The ‘Mondelo method’ and the journey from the podium to trauma

On July 7, 2019, at the Štark Arena in Belgrade, the best generation of Spanish basketball players crowned a memorable journey of seven consecutive podiums: three golds and a continental bronze; a silver and a world bronze; and an Olympic silver. Half of all the medals in the 51-year history of the women’s team achieved at a stroke of talent and dedication. But, when the pandemic curbed the competitive and winning inertia, all the monsters appeared. From podium systole to traumatic diastole.


In that last glorious championship in 2019 (in the absence of Alba Torrens due to injury), Laura Nicholls, Marta Xargay and Anna Cruz were the three players who played the most minutes, the pillars in the achievement of the title together with Astou Ndour. The three, Xargay, Cruz and Nicholls, successively left the national team in the year and a half of the hiatus due to the pandemic. All three asking for “air”, “respect”, “time”. Symptom of group deterioration. Consequence of the management and methods of the former selector, Lucas Mondelo.

To the spigot that Cruz opened – “The family is not treated like that,” he said in his march with a forceful letter that barely received an official response from the Federation -; has followed him Xargay’s testimony to EL PAÍS in which he confessed to having suffered bulimia as a result of the coach’s treatment – ”took me to a very extreme limit. heavy“-.

Mondelo, dismissed last Friday for “not achieving sporting objectives” – after falling in the Eurobasket quarterfinals against Serbia and in the same round of the Games against France – is a genius on the board who, in his debut in the elite of the women’s basketball benches in 2011, at 44 years old, after more than two decades in training categories, she won the League, the Euroleague and the Super Cup with Avenida de Salamanca. Thus he was launched into the position of selector, and there he achieved both medals and fame.

The camera focused on a timeout from a game against Sweden in his first championship as head of the team and he did not hesitate to star in a full-length short film. “They beat us last year and asked us for a timeout at our house with three seconds left and eight up. Blood is washed with blood! It is our hallmark and that they do not disrespect us again ”, he cried. Then came his praised use of the feminine plural to join the front of the “us” of the team. And, step by step, she was consolidating her charisma, above the players on many occasions.


In 2013, the retirement of the captains, Elisa Aguilar and Amaya Valdemoro, allowed her to further expand her leadership and leadership until the consolidation of Laia Palau with the bracelet. Before that gold in the Eurobasket, where it settled in glory, Spain was the fourth continental power and the sixth worldwide in the absolute category in the FIBA ​​ranking of women’s teams. But even then, it was the second world power in training categories, only behind the US With Mondelo at the fore, the absolute rose like foam.

But the harshness and inequalities in the treatment, the way to capitalize on that success, the ways to tighten the rope and the excess of prominence of Mondelo were wearing down the group. “The Federation knew the deterioration of the relationship between the coach and the players, but was never informed of any such behavior [como el que sufrió Xargay]”Read the note issued yesterday by the FEB to support the player.

Over time, the pressure accumulated in the 2018 World Cup in Tenerife; the physical and mental exhaustion with which the team arrived at the 2019 European Championship and the coach’s excess powers, overseeing the personal lives of the players and establishing constant sources of conflict, created a claustrophobia that could only ventilate the pandemic. On the way back, in November of last year, the first preparatory concentration for this summer became a trauma for several players, with Mondelo accelerating his idea of ​​generational change to consolidate his hierarchy and, back in 2024, when his contract ended, be the only survivor of what he considered his work. The damage of the past truncated that future.

You can follow EL PAÍS DEPORTES in Facebook and Twitter, or sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.