‘Special’ Sanz was responsible for bringing Los Blancos back on top


Former Real Madrid president Lorenzo Sanz was responsible for bringing Los Blancos back to the top with European Cup glory after a 32-year hiatus… he will be remembered as ‘special’

  • Former Real Madrid president Lorenzo Sanz died after contracting coronavirus
  • Sanz was responsible for bringing Los Blancos back to the top in 1998
  • The Spaniard oversaw the team that won their first European Cup in 16 years
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

It’s almost unthinkable in an age when Real Madrid have won four of the last six Champions Leagues that they once went 32 years without lifting the trophy.

The 13-times holders – the club that won the first five European Cups – won it in 1966, a year before Celtic and two years before Manchester United, and never won it again until 1998 when they beat Juventus 1-0 in Amsterdam.

The proud president of the club that night was Lorenzo Sanz who died on Saturday at the age of 76 after contracting the coronavirus.

Former Real Madrid president Lorenzo Sanz passed away after contracting coronavirus

Sanz helped lead Madrid back to the forefront of European glory after 16 years without a cup

Sanz presided over the Spanish club between 1995 and 2000 and won two European Cups but it was the first that meant so much to him and to the club.

The 1996-97 season was his first full season in charge and it started with the club not even in Europe.

For only the second time in their history Real Madrid had not made the cut. Finishing sixth in the 1995-96 season had earned them the right to play only the ‘Intertoto Cup’ but they declined the invitation.

Some say coach Fabio Capello insisted they didn’t compete in the tournament, others said that president Sanz thought the tournament, recently dreamed up and long since discontinued, was beneath the club. Inside two years he had helped put the club back where he believed it should be.

To do so he had to make big changes. He immediately recognised the need to bring in players who generated excitement among supporters who had stopped believing Madrid could rule in Europe.

He signed Davor Suker, Clarence Seedorf, Roberto Carlos and Pedrag Mijatovic. And under Capello they delivered the league in that first season. When Capello left Sanz made the big call of bring in Jupp Heynekes who had done well in Spain as Tenerife coach.

He oversaw purchases of the world’s best as they won the 1998 European Champions cup

When, in his presentation, the German manager was asked: ‘Will you have failed if you don’t win the Champions League?’ Sanz interrupted his new coach saying: ‘If that’s the case we have been failing for 31 years.’

The pressure was on, but Sanz’ pick did not fail to deliver even though the best club side in the world stood in Madrid’s way in the final the following May.

Juventus had Zinedine Zidane, Alessandro Del Piero, Edgar Davids, Filippo Inzaghi and Didier Deschamps in their side. They were the clear favourites especially as the man who would go on to get the winner for Madrid, Mijatovic, was not properly fit.

Zidane ran the first 15 minutes of the game from midfield and it seemed all the forecasts would be right. But slowly Madrid found their rhythm. Defender Fernando Hierro began to dominate at Del Piero’s expense. And suddenly it was Fernando Redondo and not Zidane calling the shots.

Despite his fitness problems Mijatovic was creating danger setting up 19-year-old Raul for one chance. And then on 66 minutes he got the winner when a Roberto Carlos shot deflected to him inside the area.

Sanz made some big calls along the way to getting Real Madrid back where they belong

Real Madrid beat Juventus 1-0 in Amsterdam to claim their first European Cup in 16 years

He was the coolest man in the Amsterdam Arena side-stepping the dive of Angelo Peruzzi shooting into an empty net. It was a goal that effectively cut the ribbon on the biggest football party back in Madrid that the city had seen in decades.

‘He would give us advice more like a father or a friend than a president,’ Mijatovic told Diario AS this week as the tributes flooded in from those who had played at the club while Sanz was in charge.

Many had expressed their concern and sent goodwill wishes when he was admitted to the Hospital Universitario Fundacion Jimenez Díaz in Madrid last Tuesday and subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.

His son Fernando, who played for Real Madrid, said on social media: ‘My father has just died. He did not deserve this ending. His family and Real Madrid were his passion.’

Sanz is not the only president to have won the European Cup for Real Madrid but he played a big part in one of the most important triumphs in the club’s history. The seventh – ‘la septima’ – will always be looked upon as special, and so will he.

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