Performance analyst Luke Benstead was a member of Martinez’s backroom team at the 2018 World Cup and until recently he had his eye on guiding the nation to the peak of continental football.
Using tactical support from the former De La Salle student, Martinez steered Belgium to third place in Russia two years ago and they were among the favourites to challenge for silverware at Euro 2020. However, the Championships have since been moved to 2021 due to Covid-19.
Benstead (30) began his career at Everton before working directly alongside Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, as the club’s first-team analyst.
‘For us as technical staff [the Euro 2020 postponement] meant two years of planning had been extended by another year, and this was just at a time when the excitement was building and getting closer,’ he said. ‘And with it being the 60-year anniversary of the Euros it was a huge event, based in 12 different countries.
‘But at the end of the day the health of everyone is most important and we just tried to find the positives from it all – like having an extra year to prepare and build the team ready to compete for the tournament.’
Discussing his work to support some of the biggest names in world football – and his impressive path to a life in Brussels – Benstead, son of well-known former Jersey RFC player Alan, said: ‘I’m the head of performance analysis and innovation at the Belgium FA and my main role is being the lead performance analyst for the first team – working alongside the Roberto Martinez, who I also worked with at Everton.
‘When I’m not working on opposition preparation for international camps or games I support Roberto in developing and innovating football within professional, development and amateur sectors for men’s and women’s football in Belgium. One of my other projects is developing and supporting analysts within the professional and amateur football league, for which we run courses at both senior and youth level.
‘I went to the 2018 World Cup in Russia but at the time I was also working at Manchester United as a first-team performance analyst. I was approached by Roberto to support Belgium and United, especially Jose Mourinho, agreed to let me go. I will always be very grateful for that. After the World Cup it became permanent role.’
Benstead, who started out as an U18 analyst at Everton, says working for a national association brings different challenges.
‘The preparation and build up to games and the day-to-day working life is all the same,’ he said. ‘However, in a national team you have more long-term projects to focus around developing football. You’re able to do this because you don’t have games every weekend, which is always a huge priority for the staff.
‘At the moment working life is based at home like most people, but professionally, football never stops. We have had a lot of online meetings together and also with different sporting organisations to share ideas and working practices.
‘I have used the time to develop different ways to support the coach and the technical staff and start planning for our next games in September in the Nations League, where we play England, Denmark and Iceland.’
Benstead also admitted there is still huge uncertainty at the top of the game regarding when the sport will return to action.
‘I think it’s difficult to say at the moment as so many countries are in different phases of the outbreak, ‘ he explained.
‘Fifa and Uefa are committed to supporting the leagues to try and finish the season, but at the moment it is a day-by-day review of the situation. All that can be done is putting different plans in place.’