Keir RadnedgeComment


Keir RadnedgeComment

John Toshack, team boss of Real Madrid, is a fully paid-up member of the European managers' society.

Howard Kendall at Bilbao remains, as Terry Venables was at Barcelona, an Englishman working abroad. But Toshack has spent virtually all the 1980’s establishing a professional career in Europe; in Portugal and Spain. This season he confronts the greatest, most prestigious, challenge of his career.

The pressure is immense. In the wake of league defeat in Barcelona and on the eve of European dramatics in Milan, he explained how he learned to live with the managerial time bomb…

I could not have come straight into a job like Real Madrid. I think it was important to have worked up towards it. I had a very good – I won't say apprenticeship because that would be an insult to my other clubs -but a very good grounding, or education in the game over here.

Sporting Lisbon was my first job abroad. It was something which came up after Swansea and I was excited by the prospect of learning a new language and finding out about a new culture as well as a different style of football. Sporting is one big club. Their derbies against Benfica are as big as almost anything I had experienced. They had also had 18 managers in 15 years so the job was a big one in itself.

Then I had four very happy years in San Sebastian with Real Sociedad. It's a lovely city and the Basques are smashing people. I would happily have gone on working there for a long time to come. But the offer came to manage Real Madrid, which must be the most famous club in the world, and when something like that happens in your life you say to yourself: What are we here for? What's this all about?

An opportunity like that comes once in your life. You have to take it. You have that responsibility not only to yourself but to your family. My son can turn round one day and say to his friends: "My Dad managed Real Madrid," and that will mean something. For me, that's what it's all about.  When we were kids at home in South Wales we heard of Real Madrid -about Di Stefano and Puskas and Gento.  And suddenly here I am, and I've got Gento        working for me in Italy, spying in Milan.

The four years with Real Sociedad were a very valuable part of preparing for this - although I never envisaged it. I know it's a cliché, but in this job it rarely pays to look too far ahead. But it meant I knew Spanish football and its set-up.           

I’ve seen Barcelona v Real Madrid games from a distance. I knew about the players at Madrid and I knew what to expect.  Knowing they have won the championship for the last four years makes it difficult. The standards set at this club are very high. And I wondered how the players might react this season - especially when Barcelona have reinforced this summer in such strength.

It's a smashing challenge as well as a great honour. You see, Madrid won the league and cup last season.  So, if we win the league and cup again this season, what's new? But, on the other side of the coin, if we don't win both the league and cup then people will wonder what's gone wrong and will look at what's changed in between. And that's where I come in.

I have changed things around a lot in the few months I have been here. With respect to last season now we have a West German sweeper (Bernd Schuster), a new Spanish centre back (Fernando Hierro) and a new Argentine central defender (Oscar Ruggeri). Of course Schuster has been with Madrid since last year but last season, for Leo Beenhakker, he was playing in midfield.

Any team would need time to adjust to fundamental changes like that. But here you are expected to win every game. The pressure is on, you don't have time.

So Ruggeri came back to us from the South American championship with an injury and I'm still not sure he's 100 per cent fit. Julio Salinas gave him a good chasing here in Barcelona.  So he's had one bad day at the office. Happens to all of us. Just because he has had one off day doesn't mean we have to throw everything out of the window and start again. People said to me after the match that this was, in fact, the best Real Madrid have played in Barcelona for several years.  So, while there were bad things in the match, there were also good ones. Barcelona are two points behind us still and they've got to come to the Bernabeu later on.

That's one of the reasons the Milan tie is so important to our season. If we were to beat Milan we could forget about the European Cup until next March and concentrate on the league, but if we lose to Milan, then there's a danger that heads will go down and we will suffer a reaction in the league. That's what management is about. There is always something going on which needs your attention.

If I look back then I can say I've had a good career experience in all sorts of situations. I worked through all the four divisions of the Football League with Swansea and I've worked at big clubs in Portugal and Spain. 

You know, I don't even think about ever going back home.  It took me about six months to settle down in Spain and understand enough of the language and the people and their way of life. But I can honestly say that going back is something which never crosses my mind.

As for Real Madrid, it's the European Cup which occupies their minds here. That's one of the great things about working and living in Spain. Everyone is so interested in what's going on abroad; on television I can watch French and Italian football; when I was at San Sebastian I wasn't far from the French border so a couple of times a season I took the chance to go up and watch Bordeaux.

