Mauricio Pellegrino would be forgiven for not wanting to face FC Bayern München again yet the Valencia CF coach told UEFA.com he is looking forward to Wednesday's reunion.
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When Valencia CF reached the 2000/01 UEFA Champions League final, Mauricio Pellegrino was the player who missed the decisive spot kick to hand FC Bayern München European club football's top prize. Twelve seasons on, the Valencia centre-back-turned-coach will be hoping to use the knowledge garnered from working alongside UEFA Champions League-winning tactician Rafael Benítez to turn the tables on the German side when the teams are reunited in Wednesday's Group F opener in Bavaria.
UEFA.com: This is your first job as head coach. How are you finding it?
Mauricio Pellegrino: I handle it as I did my other jobs, with as much dedication as I can. It's a job with a constantly changing context and responsibility, a job that's my passion, that I like. I work the same as I did with the youth team, for example.
UEFA.com: What are the differences between playing for Valencia and coaching the club?
Pellegrino: There is a certain change of rhythm. When you play, it's more of an individual thing, you try to make your way into the team. You try to do your job well and you then leave to go home. Now, you are busy with things all the time. But I have a desire, a willingness to learn from everyone around me. Since I was young, I always found that very important – being a person who can learn from those around him.
UEFA.com: You have been the assistant coach to Rafael Benítez at Internazionale Milano, Liverpool and Valencia. What have you learned from him?
Pellegrino: I've learned many things from Rafa. I could even say I have better experiences on a personal level than on a professional one. To work with him was a great experience. From the start, I learned a lot of things from him, in both phases of my career – as player and then as assistant.
UEFA.com: What do you think of Valencia's group stage draw?
Pellegrino: All groups have their challenges. Bayern and Lille are teams I know quite well. I know a bit less about BATE Borisov, but they will try to get as many points at home as possible. It's a team in progress, but these matches will be decided on the pitch, not by statistics.
UEFA.com: How did you recover after the final in 2001?
Pellegrino: It was just a part of my sporting career, nothing bad – it's just hard to lose a football match. Looking at it from a distance, it was one of my best memories as a player. I think the Valencia fans enjoyed it as well. To be honest, I don't remember my penalty that well. In my career I took three penalties and missed one. Penalties were missed in that match and these are the small details that decide a game at that level. But certainly it was a huge disappointment at the time.
UEFA.com: What did you feel during the draw when you were paired with Bayern?
Pellegrino: I had a good feeling when we drew Bayern, because when we reached the final the first – and last – time, we had to face Bayern in the group stage and then play them in the final. So I have good memories of Bayern as an opponent.
UEFA.com: As a player with CA Vélez Sársfield you won the Copa Libertadores. What is the difference between European and South American football, in terms of UEFA Champions League and Copa Libertadores?
Pellegrino: There are many differences. The football played is very different. But it's not better or worse, just a different approach. Football played in Brazil or Colombia is different from football played in Switzerland, for example – different cultures, different pitches due to different climates, and then the understanding of the game is also different. But you can't say one is more complex than the other.
UEFA.com: Do you think Valencia can spring a surprise in the UEFA Champions League?
Pellegrino: I hope Valencia can win most of our group stage matches and make it to the next round. In the knockout stages anything can happen. We have big hopes and dreams of making it as far as possible. I don't think further than that. Our challenge starts with the game against Bayern.