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José Antonio Camacho - a great defender, even greater manager: Part 2 (25th September, 2017)

Yesterday's piece was about José Antonio Camacho the manager. Today's is about the player that preceded that.

Camacho was born in Cieza, Murcia. He moved along with his family to Albacete at the age of six - during this time, his family thought about returning to Murcia, but Real Murcia rejected the player.

He would play youth football at Atlético Jareño (a team in Villanueva de la Jara, in the Cuenca province) and later for Albacete Balompié, where he permanently held down the left-back spot. José Antonio Camacho began to make waves at this time - Héctor Rial wanted him to play for the Spanish youth team, and his performances helped him break into the Albacete senior team, who at the time played in the Primera Regional.

His quality did not go unnoticed - both Real Madrid and Barcelona fought for his signature, but the player chose the team in white and signed for their Castilla team in March 1973. He was almost immediately cast into the first team and its starting XI, his debut being handed by manager Luis Molowny on the 3rd of March 1974. He played the full 90 minutes in a 0-1 away loss against Málaga.

In January 1978 he suffered a serious injury in training, which put his career on hold for nearly two years, but two operations later he returned strong, being instrumental as the capital side won consecutive UEFA Cups.

During his spell with Real Madrid, Camacho appeared in nearly 600 official matches (414 in the league alone), forming a proficient left-wing partnership with Rafael Gordillo, who featured mainly as a midfielder. He scored 9 goals in that time, and was sent off only once despite his aggressive style of play.

Camacho also played 81 games for the Spanish national team, making his first appearance before the age of 20. His debut came on the 5th of February 1975 in a 1-1 draw against Scotland for the UEFA Euro 1976 qualifiers, in Valencia.

For the following 13 years, Camacho was a defensive mainstay for the national side, being selected - and always as first-choice - for the 1982 and 1986 FIFA World Cups, as well as the Euro 1984 and 1988 competitions. After the 0-2 group stage loss against West Germany in the latter competition, he retired from the international scene, aged 33.

He ranks fourth in the list of "complete" matches played, only behind Iker Casillas, Zubizarreta, and Sergio Ramos.

Camacho hung up his boots in 1989 but he didn’t leave the club. He stayed on as a coach with the youth teams and also worked as assistant coach to Alfredo Di Stéfano, before starting a new phase in his life...



As a player he stood out for his anticipation and speed. But there is something more to that - his spirit of sacrifice and dedication, his desire for victory and his charisma. There was a human element to it - he took pride in teamwork, and defended players ferociously.

Despite being a tough tackler, he was full of emotion - as a manager, he cried profusely after Miklós Fehér died on the pitch, shortly after entering Benfica's match at Vitória de Guimarães.

That character, courage and dedication made him a legend. It is what makes legends - along with trophies. And Camacho won plenty of them - 2 UEFA Cups, 9 Ligas, 5 Spanish Cups, 1 Spanish League Cup and 2 Spanish Super Cups.

Hopefully, his managerial success had something to do with the fact that his first senior team was Rayo Vallecano. Hopefully.

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