Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hype is one thing, closer look – something entirely different. Cruyff, Netzer, Breitner, Neeskens… Real, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid. Huge façade, but what was hiding beyond? Spain was getting rapidly the best players of the world, right?
Right… 65 foreign players appeared in the 1974-75 championship. Of the 18 First Division clubs, only Athletic Bilbao did not employ any foreigners – this is the peculiar policy of the club, valid to this very day: only Basques can play for Athletic. No foreigners, but no Spaniards too. The exception was amply ‘corrected’ by the foreign players employed by Second Division clubs, including some fairly big names, like the Uruguayan Ramon Esparrago, playing for Sevilla.
Esparrago – from the 1974 World Cup to Second Division.
Esparrago was not alone: the Chilean star Carlos Caszely graced Levante. Surely Spain was something else: what country could afford the luxury of employing World Cup players in the Second Division?
Speaks of overwhelming quality of football, not only of finacial strength.
But let’s make another step: who had the most foreign players? Barcelona, Elche, and Murcia – 6 foreigners each. Barca – fine, who else, if not Barca. Murcia, however, finished last in the table – so money cannot buy success? Ah, Spanish football was so competitive, that was why… But why having 6 foreigners, when under the rules only 2 can be fielded? If having Cruyff and Neeskens, why adding 4 more? What was the point, when they clearly were useless? Now the real mess begins: Spain was robbing everybody else from the best of talent, the big fear and outrage.
Europe was represented by grand total of 9 players. Four of them are already mentioned, so let us see the rest. Two Austrians – Kurt Jara (Valencia) and Tomas Parits (Granada); one more Dutch – Dick van Dijk (Murcia); one West German – Josef Elting (Murcia, goalkeeper); and one Swede – Sanny Aslund (Espanol). Some ‘robbery’… van Dijk was already over the hill. Kurt Jara was the only relatively big name, yet he was not exactly making news in Spain. From the other three, Aslund was kind of promising.
Aslund, aquired from AIK (Stockholm). He lasted only one year in Espanol. As for the ‘big foreign stars’ talk… he played a grand total of 5 matches for Sweden, scoring 2 goals.
Africa was represented by 2 players – Salif Keita (Valencia) from Mali, a major star in France, but now fading and unhappy (Keita complains from racism in Spain to this very day; he moved to Portugal eventually); and Ramos, listed as Moroccan, playing for Espanol. I think there was one more Morrocan with Spanish name in the League as well.
The rest were South Americans, yet, the distribution is suspect: only 2 Brazilians – Becerra (Atletico Madrid) and Mario Marinho Peres (Barcelona). Don’t even ask who was this Becerra guy, but Mario Marinho played at the 1974 World Cup:
Mario Marinho (number 3) for Brazil against Poland at the lost match for the third place in 1974 World Cup.
Barcelona got him after that, a transfer largely unmentioned because of the big hype over Neeskens.
Strange transger, for Mario Marinho, at a glance, looked like firm reserve… the fate of the single Peruvian in Primera – Hugo Sotil, also in Barcelona.
The rest of South Americans were Argentines, Paraguayans, and Uruguayans. Well known stars, naturally… Ayala, Heredia (Atletico Madrid); Santoro (Hercules); Carnevalli and Enrique Wolff (Las Palmas); Mazurkiewicz and Montero Castillo (Granada). Stars… do you know them? Bernardo Cos (Argentina) in Barcelona; Ortiz Aquiro (Argentina) in Espanol; Abel Perez (Paraguay) in Murcia – to give a few names. 13 Paraguayans; 4 Uruguayans; and 33 Argentines – most of them as famous as the already mentioned samples.
There is the myth that Spanish clubs bought largely midfielders and strikers – well, strangely enough 4 foreigners were goalkeepers: Mazurkiewicz, Santoro, Carnevalli, and Elting. Mazurkiewicz, one ot the top 100 goalies of 20th century, appeared only in 2 games this season and departed to South America in the summer of 1975. However, the goalies were proper foreign players and this is puzzling: contrary to mass opinion, Spanish clubs were buying goalies in fairly big numbers.
And yet for all foreign stars at hand, a typical Spanish club looked like this:
Las Palmas 1974-75: top left to right: Carnevalli (Argentina), Noly, Tonono, Roque, Felix, Castellano.
Bottom: Fernandez, Wolff (Argentina), Paez, German, Miguel Angel.
Carnevalli and Wolff played for Argentina at the World Cup 1974, and that was all… wait! Fernandez was also Argentine – three foreigners, despite the rule for fielding only two? Not quite… the mass of South Americans and the big numbers of foreigners in many a club was something else, very difficult not so much to explain, but rather to show. The Spanish Cup provides a helpful hint: no foreigners were allowed to play at this tournament at the time, yet, looking the lines at the final is interesting: no Netzer and Breitner, of course, but Real Madrid had the Argentines Roberto Martinez and Tourino on the pitch. Atletico Madrid was without Ayala and Heredia, but the Brazilian Becerra and the Paraguayan Benegas were on the pitch. And those, who appeared at the final often played along with the absentees, making the number of foreigners bigger than the ofcially permitted.
‘Oriundi’! Most of the South American import were oriundi – with proven Spanish ancestry, which gave them automatic Spanish citizenship. Such a player was domestic, not a foreigner. Oriundi played in Spain during the ban of foreign import and remained the bulk of ‘foreigners’ by 1975 as well, complicating the picture, for in today’s statistics they are most often listed by their orginal nationality. Thus, all those clubs with 5-6 foreign players legally had no more than two – at the end, the real number of foreigners in Spain was much, much smaller than thought. Some are even more complicated cases – the Morrocan born were probably not even oriundi, but repatriated families of ethic Spaniards left from the colonial days.
Looks like the ‘proper’ foreigners were the Europeans and those South Americans, who were already established national players for their country of origin. May be this is the reason why Ladislao Mazurkiewicz played only 2 games for Granada: he was a foreign extra – the club had and played Montero Castillo and Parits. The sorry fate of Hugo Sotil in Barcelona is in the same line: he was superfluous foreign player. Very likely Barcelona bought Mario Marinho with the hope that he will be transformed into oriundi – with his Spanish last name, as it was with Becerra in Atletico Madrid. May be this is the reason why Brazilians were not bought by the barrel: most of them had to remain foreign players. As a whole, the foreign legion in Spain was not at all that impressive and except for sheer numbers, aggravated by the confusing oriundi, there was nothing really to support the claim that Spain was hording all world’s talent, depleting everybody else from quality players. Just take away Cruyff, Neeskens, Netzer, and Breitner and look at the rest – West Germany had larger number of big names than Spain in 1975.