Compared with Britain, everyone here is so much more knowledgeable about other countries. I feel I know a lot more about what's going on in football generally than other English-or Welsh-managers. And not just because I happen to work here.

I suppose you might say that difference is something to do with the European ban on English clubs. It's terribly sad for a club like Liverpool, who set the standards in everything.  I'm told there were no English club managers out here to watch the Barcelona game on a day when the first division was blank because of England's preparations for the Poland game.

I know we British are insular. It's our way. But maybe, if the English clubs had been in Europe, then one or two might have come out to learn. You can see that as another effect of the ban-it's depressing people and their ambitions and horizons. I thought how terrible it was when we entertained Liverpool in the Bernabeu trophy match, which was our big season-opener in front of our fans before the league began.

Liverpool formed me as a person, not just as a player. It was the attitude. It struck me as soon as I went there. They'd say: 'Someone has to win the European Cup, why shouldn't it be us?' I was just a young lad from South Wales and it opened my eyes.

So I am trying to do the best I can for Real Madrid. After all, if you don't want to be the best, what's the point?'

BARCELONA 3 (Salinas 10,Koeman 75pen, 89pen)             ·

REAL MADRID 1 (Hugo Sanchez 8 pen)

BARCELONA: Zubizarreta, Koeman, Alesanco, Aloisio, Eusebio, Beguristain (Serna 69), Baquero, Roberto, Urbano (Soler 56), Julio Salinas, Laudrup.

MADRID: Buyo, Hierro, Schuster, Ruggeri, Chendo, Michel (Paco Llorente 62), Sanchis, Martin Vazquez, Gordillo, Hugo Sanchez, Butragueno (Aldana 14).

Real Madrid's defeat in Barcelona threatened to be of more significance that the Catalans 3-1 victory.

No-one can doubt the quality available to Barca coach Johan Cruyff; it's just the way he organises it which upsets people.

Madrid, however, bounced out of Barcelona with their revenge Champions' Cup duel with Milan on their minds and the prospect of going into it with star striker Emilio Butragueno. Now, he may not be quite the Vulture he once was, but his absence no doubt encouraged the Italian club to hit Madrid with that swift - and possibly decisive - one-two.

If Butragueno's state of health was the most obvious headache left with Madrid coach John Toshack, it was far from the only one.

He has reorganised Madrid in defence. But Rafael Gordillo appears well past his best and was one of the poorest players on the field in Nou Camp. At times he did not seem to be part of the same match. Similarly, Argentine World Cup-winner Oscar Ruggeri was torn up into little pieces by Julio Salinas. And while I have always admired Salinas's honesty and persistence, he is hardly a Van Basten.

Bernd Schuster's retreat to sweeper raised some eyebrows in Spain. But, in fact, I remember him telling me-after his sparkling emergence in the West German midfield at the 1980 European championships - that he preferred sweeper and the extra space and control the role allowed.

Schuster still reads a game as well as anyone, can still hit those beautiful long-range passes and looks sheer class. He also possesses that streak of ruthlessness which coaches look for in a last-line defender. Proof arrived midway through the first half when Schuster blatantly tripped Michael Laudrup in a headlong dash for goal.

The German was, correctly, shown the yellow card. That would cost him dear later on when he was booked again - and, of course, sent off ­ right at the end for ungentlemanly conduct i.e. standing on the ball and simply waiting for the last seconds of defeat to tick away.

One plus for Toshack is in his redeployment of Manuel Sanchis as a ball-winner sitting in front of the back five, though whether midfield partners Martin Vazquez can match the distribution vision of Michel on the right is open to question.

Luckily, ahead of them they have Butragueno and Hugo Sanchez as target men, the one always seeking space and the other putting the wind up anyone faced with the thankless task of marking him. Cruyff organised it in relays but Sanchez would have had one or two more goals to add to his penalty had the flag-happy linesmen been up to their job.

Barcelona? High on class, low on organisation though that improved immensely as the match went on. Barcelona can battle their way through. They proved it against Legia Warsaw in Poland; they proved it against Madrid; and celebrated the following week with seven goals against Rayo Vallecano.

Never mind Europe. Just watch the fight to reign in Spain.

This article originally appeared in the November 1989 edition of World Soccer Magazine.  You can subscribe for a ridiculously low sum by clicking here.