Emilio Butragueno and the legendary 80’s teams that relied on homegrown talent
Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas might be excused if they feel a bit lonely nowadays when the national squad visits other countries. They are the only Real representation that the Spanish national team can count on to make regular appearances.
They can choose to join a bunch of Barca players like Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, and Pique to whoop it up. Or maybe they find more comfort with Joan Capdevila, Santi Cazorla, Diego Lopez, or Marcos Senna that comprise the Villareal contingent. Maybe Liverpool’s duo Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso share jokes with them about Rafa Benitez’s obsession with notepads and Sir Alex. Either way they are a vanishing breed as a Real squad adds on foreign players at such an alarming rate one wonders whether it is Madrid that is now the hotbed of Spanish anti-nationalism.
When Spain lost to the USA in the Confederations Cup and halted their unstoppable reign, there were visible undercurrents on the internet that the two players who made the most visible blunders were Iker Casillas who failed to stop Jozy Altidore and Sergio Ramos who flubbed a simple clearance and handed Clint Dempsey the second goal on a platter. The national media situated in Madrid played it down for good reasons. Damage control. Real is increasingly looked on as a club that understands only one language; to win a title by all means possible, and if it means buying their way to one, so be it.
Under Miguel Munoz, Real Madrid won their 6th European cup title in 1966 beating FC Partizan with an all Spanish cast as legendary captain Francisco Gento led a team whose only foreign inspiration seems to have been derived from the Beatles ” She Loves You” as they were called the Ye- Ye’s from the song’s chorus. Other than that there was no doubting the lineage of Jose Araquistain, Manuel Sanchis, Pachin, Pedro De Felipe, Amancio Amaro, Pirri, Zoro, Serena, Velasquez, and Grosso. Most of them made the transition to national squad representation as they became part of the all conquering Real teams of the 60s.
Fast forward to the 80s, as Miguel Munoz promoted to the national squad manages the 1984 Euro squad which ended with Spain as runners up to France. Emilio Butragueno was on the squad but never saw any playing time. He however was part of a Real squad that saw Jose Antonio Camacho, Santillana, and Ricardo Gallego do duty for a Spanish side which for the first time in decades translated all that talent into any meaningful success.
However Butragueno’s ordination was but a matter of time. He bursts onto the international scene in the 1986 World Cup with his four goals leading Spain to their best finish since their fourth place finish in the 1950 World Cup. Munoz’s squad aside from Butragueno, boasts six other Madrid players with almost the entire defense sporting the Merengues label.
The 1986 World Cup proved to be a springboard for Butragueno to cement his place in Madrid history as the most dominant member of a group of five players: Quinta del Buitre; the staple of Real’s homegrown football talent who first cut their teeth at Real Madrid Castilla and then transitioned to the senior squad. With that nucleus Real dominated club football and provided players for national squad duty. It was an era set in motion a few years earlier by legend Alfredo Di Stefano who debuted Manuel Sanchis and Martin Vasquez against Murcia on December 4th, 1983. It ended when Manuel Sanchis retired on July 31, 2001. By that time Butragueno had appeared 341 times for Real and scored 123 goals. He had earned 69 caps for Spain, scoring 26 times. Along with him, the other four were:
Michel, the right wing back with over 400 appearances, Manuel Sanchis, taking over the center back position and leadership role from his illustrious father to record the most appearances in Real history, Martin Vasquez an attacking understudy to Hugo Sanchez, Real’s most influential import at that time, and Miguel Pardeza, the forward returning as sporting director of Real, who most reminds Florentino Perez of those heady days when a group of homegrown talent were ascendant winning five championships and two UEFA titles. Their total cost probably amounts to a fraction of a fraction of what the four biggest signings have already cost Real this season.
Quinta del Buitre also saw the rise of two players outside of that group, first Fernando Hierro and then Raul Gonzalez who became national talismans with their club and international contributions. Raul, the Adonis of Spanish football with the most goals for the national team and Hierro, the defensive midfielder who partnered Manuel Sanchis and became the captain once he retired. Between the two of them they managed close to 200 national squad appearances and 73 goals. Hierro left before Florentino Perez’s Galactico era transformed Real, for the relative anonymity of Bolton where he became a fan favourite in a brief but stellar career. He retired in 2005 much against public opinion.
The Euro 2008 success which finally saw Spain make good on all that talent was built around Marcos Senna, Villareal’s holding midfielder, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, Barca’s midfield maestros, David Silva, Valencia’s quick silver left winger, Mallorca’s Dani Guiza as the super sub, and Fernando Torres, Liverpool’s golden haired center forward who contemptuously flicked aside Phillip Lahm on his way to scoring the winning goal for Spain against Germany in the finals. Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas were solid without being newsworthy.
Real’s decline in national squad contribution continues as reserve standouts like Esteban Granero, Ruben De La Red, Javi Garcia, and Alvaro Negredo have moved on to other clubs due to the lack of starting opportunities. Some like Garcia have returned only to be frozen out by the influx of high priced foreign talent that have taken over Real’s roster. The situation only promises to get worse under Florentino Perez. It is ironical to see Raul Albiol being brought in as Real capitalizes on Valencia’s financial difficulties while so many of its own players struggle for playing opportunities.