Saturday, December 14, 2013

Barcelona still saved the season, setting a new record as a cup winner. It was tit for tat – Real won their 18th title and Barcelona - 18th cup. A consolation, but still second best. Second best, but still something to be proud of -especially because the final was played in Madrid, right on Santiago Bernabeu stadium. The home stadium of the arch-enemy, which was out of the race. It was interesting final for other reasons, though. UD Las Palmas was the other finalist.

No doubt, it was great for the islanders to reach the final. They hoped to win it too and it would have been great for seasoned players like Carnevalli and Brindisi. But the two Argentine stars were no match for the much classier Catalunian squad, led by Cruyff. Barcelona won 3-1.

Brave Las Palmas, reaching the final, but just like in the championship, they ended empty-handed. Good team, good coach, but a relatively small club – this was the best they could do. Munoz, though, was to coach the Spanish national team thanks to his work with Las Palmas.

Barcelona triumphed at the enemy's den. It was the last hurray for Cruyff.

Familiar Barcelona squad, betraying nothing of dark dealings. The flying Dutch captained his team to a record win of the trophy. Confident victory. So far – so good. Lost championship, however... with Cruyff, Barcelona won one title back in 1973-74. With the other great Dutchman, Neeskens – nothing. Cruyff was at the end of his contract and hinting retirement. The question was much debated, but in terms of Holland's national team and the World Cup finals. At the end of the season Cruyff announced his retirement in his typically veiled manner: he was true to his old word announced at the end of the 1974 World Cup, that he was going to retire in 1978. But he nevertheless added that he 'is semi-retiring'. Hard to tell what he really meant – at 31, he was still good for active professional football. Yet, he was out of it, in his own words. And it was his own decision, perplexing as it was. He was loved by Barcelona's fans, there was no known conflict with the club – both the player and the club acted as they were happy with each other, it was only the that the star did not want to play the game anymore. Respectful goodby... sadly, nothing was to be done about it. In the fall of 1978 Cruyff played his testimonial match and there his words of 'semi-retirement' suddenly took another meaning: Cruyff played only for two clubs – Ajax and Barcelona. Barcelona, his last club, where he was a god, did not participate – it was a match between Ajax and Bayern. True, the time was bad, right in the middle of fall domestic and international tournaments, but Barcelona was entirely absent from the testimonial. It was strange... and most likely the whole retirement-semi-retirement story was different, but hidden from the general public. It was more than likely, that Cruyff wanted to stay in Barcelona, perhaps not only expecting a new contract, but a bigger one. It was also clear that Barca needed a new, different squad. Cruyff, often antagonizing, may have been out of favour – he left open the possibility, but Barca was not interested. He was out, may be he miscalculated the situation. May be so, but the sad reality was not in favour – Barcelona really needed rebuilding and new stars. Cruyff, and Michels as well, had to go. For one of the greatest players in football history it was noble ending: he finished his days in Barcelona with a trophy.

There was one more thing about the squad: a strange black player, called Bio. By sight, a third foreigner... but Bio was listed as Spaniard. Still worth a note, for there were hardly any black Spanish players at the time. Even if he was a genuine Spaniard, still Barca had too many foreigners in the squad above: Rafael Zuviria was an Argentine. So, oriundi again... with two Dutch players, may be Bio, like Zuviria, was also with Spanish blood? No. He was naturalized Spaniard. The 26-years old striker with real name Williams Silvio Modesto Verisimo was Brazilian by birth. Bio had no Brazilian fame and came to play in Europe very young – at first he played in Portugal, then moved to the Spanish second division club Terrasa. Maried Spanish woman and became Spanish citizen by marriage. Barcelona took him from Terrasa, but most likely in mid-season, for he was not listed at all as Barcelona player in 1977-78. But he played at the cup final, in April 1978. Obviously, Barcelona counted on him for the future, but... Bio played a total of 9 matches for Barca and that in 1978-79 season. Scored 3 goals, not a bad percentage, but that was all. A curiousity really, not a new star. For him, winning the cup in April 1978 was to be the highest career achievement. For Barcelona – just a small episode.