético’s training.
- Is it difficult to adapt to German culture?
- Not for me. I have had an education at the German School in Barcelona, I have studied in Germany, I have worked in a German company… I am more accustomed to working with the German culture than with the Spanish one.
- How does one become the CEO of a landmark like Bayer?
- I was in the private world. He was CEO in a German media company (Bertelsmann) with 70,000 people. I was always passionate about sports and I got an offer from a head hunter (mind scout) who was looking for a CEO for Bayer. The club made me an offer and I accepted it, because it really is what I had always wanted to do.
- Some dream of being footballers, others of managing a club.
- Exactly. To be a footballer, it didn’t work for me because I lacked quality, but it did work for management. I had signed letters with 12 or 13 years as the future president of Barça. I always wanted to be here.
- And is it easier to be CEO of Bayer or president of Barcelona?
- The pressure in Leverkusen is not comparable to that in Barcelona. Barça is one of the biggest clubs in the world and is constantly and globally under scrutiny. Leverkusen is one of five or six big and deep-rooted clubs within a 100-kilometre radius. There is a lot of attention here.
- Do you live calmer then?
- It cannot be said that in the world of football you live in peace because you always do it in the short term, result by result, match by match. And in bad phases, media pressure increases. That is the same everywhere. But beyond that, in Leverkusen you can work well and focused on the objectives. That not only has to do with media pressure, but also with the company behind us.
- What is special about this club?
- Especially the Bayer company, which is the owner. In Germany there are three exceptions: Hoffenheim, Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen. Here, at least 51 percent has to be in the hands of the partners and we are an exception in that sense. Our history started in 1904, but always supported by the Bayer pharmaceutical company. That is why in Latin America we are known as the aspirin club.
- How is an ordinary day for you?
- I spend half the time focused on sports issues and the other half on general club issues. Regarding the sporting part, I deal with matters of a strategic nature and staff planning with the general sporting director, Simon Rolfes, but I also spend hours being close to the team, the coaching staff, the staff… and I travel to all the matches with the team. In fact, in four years I have only missed three games.
The other half of the time I dedicate to areas such as marketing, sales, communication, infrastructure, finance, internationalization, digitization… There are more than ten people who report directly to me and we have more than 300 employees in total. You have to touch on all the issues that a company and a football club have in common.
- He has been in office since 2018. He will have experienced complicated situations.
- I experienced the greatest at the beginning. When I arrived in 2018, I had to make some personnel changes. I remember a game against Stuttgart. For a long time there had been a debate about the sports director and his future, but also increasingly about the coach, because the results did not come. That is the match in which I have felt the most pressure due to the repercussion that a negative result could have.
- Do you regret any decision you made?
- There is always something that you would have done differently afterwards. Be it the sale, purchase or renewal of a player. In the world of football there are always things that may not work as you imagined. But yes, undoubtedly, although I am not going to say which ones. [ríe].
- You have a contract until 2027. What is your dream/goal?
- There is a goal and there is a dream. The goal is to be in the Champions League every year, classifying ourselves among the top four in Germany. The additional goal would be to win a title. And the dream, with Bayern Munich in the league, would be to be champion of the Bundesliga. I think that history owes a Champions League to Atlético and it also owes Bayer Leverkusen a German league title. That is the dream, to be league champion in Germany, although right now and unfortunately we are quite far from that.
- Miguel Ángel Gil, the CEO of Atlético, cannot stand a match in the box due to nerves. How do you live it?
- While sitting, I always get messages from my watch that while sitting my heart rate was high [ríe]. I had a bad time. I always hope that at the break we win 3-0 at least and we can enjoy the second half. It rarely happens. We work for the games, and, even if things go wrong, we enjoy everything.
- The energy restrictions due to the war scare Europe. Bayer will not be an exception.
- We are working with the German league. There are permanent meetings to save energy and gas. Luckily we have other types of energy and we are saving 30%. There are some big savings targets, it is a concern that exists. But we are lucky that the dates of the World Cup (November 20 to December 18) help ensure that the needs are not the same as they would be if there were games on those dates.
- One of Bayer’s goalkeepers (Andrey Lunev) is Russian. How is he living it?
- We have talked a lot with him, especially at the beginning. He is against violence and also has friends on both sides. The situation is difficult.
- How does Spanish football look from a distance?
- Like high-quality football. There is a lot of soccer quality, but less cost control than we have here. Barça, for example, with the debts and the purchases it has made… In Germany, it is on everyone’s lips. Here they are more rational and have common sense and do not understand how a club so in debt can spend so much money on transfers.
- They have only won one of the eight games of the season and now comes Atlético.
- I remember the last game we played against them. We were winning 2-0 with five minutes to go and Morata almost tied us. They have the seal of the Cholo, with an important fighting capacity and power. It’s awkward to play against them.
- Is it healthy to envy being able to have a coach for as long as Atlético with Simeone?
- Definitely. If a coach lasts more than 10 years on the bench, he has exceptional quality. There are very few. They are Guardiola, Klopp, Ferguson has been. Now the coaches are there for two or three years, but they don’t last that long. There are few like Cholo.
- The coach, Gerardo Seoane, has Spanish roots, how do you get along with him?
- Very well. She has had a very good first year. He came from Switzerland and it was a gamble on our part. We are very happy, although the start of the season has been weak. We are all working very hard to overcome the situation in the next games.
- For many years he has lived with a legend like Rudi Völler. How is it?
- We had the office door to door. I have been working with him for four years. The days that we did not see each other for some trip, we talked every day. He has been a great introduction to the world of German football for me. We have a great friendship. He is a great guy with a big heart.
- Let’s go back in time. Tell me about that day Hans Krankl shows up at his house.
- We are very friends. I met him when I was 14 years old because he came to teach Spanish. We played tennis together, I spent many New Year’s Eve in Vienna, at his house. I have been to the weddings of his children. Today it is a very friendly relationship, but back then, when I was 14 years old, he was a great idol for me. I still remember the first day I saw him…
- It must have been something shocking for a Barça fan like you.
- I was shocked when they called my mother to see if she wanted to teach Hans Krankl Spanish. I told him to answer yes, yes or yes. Even if I didn’t have time, I had to give her Spanish classes. I tried to influence my mother not to say no.
- Where does this link with Germany come from?
- My parents sent the four brothers to the German School. My father had learned German as a child, he liked classical music and wanted us to learn German. That’s why he sent us to the German School and it’s the best you can do. Languages always come in handy in life. I thank my parents.
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