- Category: Sport
When Diego Maradona left Barcelona in the summer of 1984, along with compatriot and Manager Cesar Luis Menotti, a League Title for Barcelona seemed out of reach for the coming seasons. They had not won a League Title since 1974 with Johann Cruyff as a player and high profile Managers such as West Germans Hannes Weisweiler and Udo Latteck as well as Menotti had been unsuccessful despite money being spent year after year on quality players.Stars such as Austria’s Hans Krankl, Denmark’s Allan Simonsen and West Germany’s Bernd Schuster, in addition to Maradona himself, had all been acquired for this quest but to no avail.
The person chosen to lead the new Barcelona was a surprise. Englishman Terry Venables had only managed one full season in the English Top Division. The Previous season (1983/84); he had led Queens Park Rangers to UEFA Cup qualification. For this upcoming season (1984/85), the core of the playing squad had remained intact. These included goalkeeper Javier Urruticoechea as well as outfield players such as Jose Alexanco, Gerardo, Migueli, Julio Alberto, Victor, Carrasco, Ramon Caldere and Bend Schuster.The new foreign player to replace Maradona was Tottenham’s Scottish Forward Steve Archibald.
The two times defending Champions, the Basques of Athletic Bilbao, and Archrivals Real Madrid seemed more equipped to dominate domestically. However, from the very first Match of the season, Venables’ Barcelona hammered Real Madrid 3 to 0 at Santiago Bernabeu and made everyone take notice. From then on Barcelona started winning and winning and ran away with the title. Archibald had fit in well and scored 15 goals.
Barcelona lost only twice in the entire season and garnered 53 points which at the time, tied the record points tally in a season set by Real Madrid in 1980. The only blemish in that season was the shock elimination in the first Round of the Cup Winners Cup competition by modest French side FC Metz. Barcelona had won the first leg away at Metz by a score of 4 to 2 and regarded the return leg as mere formality. However, they were heavily defeated at Nou Camp by a score of 1 to 4 and were eliminated. Otherwise, this was the perfect season with a deserved League title after an eleven-year drought.
Bernd Schuster was very complimentary about Venables’ new tactics, saying that with Menotti every ball had to go through Maradona, but now there was more of a team effort and investment. A number of Barcelona players, Caldere, Rojo, Clos and Gerardo, earned their first caps for Spain during this exceptional season. For the next season (1985/86), Barcelona retained their current established squad and prepared to make a tilt at the Champions Cup. Real Madrid on the other hand went on a shopping spree after a poor domestic season. Mexican striker Hugo Sanchez and Spanish Internationals Antonio Maceda and Rafael Gordillo were acquired to strengthen Real’s title bid.These reinforcements helped them to win the League title that season (1985/86) with Barcelona a distant second.
Barcelona had spent most of its energy on the Champions cup and had defeated Porto, Juventus and IFK Gothenburg (on a penalty kick shoot-out) on its way to the Final vs. Romania’s Steaua Bucharest. Since the Final was being staged in Sevilla, many thought the Title was Barcelona’s for the taking; However, Steaua had other ideas and played for a penalty shoot-out, which they won. Incredibly, Barcelona missed all its four spot kick attempts.
For the following season (1986/87), Terry Venables (dubbed El Tel by the Spanish Media) made the League title his priority and many new signings were made. Spanish National team goalkeeper Andoni Zubizaretta and International midfielder Roberto arrived from Athletic Bilbao and Valencia respectively.Manchester United’s Welsh striker Mark Hughes was signed along with England and recent World Cup top goal scorer Gary Lineker from Everton.
Since foreign player restrictions only authorized two per team, Steve Archibald was registered with Barcelona’s B Team, while West German Bernd Schuster was put on ice. He did not play at all that entire season. Barcelona struggled as a unit that season, Lineker scored goals as expected, but Hughes did not have the desired impact and struggled. In Europe, Barcelona reached the quarterfinals of the UEFA Cup, but were surprisingly eliminated by Scottish club Dundee United. Domestically, Barcelona were neck to neck with Real Madrid for most of the season, but Real broke free towards the end of the season and triumphed again.
By the late stages of the League campaign, Mark Hughes was even demoted and Steve Archibald was re-integrated into the squad in his place.Venables began the following season (1987/88) with virtually the same squad.The key difference was the re-inclusion of Bend Schuster into the first team squad. Gary Lineker also retained his place, but Mark Hughes was eventually loaned to Bayern Munich and Steve Archibald was again registered with the B Team. While Real Madrid started the season in impressive fashion, Barcelona struggled.After winning their opening match, they lost their next three matches, with two of these at home vs. Sevilla and Valencia. Following Barcelona’s defeat on September 26, 1987, at home vs. Valencia Terry Venables was fired.Luis Aragones was drafted as caretaker Manager until the end of the season with Johann Cruyff lined up to take over for the following season.
Following his dismissal, Tottenham Hotspur hired Terry Venables on November 23, 1987. He was responsible to bring stars such as Paul Gascoigne and Gary Lineker to White Hart Lane in the following seasons.He led Tottenham to an FA Cup win in 1991 and afterwards was appointed as Chief Executive.After a bitter dispute with Chairman Alan Sugar in 1993, he was dismissed.He was surprisingly selected to be the England National Team Manager in 1994, a job many felt had passed him by, since he was embroiled in legal disputes for many of his business dealings from the past. He managed the team until the 1996 Euros, which England were hosting and earned a place in the semifinals. He was only able to manage for two years, because he felt his many legal cases and court dates prevented him to do his job effectively.Since then, Venables has led Australia’s National Team, Middlesbrough and Leeds United among others with little success.
In an interview, he stated that his greatest achievement was the Barcelona title, though he also feels great pride in the promotions he achieved with Crystal Palace and QPR. It was indeed a rare for an English Manager to have done well on the continent for a major club. It is unfortunate that these achievements are somewhat tainted by the business dealings, that also curtailed his England National Team Managerial career that deserved more than mere two years.
© Words - Shahan Petrossian