Monday, October 3, 2011

The legend of La Quinta del Buitre

Real Madrid have enjoyed lots of legendary teams through their history. Some of these teams are eternal, but there was a generation of Real Madrid players between the Di Stéfano' and the Ye-Ye's teams and Zidane's Galácticos that has a special place in the hearts of the madridistas: La Quinta del Buitre's. This generation excel for the beauty of their football and their success in terms of titles. This generation dominated the Spanish football for half decade, although faith did not give them the European crown they probably deserved.

The term Quinta del Buitre (The Buitre's generation) was used for the first time in an article of the sport section of El País, a general newspaper, written by Julio César Iglesias (November 14, 1983): "Amancio y La Quinta del Buitre". The article made the first reference about a generation of players that was going to set an era. The good performances of Real Madrid's B-team, Castilla, in the first games of the season in Segunda División was remarkable and the article focused in five players managed by the coach of the team, Amancio, a legend of the Yé-Yé Real Madrid.

Castilla with Michel, Butragueño, Martin Vázquez, Sanchis and Pardeza

These players were Emilio Butragueño, El Buitre, the leader of the generation and the one who gave them the name, a central forward that excelled for the magic of his football. When Butragueño got the ball in the box, everything stopped. In a place where most of the players always looked for the fastest solution, he stopped with the ball in his feet, face to face with the defender, who always feared the magic of the tricks of El Buitre, who usually won the battle with an impossible dribbling and a remarkable ease to score goals. Manolo Sanchís was a central back. In an era of rough and tough central backs, Sanchís was the first of a generation of classy defenders, more intelligent than physical, anticipation over friction, comfortable with the ball in his feet. "Michel" was a hot-blooded but classy winger. The only member of the Quinta to play with Real Madrid in all his career and the only one who won a Champions League among them, in the decline of his career. The famous bananas of David Beckham were not new in the Bernabéu, people said Michel's right feet had a glove, since the precision of his crosses fed Real Madrid's strikers again and again. Due to his strong personality Michel had a love-hate relationship with the Bernabéu. Rafael Martín Vázquez was the most underrated player of this generation. Probably, the most technically gifted player of the Quinta, although his shy and calm personality did not help him to enjoy the prestige and the love of others. The departure of Martín Vázquez was seen as the beginning of the end of this generation. The black sheep was Miguel Pardeza, a classy striker who struggled to find his place in the first team of Madrid and the first to leave. Despite he was always a member of the Quinta, he mainly spent his career at Real Zaragoza, where he became a club legend.

The first two players of La Quinta who made their debut in Primera División with Real Madrid were Manolo Sanchís and Rafael Martín Vázquez. The icon Alfredo Di Stéfano was the coach of the first team and both players made their debut in Murcia in November 4, 1983. Manolo Sanchís even scored a goal that day. Only a few weeks later, Pardeza played his first 7 minutes with the first team. But if there was an unforgettable debut, that was Butragueño's. It was in Cádiz, February 5, 1984. Real Madrid were losing 2-0 in the Ramón de Carranza stadium and El Buitre appeared to score 2 goals and give one assist to overcome the result and give the victory to Real Madrid. Still most of them played their games in Segunda División during the season to give the title to Castilla, the only time that a B team has won the second division title in Spain.

Butragueño vs Andelecht

The 1984/1985 season had a change in the bench of Real Madrid. Di Stéfano left the position and Amancio, the manager of Castilla in their historical season, took the direction of the team. During this season, all the members of La Quinta, except Pardeza, enjoyed lots of minutes in the first team. The team struggled during the season, totally dominated by Venables' Barcelona, but the seed of the future had been planted. This season was unforgettable triumphs in the Bernabéu in the UEFA Cup once the coach Amancio had been replaced by Luís Molowny. In the Round of 16, Real Madrid overcame a 3-0 defeat with a historical 6-1 at home and, in the semifinals, the 2-0 defeat at the Meazza against Internazionale was fixed with a magnificent 3-0 in the Bernabéu. These victories, which gave the possibility to win the final against Videoton, have passed to the memory of the madridismo as the magic nights of the grandes remontadas (the great surmounts).

