Before Cholo, El Toto
Atlético de Madrid had won the Spanish League 1972/73, obtaining the right to play the European Champions Cup, now known as the UEFA Champions League. However, President Vicente Calderón dismissed coach Max Merkel, nicknamed “Mr. Whip” for his manner and iron discipline.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Juan Carlos Lorenzo had just triumphed in Argentina with San Lorenzo de Almagro, by winning the two-time championship in 1972 with titles in the National and Metropolitan tournaments. Destinations came together and his return to Spain became a reality, following his debut as a manager for Mallorca in the late 1950s.
The challenge for “Toto” Lorenzo was the Champions Cup. On his roster he had Luis Aragonés, the great figure, and there was no shortage of Argentine players: Iselin Ovejero, Rubén “Panadero” Díaz, Ramón Heredia and Rubén Ayala.
The Cup started with a victory against Galatasaray of Turkey 1-0 in overtime. In the second round he left Dinamo Bucharest on the road and Red Star Belgrade in the quarterfinals. The journey had been difficult, but without so many shocks. However, it was time to play the mighty Celtic of Scotland in the semi-finals. The first match was played on “Catholic” soil before 73,500 people and Juan Carlos Lorenzo exported the spirit of the “old” Copa Libertadores to Europe. The Battle of Glasgow was underway.
The “Atleti” of the “Toto”, far from crowding, went out to kill or die. 51 fouls committed and 3 sent off: Ayala, Quique and “Panadero” Diaz, known to Celtic from the defeat against Racing Club for the 1967 Intercontinental Cup. The match ended 0-0, but it was almost a victory. The rematch in Madrid was for the “Colchoneros” and the first objective of reaching the definition by the title was reality.
The final against Bayern Munich was at the Heysel stadium in Belgium and Atlético de Madrid was one minute away from winning it. “We were winning 1-0 with a free kick goal from Luis Aragonés. With a minute to go, from one side, Beckenbauer gave a pass to a certain Schwarzenbeck, a defender who was very clumsy. So much so that he did not know what to do and kicked the ball off his back. A shiver. Do you know what Reina the archer was doing? Giving the souvenir gloves to the Marca photographer. Of course, it was a goal. A terrible despair seized us. The president of the club, Vicente Calderón, almost died in the dressing room. We started 1-1 and we had to play a tiebreaker at 48 hours. We couldn’t find Reina anywhere. He was taking refuge in the referee’s dressing room. Then he appeared and asked me for revenge. I gave it to him, but luck was not with us. Bayern danced us and beat us 4-0 ” Lorenzo recalled years later, after that great unease.
Toto from mother
Juan Carlos Lorenzo was born in Buenos Aires in 1922, in an Argentina with open arms to immigrants and in which the football we know today came from the hand of the English railways.
“Toto” as his mother baptized him, Lorenzo does not know why, he debuted in Chacarita juniors in 1940, then went through Boca Juniors, Quilmes, Sampdoria, FC Nancy from France, Atlético de Madrid, Rayo Vallecano and Mallorca.
He himself tells in El Gráfico, that when he arrived at Atlético de Madrid, Helenio Herrera marked the way:
“When Alfredo Di Stéfano joined Real Madrid, he made his debut in a game against my French team. Nancy won 2-0, Helenio Herrera saw me play and Atlético de Madrid signed me. I was there for four years, until 1958. The first six months with Helenio Herrera, from whom I learned how a technician should handle public relations and be his own advertising agent ”.
Lorenzo’s route was marked. In 1958 he arrived in Mallorca and there started a new stage in his career: “In 1958 he moved to Real Mallorca, as a player and as a coach. There I experienced my first great satisfactions as a team leader. In the 1958/59 season we won the Third Division Championship and promotion. In the next one, 1959/60, I took it from Second to First. And in 1960/61 we came out sixth in the First Division Championship ”.
All roads lead to Boca
The career of “Toto” Lorenzo as coach was more than prolific, the Italian rigor influenced by Helenio Herrera, plus the Argentine mischief, namely: depending on the rival, he was the top of the grass; flood the court to make it heavier; and another with a tinge of legend was to ask the flight commanders, who brought rival teams to the island of Mallorca, to “shake” the plane a little before landing.
Not only did he win titles in Mallorca, as a player and coach. During his time in Lazio he won the Italian Cup in the 1963/64 season; later he directed the Argentine team in 1962 and 1966; he won the two-time championship with San Lorenzo in 1972. He also directed River Plate and carried out an interesting campaign with Unión de Santa Fe in 1975. Sporting achievements, plus the defined style, opened the doors for Boca Juniors.
With men he had previously brought to Unión de Santa Fe such as Hugo Gatti, Rubén “Chapa” Suñé and Heber Mastrángelo, he added two more that they still had, such as Francisco “Pancho” Sá and Carlos “Toti” Veglio. Under his management, Boca Juniors won everything between 1976 and 1979: Metropolitano, Nacional, twice the Copa Libertadores and the Intercontinental Cup. At that time it was where “Toto” Lorenzo coined the famous phrase: “Boca is sportive to always win”.
After that brilliant stage in the “xeneize”, he directed Tigre, Racing Club, Argentinos Juniors and San Lorenzo, where he fell after losing the defining match 1 to 0 with the “Bicho” of La Paternal on the last date: “Now more than ever, he will have to continue encouraging this large fan of this prestigious institution. It is time to be closer than ever. Why did I put youth in the last games? Because those with more experience were not in physical condition. It does not interest me that there are people who enjoy my fall, it is a circumstance of work and a year that came badly shuffled. In the overall analysis, we deserved to win. The referee was the culprit of our relegation by not sanctioning the overtaking of Alles in the maximum penalty ”.
The last years as a coach
He stayed in San Lorenzo to direct him in that experience in Primera B, but he left before promotion despite being a leader. Mexico was his new destination to lead the Atlantean. After that step, he returned to the country to take charge of Vélez Sarsfield; then he came to Atlanta to get the “Bohemian” back to the First Division and began to spend his last years as a coach. Independiente Santa Fe de Colombia in 1984, San Lorenzo in 1985 and Boca Juniors, in 1987, which meant the end of his career.
Juan Carlos Lorenzo, “Toto” as his mother Rosa Pereira put him and he never knew why, he marked a way, a coaching style that is still valid today. “European” work, Argentine mischief, obsession with detail and relish for victory.
Wherever he is, surely, he must continue to devise strategies to beat the opponent on duty, leaving the tall grass or telling a friendly pilot to scare them before landing.
Photography design and editing:
Matias Di Julio