The consequences of cancelling all sporting events has led to sports journalists sending out the same tweet almost simultaneously; “What old football match do you want me to write about?” With Managing Madrid looking set to turn the next few weeks into Real Madrid history month, I thought I’d toss my hat into the ring with a review of the 1980 Copa del Rey final, when Real Madrid met its youth team Castilla.
Instead of doing a play by play report, I’m going to discuss some context to the final, provide a few takeaways from the match and give the game a watchability rating. Links to where you watch the full match or just the highlights are here:
Context to the final
18 youth teams played out the 1979-80 Copa del Rey first round. Despite some good runs from a select few of them in the past, none were considered serious contenders. Perhaps reflecting a surety in this fact, or just a major oversight by the organisers, B-teams were only banned from playing their senior sides up until the semi-finals.
At this point in time, Castilla had been a quietly solid Segunda team. What would occur over the coming months could be considered the reserve side announcing its potential. Starting off with a 10-2 win over Extremadura, Castilla would dispose of four senior sides to reach the round of 16.
In the first major knockout round, Castilla were paired up with 23-time winner Athletic Bilbao whom they dispatched with 2-0 at the San Mames. Next to fall was LaLiga leaders Real Sociedad,a team the senior side had failed to beat over two league meetings. A thrilling 4-3 victory over Sporting Gijon set Castilla up for an unlikely final at the Santiago Bernabeu between either Atletico Madrid or big brothers, Real Madrid.
Los Blancos had overseen Logronos and Real Betis on their way to the final and, though needing penalties, weren’t likely to miss their own party. It was goalkeeper Garcia Remon who scored the decisive penalty, practically winning the Copa del Rey before the final had even kicked off.
Despite this fact, Real weren’t taking any chance in their starting lineup with the likes of Juanito, Pirri, Santillana and the 1 million pound Laurie Cunningham all starting.
Castilla also went with their strongest lineup barring Perez Garcia and Jose Espinosa.
This was a false dawn for Castilla
Across Castilla’s history, few achievements come close to this, outside of the 1983/84 Segunda division title. Unfortunately, on an individual level, this Castilla side transpired to be a bit of a false dawn.
Of the 11 players that started this match, only Ricardo Gallego (whom had been pinned as the breakout start of the tournament) truly lived up to his potential. After a quiet cup final performance to finish his season, the midfielder was promoted to senior squad and played out the next decade with the club, eventually retiring at Rayo Vallecano. Outside of Gallego, the 1979-80 Castilla side produced one other starter (goalkeeper Augistin) and one bench player (Francisco Pineda).
A further two played just one game and the remaining six never even got a first team debut. Amongst that cohort of players, all but one played out average careers and had retired before the age of 33. The exception was club captain Javier Castañeda. He moved to Osasuna the following campaign and played a club record 350 matches over 11 seasons there. He retired at the age of 35.
Fitting in with theme of “out with the old, in with the new” that underlines this final is Pirri. At the ripe age of 35, this game was the veteran captain’s last ever match. He had spent all but one of his 16-year long career at Real Madrid and is among the few to retire at the club. When it comes to Real Madrid players over the age of 30, Pirri is the standard that Los Blancos expect and this match is the perfect demonstration of how high that bar is.
Starting out his career as an advanced midfielder/striker, Pirri was played deeper as he aged. He started this game at centre back, however, since he was relatively unchallenged defensively, it was Pirri offensive game that stole the show and likely won him man of the match, upstaging a flurry of talent on display for both sides.
Repeatedly receiving the ball deep, the veteran captain would break lines with his dribbling and a surprising turn of pace.
The Santiago Bernabeu
Real Madrid’s a team kicked off this final to chants of Castilla coming from the Bernabeu crowd.
Given the circumstances, one would have expected there would never have been a more neutral crowd than the one that had gathered for the showpiece in Madrid. However, it quickly became clear that Castilla had captured popular support.
Midway through the first half, a Castilla player is caught just outside the box. The boos that follow the referee whistle are startling
Over the next five years, Castilla would repeatedly play games at the Bernabeu due to their rising popularity amongst Madridistas and neutrals alike. In 1982, Juanito complained about the crowd chanting Castilla to voice their discontent with the senior side, demonstrating how highly rated the B-team was amongst fans during the early 80s.
The historical significance of this game is huge, it was the kick start of a golden era for Castilla in terms of production and football played.
However, there are certainly better games to better demonstrate that fact than this one. From kick-off to the final whistle, Castilla were utterly miserable. Attempting to play on the break, the game quickly descended into the A-team coming at Castilla with numbers, Castilla winning the ball back and then promptly booting it away.
Despite having plenty of numbers at the back, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that all of Real Madrid’s six goals were preventable and Juanito will feel quite fortunate to walk away with a brace from this match.
The rare attacking sparks from the team in purple, mostly through Miguel Bernal and Ricardo Alvarez, all came from range and Garcia Remon was never really challenged in goals. Unless you want to see old man Pirri steal a game that was suppose to be about the next generation, you’d be better off watching the highlights of this one.