The following season was historical for the madridismo too. In the 1985/1986 season, Real Madrid got reinforced by Hugo Sánchez, Gordillo and Maceda, who brought the term La Quinta de los Machos with them, as a way to highlight the difference in style of these players in opposition with the classy football of the Quinta del Buitre. Probably, this opposite term was not 100% correct, since these players also enjoyed a great quality, but this mix of class and hard work made the team reach the perfection. Real Madrid found no opposition in La Liga, leading the standings since the very early weeks of the competition. The beauty and efficiency of the football of this Real Madrid was impressive. If La Liga was a walk in the park, the hot emotions were left for the UEFA Cup again. As it had happened in the previous edition, the Santiago Bernabéu kept enjoying the historical grandes remontadas, as the day the beat Borussia Moenchengladbach 4-0 after a 5-1 defeat in Germany, in the Round of 16, or the 5-1 victory on Internazionale (again) in the semifinals after a 3-1 defeat in the Meazza. Real Madrid ended up winning their 2nd UEFA Cup title in a row against Köln. Their season did not stop here. La Quinta del Buitre were also an important part of the Spanish NT that played the World Cup 1986 in Mexico. Spain could not pass from the Quarter finals in the competition, but the amazing game of Butragueño against Denmark in Querétaro, scoring 4 goals, will pass to history as one of the most memorable individual performances of a Spanish player in World Cup. Sadly for this generation of players, the Spanish NT fell in the lottery of the penalties against Belgium in the Quarter finals, avoiding a historical semifinal against Maradona's Argentina.

Butragueño vs Denmark in World Cup 1986

During thr 1986/1987 season, all the five members of La Quinta were part of the team, once Pardeza had returned from his loan season in Zaragoza. Despite the opposition of Barcelona, Leo Beenhakker's Real Madrid was superior in La Liga and won their 2nd Liga consecutive title. If Butragueño, Míchel and Sanchis were essential members of the team, Martín Vázquez started to gain an important position in the team too. The European Cup Real Madrid had not played during 5 years was a new test for the team. Real Madrid achieved some important victories, as the one against Juventus, but ended up falling in the semifinals against a historical Bayern, who enjoyed players like Rummenigge, Matthäus, Brehme or Hoeness.

The 1987/1988 season only confirmed the total domination of Real Madrid in La Liga. The level of football of the madridistas was unique, the superior style of the madridistas did not see opposition again. Only Toshack's Real Sociedad was a threat in the distance, while Barcelona lived a historical crisis that ended up with Bernd Schuster out of the team and the rebellion of the team against the president Núñez. Real Madrid was the dictator of La Liga and had time to focus in Europe. Real Madrid emerged as one of the most important favorites to win the competition. Real Madrid confirmed this prestige defeating the two previous finalists in their way to the final. In the Round of 16, Porto lost their crown losing the two games against the Spanish champions. In the Quarter finals, Real Madrid took their revenge against Bayern. Despite the suffering in the Olympiastadion, where Madrid were losing 3-0 at some point of the game, the goals of Butragueño and Hugo Sánchez helped the team to stay alive. In the return leg, Madrid did not fail and advanced thanks to the goals of Míchel and Jankovic. In the semifinals, Real Madrid met PSV Eindhoven. The madridistas were clear favorites in this round and, probably, in the competition at that moment. Everything seemed to go in the right direction when Hugo Sánchez gave the lead to the madridistas in the first minutes of the game. This goal was equalized by PSV only a few minutes later and the Dutch team could resist the rest of the game. In Holland, Real Madrid went for a full attack and dominated the whole game. The fantastic and historical performance of the Dutch goalkeeper Van Breukelen was decisive to stop Real Madrid's way to the final. Still the madridismo recall that night as a lost chance.

Butragueño and Van Breukelen

In any case, Real Madrid did not surrender. The 1988/1989 season saw a reinforced Real Madrid. The madridistas got reinforced by the arrival of Bernd Schuster, the star of Barcelona who had left the team due to his bad relationships with the president Núñez. The renovated Barcelona, managed by Johan Cruyff, presented some opposition in La Liga, but Real Madrid still dominated the competition with superiority in all the levels. Once more, with the unquestioned dominance in the domestic competition, La Quinta del Buitre's main goal was to triumph in the European Cup. As it had happened in the previous edition, Real Madrid were able to take their revenge against their past executioners and the madridistas defeated Romario's PSV in the Quarter finals, thanks to a goal scored by Martín Vázquez in the last minutes of the extra time. But their curse of the European Cup did not see an end. This time Leo Beenhakker's squad met Sacchi's AC Milan. As it had happened in the previous edition, despite all the praising on Sacchi's revolutionary Milan, the madridistas were big favorites against the rossoneri, who were struggling in their domestic competition. In the Bernabéu, the goal of Hugo Sánchez gave the madridistas the lead in the scoreboard, but a lucky goal scored by Van Basten when the game was dying left everything for the 2nd leg. This return leg in San Siro was one of the saddest nights of the madridismo and the beginning of the legend of Sacchi's Milan. The milanistas gave a lesson of football and trashed Real Madrid with a historical 5-0 that passed to the history of the competition. This Real Madrid started to feel cursed in their favorite competition, although they closed the season with a historical double after the victory in the Copa del Rey.

