History tells Luis Enrique that Barcelona should still dream of final-day glory
Barcelona's final-day hopes of winning the Liga title are hanging by a thread, writes Pete Jenson, but history tells us that all is not lost...
Nobody needs to tell Barcelona coach Luis Enrique that the Spanish title race is not over yet; he was there in 1992 when Real Madrid blew the league on the last day of the season leaving Johan Cruyff and a baby-faced Pep Guardiola celebrating on the pitch at the Camp Nou.
Last night's thumping 4-1 win for Madrid away to Celta Vigo made miserable viewing for Barcelona supporters. This weekend Real Madrid now need just a point from La Rosaleda where they face Malaga. But back in 1992 they needed to win at the Heliodoro Rodríguez López stadium against a Tenerife team who like Malaga had nothing to play for, and they lost.
The season had dragged into the first week of June and in stifling heat Luis Enrique was among Real Madrid substitutes – watching from the sidelines as everything started well.
In their all-blue away kit Leo Beenhakker’s team took the lead through Fernando Hierro heading in at the far post. Gheorghe Hagi scored a spectacular free-kick to make it 2-0 and the job was apparently done after just 23 minutes.
Tenerife, coached by Jorge Valdano at the time, had other ideas and Quique Estebaranz, with a fine individual effort pulled a goal back before the break.
At the Camp Nou, meanwhile, Barcelona were going through the motions. They had already been crowned Champions of Europe for the first time in their history and had paraded the European Cup in front of fans before the game with Athletic Bilbao.
They took a two-goal lead but with news of Real Madrid’s fine start coming through on the crackly transistor radios all around the ground there was little expectation that they would be celebrating a double before night fall.
Barcelona's coach Luis Enrique gestures Getty Images
Then the news came through. It was no longer 2-1 to Real Madrid. Ricardo Rocha had put through his own net on 75 minutes to make it 2-2. The nerves were jangling among the Madrid players – they didn’t jangle for long before the third Tenerife goal was bundled in just 60 seconds later.
Pier Luigi Cherubino, known simply as Pier to fans and commentators alike had latched on to a poor back pass from Manuel Sanchis that Madrid keeper Paco Buyo had made a mess of putting out for a corner.
Madrid needed to find something from somewhere but their legs had gone. Francisco Villarroya had been sent off – pursued by pitchside reporters as he trudged off the field such was the different ground rules for journalists in Spain back in 1992.
The blue balloons released by Tenerife fans before kick-off were now back in flight. It made a welcome change from the rocks that had been thrown on to the pitch earlier in the game with the referee demanding an announcement threatening to take the players off.
Josep Guardiola (L) and Hristo Stoichkov (R) winning the Champions League in 1992 with Barcelona.Imago
Tenerife were about to turn the entire season on its head in the last 90 minutes. Valdano had been right. He had only arrived at Tenerife seven games earlier saving them from the drop and then telling players before the Madrid game: ‘today you can make history and become famous all over the world’. Goalscorer Pier was so excited he joined the supporters in their ‘olé!’ celebrations and was sent off.
Back at the Nou Camp the stadium had erupted with news of the third Tenerife goal with Guardiola having jumped off the bench to celebrate the news with Cruyff.
When the final whistle went in Barcelona’s game they were still playing the five minutes of added time in the Madrid match. When the transistor radios confirmed the Tenerife game had ended Cruyff was mobbed by jubilant reporters – the first question fired at him was: ‘what have you got to say to Jorge Valdano?’ ‘Muchas Gracias’ was his reply.
Pep Guardiola was so happy he took the European Cup around the pitch for another airing.
Luis Enrique, who had come in on the second half, was by now sat head in hands inside the Real Madrid dressing room – engulfed by a mixture of embarrassment and disbelief. Alongside him sat his good friend the Spain winger Michel dreading the return to the capital.
On Sunday they will relive the last day drama. Michel’s Malaga against Real Madrid. And if they come away with a home win as Tenerife did 25 years ago then this time it will be Luis Enrique doing a jig on the Camp Nou… providing Barcelona win against Eibar of course. It's unlikely but it has happened before. The Barcelona coach knows, because he was there.