César Luis Menotti

César Luis Menotti
César Luis Menotti
Personal information
Date of birth November 5, 1938 (1938-11-05) (age 73)
Place of birth Rosario, Argentina
Playing position Striker
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1960–1963 Rosario Central ? (?)
1964 Racing Club ? (?)
1965–1966 Boca Juniors 18 (6)
1967–1968 New York Generals ? (?)
1968 Santos FC 1 (0)
1969 Clube Atlético Juventus ? (?)
National team
? Argentina ? (?)
Teams managed
1970 Newell's Old Boys
1970–1973 Huracán
1974–1983 Argentina
1984 FC Barcelona
1985 C.A. Peñarol
1987 Boca Juniors
1987–1988 Atlético Madrid
1988 River Plate
1991–1992 Mexico
1993–1994 Boca Juniors
1996–1997 Independiente
1997 Sampdoria
2002 Rosario Central
2006 Puebla
2007 Tecos
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of July 2007.
† Appearances (Goals).

César Luis Menotti, known as El Flaco ("the slim one") (born November 5, 1938 in Rosario) is an Argentine football coach and former player, who as coach, won the 1978 FIFA World Cup for Argentina.


Playing career

Menotti grew up in the Fisherton district of Rosario, and played for local clubs before a scout for Rosario Central picked him up. He played in the youth divisions while attending high school (he graduated as a chemical technician) and was signed by Central. He also played for the Argentine national football team and Pelé's Santos FC.

Early managerial career

After retiring from play, he became friends with coach Miguel "Gitano" Juárez, with whom he traveled to the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico. Fascinated by the Brazilian style of play led by his pal Pele, he decided to become a coach himself.

His first significant success was achieving the 1973 Metropolitano title with Huracán, with a legendary attacking lineup: René Houseman, Miguel Brindisi, Roque Avallay, Carlos Babington, and Omar Larrosa, backed up by veteran midfielder Alfio Basile and left-back Jorge Carrascosa, known as el lobo ("the wolf"), who was the team captain.

After the fiasco of the 1974 FIFA World Cup, the Argentine Football Association top brass decided to offer Menotti the position of national coach. The political connections of Huracán strongman David Bracuto and union leader Paulino Niembro were critical in closing the deal.

National Coach

Preparations for the 1978 World Cup

Menotti was faced with an enormous challenge: Argentina had zero World Cup wins against Brazil's three, and was poised to host the 1978 FIFA World Cup. For many fans, it was "now or never". The political climate was deteriorating rapidly: in March 1976, a military coup was to depose President Isabel Martínez de Perón and install a fiercely repressive regime.

After a series of incidents in which Boca Juniors and River Plate denied their players to the national team in 1975, Menotti devised a scratch made up mostly from players out of Santa Fé and Córdoba provinces. Many players in that team made up the backbone of Menotti's team all the way to the 1982 FIFA World Cup: full-back Luis Galván, midfielders Ardiles, Gallego and Kempes, and centre-forward Luque. Other players from that team remained on the team with varying fortunes: goalkeeper Hugo Gatti, the Killer brothers (Daniel and Mario), Miguel Oviedo, and Daniel Valencia.

Menotti acknowledged the talent of Houseman and the rise of defensive powerhouse Daniel Passarella, even though both played in teams from Buenos Aires. Another source of top talent was the national team that won the 1975 Toulon youth championship, which included Boca's Alberto Tarantini and Jorge Valdano, who was transferred to Spanish side Alavés at a young age.

In the run-up to the 1978 World Cup, Menotti came under fire for favoring allegedly inferior players (e.g. improvised right-back Olguín over Vicente Pernía, and Valencia over Alonso and Bochini). At the goalkeeper position, Menotti eventually replaced Hugo Gatti with Ubaldo Fillol, who was less of a field player but gave more security under the goalposts. Menotti did call Alonso— up reluctantly, reputedly after suggestions from Admiral Lacoste, the navy officer who was CEO of the World Cup organization committee.

The 25-player team that trained for the 1978 World Cup needed trimming to the FIFA-regulated 22 names, so Menotti had to eject three players before the tournament. Those were Humberto Rafael Bravo, Víctor Bottaniz and 17-year-old Diego Maradona.

1978 World Cup

Menotti's initial team was Fillol; Olguín, Galvan, Passarella, Tarantini; Ardiles, Gallego, Valencia; Houseman, Luque, Kempes. This team defeated Hungary and France without convincing critics, and then lost to Italy. Having achieved the second place in the qualifying round, Argentina was to play the second round in Rosario. Leopoldo Luque was recognized as the best player in the first round, but an arm injury and the death of his brother in a car accident took the edge off his game. Menotti benched Valencia and Houseman, moved Kempes to the midfield, and promoted Daniel Bertoni and Oscar Ortiz to the wings.

A convincing 2-0 victory over Poland in the second round was followed by a 0-0 draw against Brazil. The last day was scheduled so that Argentina would play Peru already knowing the result of the Brazil-Poland match. Since Brazil won 3-1, Argentina needed a four-goal spread to reach the final.

The match against Peru ended with a 6-0 Argentine victory. Allegations of bribery were made ever since, and some involved (both Peruvian and Argentine) have pointed out that Argentine officials did apply pressure on the Peruvians to give up the match.

The final against the Netherlands was arguably Argentina's best match in the competition. After dominating for most of the match (Kempes scored for 1-0 in the first half), Argentina retreated to defense and let the Dutch stage a comeback. A goal by Nanninga put the match 1-1; in the final minute of regulation time, the orange team was denied their first world cup by the width of a goalpost.