The 1989/1990 season started with changes. John Benjamin Toshack, who had triumphed with Real Sociedad, replaced the Dutch Leo Beenhakker with a clear objective: the European Cup. Destiny crossed Sacchi's Milan in the early rounds of the competition, in the Round of 16. The two main favorites of the European Cup had an early final in front of them. This time, the first game was played at San Siro, but the story did not look to change much. Two early goals scored by Frank Rijkaard and Marco Van Basten, after a controversial penalty, gave a 2-0 lead to the home team. This time Real Madrid could avoid the total disaster, but this result did not change. In the return leg, the Bernabéu boiled to help their team. Butragueño scored on the stroke of half time, giving his team hopes to overcome the result in another magic night, but the game got lost in the second half with incidents and violent football. Real Madrid fell in this competition again. In La Liga, Toshack's Real Madrid was a machine of football and goals. Hugo Sánchez matched Telmo Zarra's record, scoring 38 goals, which helped the team to set an all-time record that is yet to be broken, 107 goals. But as the team triumphed in La Liga, signals of internal decomposition started to appear. With La Liga in hand and Cruyff's head about to be cut, Barcelona saved their season with a Copa del Rey victory against the madridistas (2-0). At that point, probably just an anecdote, turned out to be essential in the change of powers in the Spanish football. Besides, Schuster announced his departure from Real Madrid, but the most remarkable event was the divorce of Rafael Martín Vázquez with the club. Martín Vázquez completed his best season in the club and requested a rise in his wages, which was denied by the president Ramón Mendoza, who had always shown his love for the members of La Quinta del Buitre. In the World Cup 1990, things were not different. Under the effects of the summer crisis in the madridismo, Spain could not repeat the good performances of 1986 and fell in the Round of 16 against Yugoslavia.

Martin Vázquez and Michel celebrate one of the 107 goals with Hierro and Gordillo
The departure of Martín Vázquez was symbolic. The polemics about this departure turned the positive atmosphere in the Bernabéu into a negative situation. Even though Real Madrid still turned around the members of La Quinta, the change of cycle was evident since the early games of the new Liga 90/91. Cruyff's Barcelona dominated La Liga and Real Madrid was not even their main rival. The bad domestic performances had their reflection in Europe, where Real Madrid were surprisingly defeated by Spartak Moscow in the Quarter finals. In any case, with an injured Hugo Sánchez, Butragueño carried the team on his shoulders and was Pichichi in La Liga, scoring 19 goals.

The following seasons just confirmed the change of cycle. Even though Real Madrid recovered some strength after the terrible Liga 90/91, during the following 3 years Cruyff's Barcelona built their legendary status, as the members of La Quinta started to decline. Butragueño and Míchel started to play less games, as it happened with Martín Vázquez after his return from his sad and unsuccessful adventure in Torino and Olympique Marseille. Only Sanchís could keep his essential position in the team, while the rest of La Quinta were fading away. Probably, their most important title in those years was the Copa of 1993, which opened a long trophyless run in this competition, only closed last year in Valencia.

La Quinta in one of their last pictures 

Real Madrid closed Cruyff's cycle in the 1994/1995 season under the direction of Jorge Valdano. It was the last big triumph of La Quinta del Buitre, but also a season that changed the balance of powers in the squad. Despite Martín Vázquez and Sanchís kept having an important role in the team, Michel started to disappear from the team and his divorce with the Bernabéu was more and more evident. But the most remarkable event was the flashing debut of Raúl González, a 17 year old kid who made a big impact in the Real Madrid that had finished with the hegemony of Cruyff's Barcelona... and also the kid who retired Emilio Butragueño.

Emilion Butragueño had been the icon, the symbol of the madridismo of the previous 10 years, in the seasons of victories and also in the bad moments. But the change was there and the future of the #7 of Real Madrid was safe. Emilio Butragueño left Real Madrid to retire in the Mexican team, Atlético Celaya. Martín Vázquez, who started to suffer from different injuries, left the club to join Deportivo. Only one year later, Michel joined Butragueño in the Mexican adventure. Only Manolo Sanchís, the first member of La Quinta that had made his debut stayed in Madrid and he did it for 5 more years. Despite his influence in the team was in clear decline, his importance in the locker room as captain of the team was evident. Probably, he did not have a direct influence in the Champions League titles of 1998 and 2000, but he was the captain of the squad back then and, in the name of his old teammates, he raised the so wished European Cup trophies that all La Quinta del Buitre had deserved and never won.

Sanchis with the Champions League trophy

The modern Spanish football is usually linked with players with a unique technical style in opposition with the unfamous Furia of the past. For many of us, it is evident that the current players have a reference in the past, a door opened by La Quinta del Buitre and followed in their own style by Cruyff's Dream Team in Barcelona. Each of them, in their own style, set an era in the Spanish football. Despite the later triumphs of Real Madrid, the madridismo has the last half of the 1980s as a reference: home grown players with a unique talent to play football and the total dominance in the Spanish football. Only a miracle or bad luck prevented this Real Madrid from winning in Europe, but despite this fact, this legendary group of players have a very relevant place in the history of Real Madrid and in football in general.