Legendary Argentine Coach Cesar Luis Menotti Dies At 85

Cesar Luis Menotti, who led Argentina to victory in the 1978 World Cup, passed away at the age of 85, the country’s football association confirmed on Sunday.

Menotti, born in Rosario, Argentina, in 1938, won 11 caps for Argentina in the 1960s before managing 11 clubs, some twice, and two national teams over a 37-year coaching career.

He is best renowned for leading Argentina to the 1978 World Cup and the under-20 title the following year, as well as his adherence to a romantic ideal of football at a period when Argentina had earned a reputation for a cynical and violent style.

In the 1978 World Cup final, hosts Argentina defeated the Netherlands 3-1 after extra time, with flamboyant man of the tournament Mario Kempes scoring twice against a Dutch side minus Johan Cruyff, who declined to participate.

The success was celebrated with gusto, yet it was accompanied by controversy. Many said Argentina’s harsh junta made it an undesirable host.

Menotti chose not to select 17-year-old Diego Maradona, who had made his international debut the year before.

“I did what I thought I had to do. To take care of him more than anything else, I was infatuated with Diego,” Menotti told El Grafico. “He was so young, so small.”

In the second group phase, Argentina kicked off their last game shortly after the final whistle in Brazil’s victory over Poland, knowing they needed to beat Peru by at least three goals to reach the final.

They won 6-0 with Kempes and Leopoldo Luque each scoring twice. Even though Argentina played well, the victory has long attracted suspicion.

Menotti, fondly known as the “Thin One”, presented a memorable figure on the touchline, smoking and staring impassively from under his shaggy mane.

“I never go to the barber. I cut my own hair,” he said.

Menotti, despite losing his father to cancer when he was 16, became a heavy smoker himself. “My friend in loneliness,” he remarked. He resigned following a lung procedure in 2011.

Menotti led Argentina to the 1979 under-20 World Cup, defeating the Soviet Union 3-1 in the final. The roster included Maradona.

His term ended during the 1982 World Cup in Spain, which began just before Argentina’s surrender in the Falklands War.Argentina lost 3-1 to Brazil in the second round, with Maradona receiving a red card.

Menotti won two cups in two seasons with Barcelona, his final victories in a coaching career that brought him to Italy, Mexico, and Uruguay before returning to Argentina.

He had a lifetime quarrel with coaches from the more pragmatic Argentine tradition and believed football styles were political.

“Left-wing football is generous and committed only to the public,” he told German magazine Kicker in 2006. “It is sincere and does not put the result above everything.”

Menotti, a striker, started his playing career with the club he supported, Rosario Central.

He moved to Boca Juniors, where he won an Argentine title, then to the New York Generals and from there to Santos in Brazil where he played alongside Pele.

He became an assistant coach at Central’s city rivals Newell’s Old Boys.

In 1973, he led Huracan to their only league title since 1928. He became national manager in 1974 and, despite being a member of the Communist Party, stayed on when the military seized power in 1976.

In 2018, he told El Grafico, an Argentine sports magazine, that “it was better to fight from the inside than from the outside”.

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