Monday, March 30, 2020

Michel Hidalgo, the death of a defender of the “beautiful game”

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It was another time, another football, perfect for nostalgia for a game that knew how to take the time to be beautiful and beautiful. It was the football of the early 1980s, that practiced in particular by the Blues of France who wrote the first lines of their prize list by winning the Euro 1984 with a balloon genius on the ground, and on the bench a end strategist the air of nothing. The two were called Michel, and of course Platini concentrated most of the light. But the other Michel was not for nothing in the affair: Michel Hidalgo, the coach of the then French team, from 1976 to 1984. The man has just bowed out, at 87 years old, in his apartment in Marseille with a view of the sea. The opportunity to recall its importance, for national football hitherto rather focused on pale blue.

A good career as a left winger

Michel Hidalgo was able to give it another nuance, richer and deeper, with this offensive festival then performed by the “Brazilians of Europe”. The attack first, a no-brainer for the former player Hidalgo. Born a stone’s throw from Dunkirk, in the North, this son of a Spanish metallurgical worker quickly started forward in his first sports career. After two years in Le Havre, he joined the famous Reims team in 1954, then led by Albert Batteux. “Bébert la science”, the 1958 Blues’ trainer, expert in short, collective and fast-paced play set to music by fine technicians, will mark the guy. He learns a lot, even if in the field, he does not necessarily hold the left wing. It will be all the same during the first final of the Champions League at the Parc des princes in 1956, sending a head in the nets of Real Madrid, unfortunately not enough for the win (Reims loses 3-4).

This “fine offensive game”, he will then know again in Monaco, where he will win two championship titles (1961 and 1963) and two French cups (1960 and 1963). Inevitably, when he started his second life on the bench, in the coaching of the Habs from 1969 and then as assistant to the coach, it was with an idea in mind. He waits for his time and it comes thanks to the president of the French Football Federation at the time, Fernand Sastre, who offered him the job in 1976. He obviously accepted it, at 43, with the primary mission of qualifying the Blues for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, a competition where France has stood out for its absence for twelve years.

The inventor of the “magic square”

The Blues will go to Argentina where they will unfortunately play in the group stage against Italy and the host country, and will therefore return quickly. Nothing serious. Because in the following year, Michel Hidalgo gave the keys to his team to a 24-year-old gifted youngster: Michel Platini. The great luck of the coach? Have such an artist, a fiery temperament who can play the bosses bis? Without a doubt. Michel Hidalgo would not have such a record without his famous N ° 10. But still we had to find a way to transcend the beautiful band that is formed after the failed Euro 1980. Michel Hidalgo remains the inventor of the “magic square”, this midfield line with Michel Platini, Alain Giresse, Jean Tigana and Bernard Genghini. It took a real vision of the game and the men to understand that the fantastic four would not walk on the crampons. Michel Hidalgo imposed the formula that would lead the Blues to the firmament.

In two times. First with this famous semi-final of the 1982 World Cup against Germany in Seville, which still haunts memories. Germany qualified on penalties and a feeling of immense injustice that knocks out the Blues. “In the locker room, before the game, I had men, guys ready to go into battle. And after the match, I had children. They all cried like kids, he will tell. It was a great sadness to have been robbed “.

The historic victory of 1984

But it was on this bitter disappointment that the success of Euro 1984 was to be built, with a Michel Platini walking on the water (9 of 13 goals for the Blues). A historic success for French football (2-0 against Spain), and a formidable reward for the discreet Michel Hidalgo. Who then passes the hand to his assistant, Henri Michel, promise made a few months earlier. “This success would have effectively allowed me to continue to support this maturing team until 1986, he will explain later. But Henri Michel deserved it. And to finish on such a victory, it was still nice “.

Michel Hidalgo will refuse the post of coach at Real Madrid a few months later – “His biggest mistake”, he will comment – will then become national technical director of the FFF, but without passion, then general manager of the Olympique de Marseille by Bernard Tapie, from 1986 to 1991. A complicated experience, which brought him into conflict with the law years later. Since then, he had settled in Marseille, no longer occupying essential functions in tricolor football, but always quick to shed light on the game and its developments, applauding as an esthete the beautiful gestures he still spotted on European grounds. He especially liked to remake the film of these eight years with the Blues, keeping the best, and especially the human adventure led with this band. “In this generation, there were only good guys”he repeated often. He was.

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