Spain's current international dominance has its foundations at youth level, where most of the current stars played in, and often won, the UEFA European Under-17 and U19 Championships.
Over the last decade Ginés Meléndez has had a huge role in those successes, winning the U19 title in 2006 and 2011 as head coach and again in 2004 as assistant and 2007 when he returned from the FIFA U-20 World Cup in time for the semi-finals.
The 61-year-old also assisted Juan Santisteban to two U17 victories, before taking over the U17 reins between 2008 and 2011, when he filled in as U19 coach in Romania for another triumphant campaign – with Julen Lopetegui away at the U-20 World Cup.
Now Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) national youth teams director, Meléndez spoke to UEFA.com about his new position and past glories.
UEFA.com: How do you like your new role as national youth teams director at the RFEF – is everything going well?
Ginés Meléndez: It's going very well, thanks, I am happy. It's a great honour that the federation appointed me to this position. I think we'll carry on developing young players just as we have been doing until now. And we will cooperate with different institutions, like UEFA, to continue to help other countries that need assistance.
UEFA.com: As director of Spain's underage teams, do you no longer do any coaching yourself?
Meléndez: No. Although I go on to the pitch and training field with all the teams, effectively I am not coaching. I thought it was the right thing to do – not to train directly, after 11 years – because I think that to manage a group of people, you have to be without the responsibility of a football squad. This way I can help my colleagues better.
UEFA.com: So from your base at the national training centre of Las Rozas, which age groups do you keep an eye on?
Meléndez: From Under-15 to U21, and I also have a direct involvement with Vicente del Bosque and the full national team. We have a structure that is very well-organised. We work from U15s to U21s, and that's all my area of responsibility. As for the senior team, I always watch the training at least, and sometimes I will travel with them. When it doesn't coincide with an U21 match, my intention is to travel with them – because my relationship with Vicente is great.
UEFA.com: How did you enjoy your coaching swansong – winning last summer's UEFA European U19 Championship in Romania?
Meléndez: Well, that was a big farewell present – becoming European champions again, especially with those boys I had first selected when they were 15 years old. We became No3 in the world and we won the European U19 title. That's a great send-off. But looking back, I was lucky enough to share many successes with my colleagues Iñaki Sáez, Santisteban, Armando Ufarte, and with a great group that we created. It was an honour to have been with them for many years. I'm the only one left from the old guard. There is a new staff now, who we hope will have great success as well.
UEFA.com: How proud do you feel when a player you've worked with from a young age makes it into the senior team or squad?
Meléndez: Well, that is everyone's pride, not just mine but for the whole technical staff. It's a great honour for us, and it inspires us to continue to work in the same way – because it means we are on the right track.
UEFA.com: Of all the players you have worked with during your time at the RFEF, which ones really stand out in your memory?
Meléndez: There are many. So choosing one wouldn't be right. But let's say some of those who became world champions in 2010 or European champions in 2008. But the truth is, everyone I worked with has left a good memory – especially as a person, which for me is the most important thing, to win with the right character. And in the last two years we also won the fair play award at the U19 Championship – once when we won the final  and the other time when we lost it , but for me it was a great satisfaction that Spain, under my leadership, won two successive fair play prizes. That's a big thing for me. We had also won the award in 2006.
UEFA.com: Is Spain's current level of success something that is sustainable?
Meléndez: I believe so. It will be difficult, of course, because now the whole world wants to beat Spain. But I think we're working in the right way. The structure of the youth teams is very good. And so I think we will continue to enjoy success in that sense [player development]. Perhaps it will be difficult to repeat winning a World Cup, but we are on the right track.
UEFA.com: And, with your 62nd birthday approaching in March, do you envisage retiring some time in the next decade?
Meléndez: Well, that will depend on [RFEF] president Ángel María Villar Llona and the federation. The president was already here when I joined the federation in 2001/02 and I'm a very faithful and loyal person. So if ever he doesn't want me here, I will not be here any more.
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