After a successful summer in Turkey in which Mario Salas guided his young stars to the quarter finals of the U20 World Cup, he admits that he and the players still feel as though they could have done better.
“I think we could have gone further,” he said. “We still feel quite a bit of regret as we had the route into the semi-finals in our hands. We believe in ourselves and deep down feel as though we should have gone further.”
Although a bitter aftertaste still lingers, that 120th minute goal conceded against Ghana still fresh in his memory, Salas can still look back on the tournament with a certain amount of pride.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “To be amongst the best teams in the world and be with every major rival, somewhere I believe Chile belong, and place ourselves on another level is a great feeling. It was a beautiful experience.”
Since the impressive display by all his players in the summer, there were some people calling for Jorge Sampaoli to introduce a number of the U20s into his senior squad, however Salas feels as though the 2014 World Cup is too early.
“I think that the World Cup or qualifying campaign for this group of players will be for the next World Cup,” he said. “They will certainly have a big presence but it should be for future competitions, the World Cups to come in 2018 and 2022.
“Hopefully one or two from the current U20 side will make it to Brazil but the base of this squad will be the platform for the future.”
One player in particular who impressed in Turkey and continues to impress for Universidad Catolica in the Primera Division, just one goal behind top scorers Luciano Vazquez and Ismael Sosa, is Nicolas Castillo and Salas believes he is ready for the step up.
“I think that Nicolas is ready to play in the senior team, he is in the right condition. However, there are players currently in the adult side who are playing very well and any future decision to include Nico lies with the manager.”
Another one of his young crop who impressed in Turkey, Cristian Cuevas, had already agreed to join Chelsea earlier in the year, and Salas feels as though it was the right move for Cimbi, even at just 18 years of age.
“I think it is never too soon to go to a club like Chelsea,” he said. “What clubs in Europe can give you, clubs like Chelsea, you can’t get that from any club in South America. It is a club of extremely high quality that works at very different levels to Chilean clubs.
“Therefore, what Chelsea does with Cristian will only be positive and help in his development and improvement. The loan move to Vitesse is a good stepping stone to try and get into a more competitive team like Chelsea.”
As well as the team’s success in reaching the quarter finals, Salas has also had a lot of personal success, and being a young manager has drawn lots of praise and admits he would one day like to coach at club level.
“Amongst the objectives and dreams I have as a coach and that we have as a technical team is to take steps forward in football,” he said. “That means going to manage in Europe or other teams in South America.
“I really like the football that is played in the Premier League, I feel very identified with that type of football and now that Manuel Pellegrini is there, it creates more of a chance for other South American coaches.”
Although his profile and reputation is increasing, he admits that there has not yet been any concrete interest from other clubs.
“I haven’t received a single offer,” he said. I have a contract with the ANFP until 2015 and I am going to respect it.”
Despite the fact that he is at the start of his managerial career, he still has every ambition of making it to the top, and this includes managing the national side he played for on five occasions.
“I think that all managers have that dream,” he said. “You have to hope that one day, further in the future, you can make it there. But this requires completing steps in your career and I’m still completing my first one. To get to the men’s national team, I will have to take a couple more steps.”