mercredi 28 septembre 2016

Helenio Herrera speaks great players

November 1960. The new coach of "F.C Internazionale", the French-Argentine Helenio Herrera is interviewd in Milan by Max Urbini and Jean-Philippe Rethacker for Football Magazine (mensual supplement of France Football).
At this occasion, "Mister H.H" as he was nicknamed, talks about his work, his goals with Inter (winning the scudetto, what would be achieved in 1963), his methods (tactical, technical, psychological) not without arguing against the idea that he woud be only a coach with defensive style for his team (due to the use of the 'libero'). Here is proposed the part of the interview related to the Herrera's thoughts on players that he has observed during his not over yet, far from that, coaching career. 

Indeed, as he reveals to his interviewers who ask him about what is his secret : "since I'm a coach, I update a serie of notebooks including at first a note card for all the Spanish, Italians, foreign players. On this card I describe the player : he is tall, he is small, he is thin, he is slow; he possesses a particular feint : on the right, on the left; he marks closely his man, he covers; he has a good shoot : with the right foot, he has no left foot etc." [...]. Another notebook which is about international football allows me to describe how are playing Red Star Belgrad, Wolverhampton, Reims or Dynamo, Sekularac, Hanappi, Piantoni, Charlton or Voinov".
A bit later in the F.F article, Herrera talks about some more or less illustrious players (more 'more' than 'less') that he had under his command, or not, in a more precise way.

It starts with the players that he knew during his spell at Stade Français (1945-1948) and Ben Barek .

"I had detected Larbi in Casablanca. During a training camp that I was leading in Morocco, I was attending to a match between Italian prisoners and a Morrocan team. When I wanted him to join Paris they said that I was crazy. They told me : 'Ben Barek, he is finished'. But he came for the record transfert-fee of one million of francs. And Larbi made a 4 years brillinat career at Stade. Then 4 more at Atletico de Madrid. Both clubs did not regret to acquire him, because in return, he brang millions in. He was an exemplary athlete, who did not drink, who did not smoke. Outstanding player, he had only one little defect, he was not very fast. But his breath was inexhaustible, his passes were millimetric and his intelligence of play was exceptional. He progressed a lot in shooting in Spain where we like the 'goleadores', the scorers. And what a charming boy, simple, faithull, serious. Very practicing, I still can see him making his prayer into one lockeroom's corner.

There was also Marcel Domingo; he was one of the best keepers that I used to know. He was unfortunate to play an unsuccessful France-Italy as he had a hand-injury. At an international level, he should have had a more brillinat career because he had a formidable grinding. He had more means than Darui. Unfortunately Marcel always lacked ambition and self-confidence. As a coach, he doesn't have the expected results for the same reasons.

Yet there was Nyers, the "Great Nyers" as he called himself with modesty. I saw him at the beginning of this season. He came to offer me his services at Inter where he already played after his departure from Stade. He has grown old. But what a winger it was : terrific shooting of the ball and speed. He did not see the game clearly, but as there was Ben Barek in addition!... Etienne [the French for Itsvan] was unfortunately a true Magyar, fantasist, changeable, and not much thrifty. He earned a lot of money but I'm not sure if he was able to save it".

Then Herrera briefly talks about Grillon, Hon, Luciano with some anecdots about how their transfers happened before to close this chapter about his career in France with the Swede Carlsson, what constituted a good transition with Spanish football : "Garvis Carlsson that I had detected in the 1948 Olympics, who stood two or three months at Stade before to join Atletico de Madrid and Spain where his fast play, his mobility, his fineness allowed him to impose instantaneously and brilliantly himself. The intelligent Garvis is today the A.I.K assistant-coach in Stockholm".

Spain. Di Stefano : "in 1952 when I saw in Madrid, for the 50 years of Real the Millonarios team, I wrote in L'Equipe and France Football : 'I've just seen the best centre forward in the world'. I was not mistaken.! I was then the first to propose a contract to him. He told me about his trouble with River Plate, his illegal situtation and as the Atletico de Madrid's directors were less buisnessmen than those of Real, it was the latter who prevailed.

Alfredo Di Stefano is really the most complete of all. He belongs to the great football lovers circle like I do. He does not neglect any advice. He said of me : 'He's the Saporta of the coaches'. One of the best compliments ever given to me.

The second is Suarez, with a difference of ten years? Yet he is more fine than Di Stefano, less powerful but maybe more skilled in the work and the brushing of the ball. He has a frail muscle, but thanks to the training that I imposed to him (no exercises demanding force) he had overcome his fragility. He is an intelligent and cheerful boy.

Then comes Kubala who is a technician in a class of his own, a bit slow, more and more slow. He will be a good coach for the young.

Kocsis is a very serious Hungarian, exceptional player with the head and opportunist. He is always on the lookout for the goals. Unfortunately he doesn't work much in defense. The essential is to know how to use him as he is. Here is another serious problem for the coach : knowing how to find the exact position of a player and knowing how to compensate the weaknesses of one with the forces of another.

Let's not talk about Czibor who is good but a bit crazy. And not serious enough in life to make a true footballer. He likes too much alcohol in particular.