In additional time, Kempes and Bertoni scored for Argentina, who thus joined the exclusive club of football world champions. Argentines celebrated the victory in the streets throughout the country, the military junta drew a political dividend, and Menotti became the man of the hour.

Between 1978 and 1982

In the final months of 1978, when Menotti's contract was due to expire, he played a game of brinkmanship with the Argentine Football Association, which ultimately agreed to his demanding terms, both financially and professionally. Menotti's team included assistant coaches Rogelio Poncini and Roberto Saporiti, as well as fitness trainer Ricardo Pizzarotti and physician Rubén Oliva.

In 1979, Menotti flew to Japan to oversee the Saporiti-trained under-20 team that won the Youth World Championship. This title was Maradona's first title wearing the national colors.

On that year, Argentina and the Netherlands played a FIFA exhibition match in Zurich, which Argentina won on penalties.

In 1980, the team played the Mundialito in Uruguay, but failed to reach the final.

During the build-up to the 1982 FIFA World Cup, Menotti maintained the same defensive line as in 1978, but modified the attacking lineup to include new players, notably Maradona, Juan Barbas, Ramon Diaz, and Jorge Valdano.

When it became clear that Argentina would play the inaugural match against Belgium, Menotti went on record extolling the virtues of the rival, and the head game of its centre-forward Jan Ceulemans. Many felt Menotti was worrying too much about the rival.

In the final weeks before the competition, the country was absorbed by the Malvinas/Falklands War. Argentina capitulated on the very day the World Cup competition was to start.

World Cup 1982

The gloomy atmosphere in Argentina was only made worse by the defeat to Belgium in the opening match. The team started with Fillol; Olguin, Galvan, Passarella, Tarantini; Ardiles, Gallego, Maradona; Bertoni, Diaz, and Kempes.

Argentina went on to defeat Hungary and El Salvador, and was poised to meet Italy and Brazil in Group 3 of the second round.

Argentina dominated Italy in the first half, but the Italians scored and ultimately won the match. The game against Brazil was a debacle: Argentina never found its rhythm, Maradona was sent off, and the team lost 3-1 and was eliminated from the competition.

In the 1982 World Cup, Menotti deployed the same defenders as in 1978; they were vulnerable and slow, especially the Olguín-Galván tandem on the right. In the offensive positions, Maradona and Valdano played together with players resisted by many, notably Barbas and an out-of-shape Mario Kempes.

Following that performance, it was obvious that it was time for a replacement. The names of Carlos Griguol, José Omar Pastoriza, and Carlos Bilardo were floated; Bilardo was finally selected by the Association. The performance of Estudiantes in the 1982 Metropolitano tournament was the determining factor in the decision.

César Luis Menotti in 1977

Later career

Following the 1982 World Cup, Menotti was hired by FC Barcelona to coach the team, which had added Maradona to its roster. But Maradona was injured by Andoni Goikoetxea and then was sick with hepatitis, and Barcelona did not obtain the league title. Following a meager harvest which included only one Copa del Rey, Menotti and Barcelona parted ways in 1984.

Ever since, Menotti has alternated between coaching jobs and teaching and lecturing stints. During the 1980s, he held the post of coach at both Boca Juniors and River Plate, and achieved second place with both. On both occasions, his main tactical contribution was making defenders play the achique ("shrinking"), his version of the off-side trap. Through all those years, Menotti stuck to zonal defending—at a time when man-to-man defending was prevalent.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Menotti staged a series of comebacks with mixed results, including a 15-month stint with the Mexican national team. His best harvest in Argentina was second place with Independiente in 1996; that team would achieve the 1997 championship, after Menotti left in mid-season for what would be a brief stint with Italian side Sampdoria. In 2003 he led Rosario Central to an impressive start, but the inexperienced team snapped under pressure. In 2005, Menotti once again coached Independiente, which did not pose a challenge to the title; he quit in mid-season amid fan resistance and political infighting.

Menotti has recently been working in Mexico, he took charge of Puebla F.C. in 2006 and managed Tecos in 2007.

On 6 January 2008 he quit his position as manager of Tecos because of interference in team affairs by club president Antonio Leaño, who sold Emmanuel Villa to Derby County of England, without consultation.

He was General Manager at Independiente until he quit on 21 September 2010.

Personality, controversy and influence

Menotti always displayed a rebellious streak and cultivated an image of coolness. He wore long hair into his fifties, dressed casually, and used to drop references to cultural icons in his conversation, from writer Ernesto Sabato to singer Joan Manuel Serrat. He was opinionated on politics, projecting a left-wing image that contrasted with his holding a very visible post during the military regime.

In 1982, a Spanish magazine published an interview in which Menotti sounded extremely critical of the military process. In a public relations coup, then-President Leopoldo Galtieri visited the training camp and hugged Menotti in front of the cameras.

In the years 1983-1986, Menotti was an outspoken critic of his successor as national coach, Carlos Bilardo, and many in the media (especially Buenos Aires daily Clarín) fanned the flames of controversy, even though Bilardo himself did not return fire. Many of the arguments used were irrelevant to the matter at hand (e.g. the musical tastes of each) or proved wrong by the passage of time.

Among the football figures who claim to be Menotti's followers, a special place is held by Jorge Valdano, who was coach of Real Madrid in 1994-1995 and then its general manager during the glory days of 2000-2004.

External links

Preceded by
Germany Helmut Schön
FIFA World Cup winning managers
Succeeded by
Italy Enzo Bearzot

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