Through over 100 years of history, Real Madrid has become one of the most recognizable names in world football. But how did they get there? In partnership with Howler magazine, The Center Circle is embarking on a multi-part journey from the roots of this historic club to the Cristiano Ronaldo era it enjoys today. If you consider yourself a Real fan, or really just a soccer fan in general, this is for you. Finally, do you see that “Hala Madrid” graphic right above this? You can click on that to open up Howler’s incredible Real Madrid timeline, replete with informative tidbits, pictures, and some cool graphics. Scroll through each section, zoom in to read, and enjoy.
Part VII: Changing Faces
If the 1960’s was a decade of descent, then the 1970’s was a period of transition. Off the field, the death of two individuals would greatly affect the club and Spain in profound ways. On the field, coaches and players also changed; still, the merengues dominated La Liga but floundered in Europe.
Madrid won their first La Liga of the decade in 1972. The records show that Valencia finished second place, but the true race all season was with FC Barcelona. The teams were neck and neck until the second to last game of the season, when Barca lost to Cordoba. Abroad, though, Madrid sputtered as usual. In the newly inaugurated UEFA Cup, a European competition for top teams that didn’t finish first in their respective leagues, Madrid lost to Dutch club PSV Eindhoven in the 2nd round.
The next season was a bust, but the summer of 1973 brought major changes to Spanish football. Up until that point, General Franco had imposed strict controls on foreign players in the league. Only Spanish players were allowed, with limited exceptions. However, Spain still had general citizenship laws, so the children of Spaniards born abroad (and even grandchildren in some cases) could become citizens. These individuals were known as oriundos. Thus, scouts abroad tried to find players with Spanish lineage. However, an investigation showed that official documents from abroad like birth certificates had been forged to obtain citizenship. Rather than punish the perpetrators, the Spanish Federation caved to pressure and allowed each club to field two foreigners.
FC Barcelona signed Dutch winger Johan Cruyff, and the cules crushed Madrid 5-0 at the Bernabeu. Barca easily strolled to the La Liga title, but Madrid had their revenge in the General Cup. The two teams faced off in the final, hosted at the Vicente Calderon (home stadium of Atletico de Madrid). Madrid got off to a dream start, with Carlos “Santillana” Gonzalez scoring early and going on to win 4-0. The team also featured a young midfielder by the name of Vicente Del Bosque, a man who, like Don Santiago, would do more for the club after hanging up his boots decades later.
Madrid ended the decade with five La Liga titles and three General’s Cups, but no success in Europe. Also, major things happened off the field. First, in 1975, General Franco passed away. Spain suddenly returned to democracy. Second, in 1978, during the World Cup, President Santiago Bernabeu passed away. FIFA held three days of mourning for Don Santiago. Spain faced uncertainty as a nascent democracy, and Real Madrid lost its President and figurehead of three decades.
For the last two decades, the relative poverty of Spain and Franco’s strict control on player transfers had prevented the club from any big signings. In the 1980’s and beyond, though, that was about to change dramatically…..