Another Spanish footballer always made a great impression on me : Sevilla's Pepillo who possesses the super-class but who is unfortunately too frail, too devoid of athletic means. If I had to set up a ranking, I would do it like that :

1. Di Stefano
2. Suarez
3. Carlsson
4. Ben Barek
5. Evaristo

You'll take note by passing that they are all strikers."

And now at Inter, our coach talks about his new horsie : "since 18 years, Inter Milan is running after the Champion of Italy title. The president Mr. Moratti (Italian oil mogul) welcomed me saying this to me : 'I have been lucky in everything in life, except for football. I hope that you will arrange this!'

And I believe that it is again a striker of class that will help me to reach this goal : Antonio Angelillo, 23 years, a new Di Stefano".

Then 'Mister H.H' thinks critically about the 'calcio' that he has just joined and about two players in particular : "when I arrived here, I was surpised by two things : primo the rythm of the calcio way more slower than the one of the Spanish football, secundo the much prudent game, too defensive of the Italian teams. I was still staying with the memory of the pre-war Italian football, rapid, infernal, where us French men, were regularly beaten for a split second in the attack of the ball. In Spain, the temper and the qualities of the Latin still were here. Here the Italian players play stopped, decompose their technique. I believe that men like Liedholm or Schiaffino (old-fashioned stars) caused harm.

Etc. etc. Then he says that with Barcelona he played offensively so that he'll do the same with Inter, that the catenaccio doesn't permit to become the champion.

Still about his current team, Inter, he later talks a bit about Corso : "the little winger Corso will be soon one of the best European players. He is a lefty and he reminds me Puskas for his technique and skills and his shooting. He's not 20 yet". And talks again of Angellilo : "I have found here a second Di Stefano, Argentine of origin him too, Angellilo (23 years old). Believe me this one will become as strong as Alfredo. He is as much complete, scores goals, sees clear, works much, shoots fast, is quick and most of all is very calm in the decisive moment. This placidity at the moment of shooting, it's the common point between all the very great players. See Di Stefano, Suarez, Evaristo, Puskas. I make use of Angellilo like Di Stefano, I let the rein down on his neck".

We know that Angelillo will leave Inter at the end of this season. Some months later, Football Magazine will untitle an article as follows : 'Herrera-Angelillo it's over, because of a blonde". Indeed, 'H.H' will reproach to the footballing star a relationship with a famous actress of the time in Italy, to what Angelillo will not react kindly, tired with the Herrera's system, and making the choice of 'his freedom'.

Back on what Herrera expresses about the players in this exchange with journalists, we can see pictures of them illustrating the article and it is accompanied with captions which are Herrera's words (use of brackets). Most of the time it is the same exact ideas as transposed in the article. However, it is slighlty rephrased for Ben Barek : "an exceptional athlete, whose the seriousness and the simplicity were rivaled only by his class". The caption that goes with the picture of Suarez brings a new point : "He is less powerful but maybe more fine than Di Stefano. I believe that he is the best current player."

Again, about Ben Barek and Nyers at Stade Français, earlier in the article : "to get the most of an exceptional combination like the one on the left wing of Stade Français Ben Barek-Nyers (who fought like cat and dog), I said to Larbi that he was the best as he set-up the goals and straight after, I said to the Magyar that he was matchless as he was the one who scores the goals".

We have concentrated mainly about his view on the players here but anything goes in this article.
Here's the title and the introduction of it :

---- ---- --- ---

Picturesque character in world football, Helenio Herrea is criticized by some, praised by other. He drives on in spite of everything with his love for football, his enthusiasm, his psychology and his secrets. What are they these secrets of this coach made sorcerer? Max Urbini and J.-Ph. Retackher went to Milan (where H.H is coaching this season at Inter), to collect the confidences of Helenio Herrera on recorder. You will see that he is not short of ideas in football. Only the psychology, the hardwork, the study of the events and of men are efficient.
--- --------- --- ---------

A picture testify that the meeting between 'the sorcerer' and the two journalists actually happened. With, in the forefront, a big tape-recorder. For a pretty much re-written interview assuringly (no use of brakcets in the article) which still must naturally respect Herrera's own words, and his ideas.

At the end of the article, there is also a picture of Lorenzo Buffon (the uncle of 'Gigi', they're resembling each other very much on this one) with that caption : "under the Herrera's regime, Buffon lost weight and found wings again (it is the same word for a regime and for a diet in French : 'régime'). There is also a picture of Herrera and his boys, organized like a flock, Angelillo ahead, with the French-Argentine leading them, sideways, like a shepherd. They're training very early in the morning. In the first ranks, the boys look dreadful and/ or asleep (a few keep their head up), under the surveillance of their coach with tense face. The ones who are following, behind Herrera, are just laughing (they keep looking at the ground though).

It is not the same picture than this one here, but :

The Football Magazine picture looks more 'right at the beginning of the training' and this one (source unknown) more 'end of the training' or of some exercise.

7 years later, in an interview conducted by Robert Vergnes for France Football, Herrera is asked to make a best XI based on what the coach had observed in the last 20 years. "Let's look at this" he says. Then, pell-mell, he cites : "Yashin, Pelé, Mazzola, Di Stefano, Facchetti, Armfield, Djalma Santos, Boszik, Ben Barek, Suarez, Corso, Jonquet, Charlton, Kopa, Law, Eusebio. You can see that there would be good stocks and very certainly that I forgot some very good ones too...".

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