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Cesar Luis Menotti: Raised Argentina’s Game To New Levels

Argentine soccer, recognized among the finest globally, owes its lofty standing in no small measure to Cesar Luis Menotti. The arrival of El Flaco (‘The Thin One’), as he was known from an early age, was a turning point in both the organization and planning of international football in Argentina. Under his expert tutelage, the Albiceleste won their first FIFA World Cup and their first FIFA World Youth Championship.

A well-spoken leader, Cesar Luis Menotti’s name is synonymous in Argentina with the concept of modern, forward-thinking football. “A goal should be just another pass into the net” became one of his favorite expressions.

el flaco argentine manager

Argentina National Team Challenges

Before his era at the helm of the national side, Argentine teams were known for their frequent turnover of coaches and the refusal of its top players to travel overseas on international duty. Post-César Menotti, the side not only continued to chalk up titles but managers were also allowed to see out their contracts. Playing for the national side nowadays is an honor coveted by all the country’s top players.

Cesar Luis Menotti’s crowning achievement as manager led Argentina to the 1978 FIFA World Cup title when they hosted the competition. Menotti’s first big gamble, which is still much discussed today, was to prefer veteran striker Mario Kempes in place of a promising youngster from Argentinos Juniors named Diego Maradona.

That decision sparked a furious debate, but subsequent events proved Cesar Luis Menotti’s intuition impeccable. As a result, Mario Kempes was the inspirational leader and goal scorer of the 1978 World Cup-winning side. At the same time, Diego Maradona became the star of the following year’s World Youth Championship in Japan, which Argentina also won under his guidance.

coach miguel

Scaling New Heights

After hanging up his soccer cleats, Cesar Luis Menotti threw himself into his new career as a soccer head coach. In 1973, after just two years in management, he led modest club side Huracán to the only league title in their soccer history. Moreover, the Parque Patricios club produced a side that will be long remembered for being one the most stylish outfits ever to grace the Argentine league.

This was all down to the unique touch of El Flaco and players like René Houseman, Miguel Brindisi, and Carlos Babington, who all flourished under his watchful eye. After Argentina’s gloomy exit from Germany in 1974, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) offered César Luis Menotti to manage the national team.

His heady task was to prepare a team capable of winning the world’s premier soccer tournament when it came to Argentina four years later.

In building his side, Cesar Luis Menotti went immediately for experienced players like Ubaldo Fillol, Daniel Passarella, Osvaldo Ardiles, and Mario Kempes. Men who could fulfill the coach’s enigmatic philosophies.

“The effectiveness of our tactics depended greatly on how clear the players were on what was being asked of them,” the head coach remarked later about his well-disciplined side. “Someone without a clear idea of what he is looking for will never find anything.”

1978 world cup final goal

Celebrating The 1978 World Cup 

At the event, the Albiceleste beat Hungary and France in the first round but then lost to Italy, which forced the team to leave Buenos Aires. In Rosario for the second phase, Argentina won against Poland, drew with continental rivals Brazil, and then destroyed Peru to set up a mouth-watering final against Holland.

And so it was that on 25 July 1978, Cesar Luis Menotti’s side beat the Dutch 3-1 after extra time, with two goals from Mario Kempes and one added by Daniel Bertoni. Praise for El Flaco was justifiably lavish, and the coach himself proved ecstatic: “Not many people know that after the game, I went to the Obelisk to celebrate with the rest of the supporters,” César Luis Menotti confessed later.

“I put on a disguise so that no one would recognize me, and I went incognito in the back of a pick-up. I was keeping a promise I’d made earlier. Although there weren’t many people left when I arrived, I still enjoyed my celebration.”

coach miguel speaking to maradona

Winning With Diego Maradona

A year later, Cesar Luis Menotti personally asked to be the head coach of the youth side at that year’s World Youth Championship in Japan. Before becoming a full international, Gabriel Calderon, a member of that side, takes up the story: “Just to see him there in front of us talking about football was an incredible experience,” related the player.

“He told us that he was coaching us because he believed in our potential. The best thing about him was that he never lied to us. Instead, he put special emphasis on the strengths of each individual. As a result, every player ran out on the pitch crystal clear on what they had to do and determined to do it.”

The 1979 youth side that traveled to Japan seamlessly applied Cesar Luis Menotti’s ideas of attacking football and soon showed impressive results. With Maradona, Ramon Diaz, and Calderon leading the charge, the Albicelestes had the watching public back home glued to the TV in the early hours of the morning.

World Youth Championships

Nobody was complaining, though, and after lighting up the tournament with their glittering play, Cesar Luis Menotti’s youngsters found themselves in the final against the USSR.

The following 3-1 win over the mighty Soviets was unquestionably one of the golden moments in Argentina’s youth football history. Diego Maradona recalled years later: “I never enjoyed myself so much on the field of play as I did with that team. That was all down to Cesar Luis Menotti’s work.”

An inauspicious performance by Maradona and the entire national team in Spain in 1982 marked the end of Cesar Luis Menotti’s term in charge. Despite having the nucleus of the cup-winning side four years earlier, the Albiceleste took a relatively early flight home after second-round defeats to Brazil and Italy.

cesar luis

Cesar Luis Menotti Concepts

Quick ball movement, swift passing, and motivation were concepts that Cesar Luis Menotti instilled in all his teams. So it surprised nobody that the savvy Argentinean found the winning formula as manager of some of the finest soccer club teams in Europe and South America and his subsequent work for the media.

As time went by, Cesar Luis Menotti became something of an ambassador for attractive soccer. In Argentina, where everyone has an opinion on the game, the camps are divided between those who value the result above everything else and those who think good soccer is the best way to get results. The latter are referred to as Menottistas.

Of the teams César Luis Menotti managed, the most famous were River Plate, Boca Juniors, Independiente de Avellaneda, Rosario Central, Peñarol de Montevideo, Atlético de Madrid and FC Barcelona. At the Catalan club, he was reunited with Diego Maradona. The Argentine won significant honors, including the Copa de la Liga, the Copa del Rey, and the Spanish Supercopa.

coach menotti with world cup trophy

Mexico National Football Manager

With his international track record, it came as no surprise that he was later offered to coach the Mexican national side. In 1992, however, with Mexico in the second qualifying round for USA 1994, César Luis Menotti stepped down to pursue a career in sports commentary.

After further short spells in Argentina and Italy, where he briefly coached Sampdoria, Cesar Luis Menotti retired from soccer management altogether to concentrate on his work with the media. At the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan and again at 2004’s Copa America in Peru, he worked as a commentator for Mexican television.

Cesar Luis Menotti Tactics

Cesar Luis Menotti always advocated attacking football over the risky business of defending deep and waiting for chances from his early days in coaching. Although he accepts that “everyone plays to win,” he was always known for deploying his team’s resources to maximize goal-scoring chances. His sides were all about teamwork, with quality players in midfield and technically gifted individuals upfront.

One of his calling cards was, paradoxically enough, his most criticized trait – the offside trap. His defenses used the trap systematically as the back four pushed up quickly, but the system was far from perfect and caused its share of headaches over the years.

Nevertheless, César Luis Menotti was always quick to defend his tactics: “It’s always better to push up and go at your opponents so that you can recover the ball as far up the field as possible.” As for tactical formations, the Argentine typically opted for four across the back and a holding midfielder. The other midfielders would have the license to push forward and supply the two or three frontmen.

Huracan team

César Luis Menotti Facts And Figures

Full Name: César Luis Menotti
Birthdate: 05/11/1938
Birthplace: Rosario, Argentina

Playing Career:

International Career:

Argentina Nation Team (11 appearances, 2 goals)

Managerial Career:

  • 1972 – 1974 Huracan
  • 1982 – 1984 FC Barcelona (Spain)
  • 1986 – 1987 Boca Juniors
  • 1987 – 1988 Atletico Madrid (Spain)
  • 1988 – 1989 River Plate
  • 1990 – 1991 Penarol (Uruguay)
  • 1993 – 1994 Boca Juniors
  • 1996 – 1997 Independiente
  • 1997 – 1998 Sampdoria (Italy)
  • 1998 – 1999 Independiente
  • 2002 Rosario Central

International Management Career:

Playing Honors:

Boca Juniors

  • 1965: Primera División Champions


  • 1968: Campeonato Brasileiro Série A Champions
  • 1968: Intercontinental Supercup
  • 1968: Campeonato Paulista

Managerial Honors:


  • 1973: Metropolitano Primera División Champions

FC Barcelona

  • 1982–83 Copa del Rey Winners
  • 1983: Copa de la Liga
  • 1983: Supercopa de España

Argentina National Team

Menotti_and_Juárez_football players

Interesting Facts About Cesar Luis Menotti

In 1960, César Luis Menotti made his Primera División debut with Rosario Central after playing for the reserve team. It was against Boca Juniors on July 3 that he made his professional debut, winning 3-1.

In 1968, César Luis Menotti joined Santos FC, where he won the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A, Intercontinental Supercup, and Campeonato Paulista with Pelé. After he left Santos, Menotti joined Clube Atlético Juventus where he finished his playing days.

It was El Flaco (the Thin One) who was one of the great smokers in football, a man dressed casually and his face seemed incomplete without a cigarette hanging from his mouth.

A straightforward 4-3-3 formation was used to demonstrate Menotti’s offensive approach. Argentina’s direct, hard-running forwards included Mario Kempes, Leopoldo Luque, and Oscar Ortiz. Due to Ossie Ardiles’ midfield skill and René Houseman’s blistering speed, César Luis Menotti’s Argentina was a thrilling creation. Not winning the game, but playing excellent football was Menotti’s message before matches.

luis menotti

The Argentina national team was reintroduced to pleasure by Coach Miguel ‘school of football‘ philosophy. Despite the squad’s bad performance before his arrival, the head coach successfully instilled flair and swagger into it. In fact, his football provided the polar opposite of the anti-futbol way of life that Argentinians were used to.

Among César Luis Menotti first victories as a manager were with Huracán in the 1973 Torneo Metropolitano, which included noteworthy players like Carlos Babington, Miguel Brindisi, Roque Avallay, and René Houseman. The media praised the head coach and the team for its playing style, and it was considered one of the finest teams in Argentine clubs history.

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