For many, long years in Italy but also in the rest of the world it was thought that Spanish football was not up to the great international stages. Sure, teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona have had a long tradition of success in international competition since the 1950s, but it was always thought that those victories depended on the political weight of the clubs or their foreign players.
On the other hand, before the recent series of successes, in many years of history, the Spanish national team had only won a silver medal at the 1920 Olympics, a European in 1964, and a second continental place in 1984. That is very little compared to the expectations.
Similarly, Spanish players also seemed to have no prospects in foreign leagues, such as the Italian one.
Players who seemed to be phenomena when they played in Iberian land, in fact, quickly turned into very normal athletes as soon as they set foot in our league, especially for the difference in rhythm, given that the Iberian tournament – at least before the advent of the Real and Real Galacticos Barça di Messi – did not shine for speed.
Today everything seems to have changed, thanks to the dribble properties and above all to the international titles of the Spaniards. But, among many flops and some new discoveries, which were the best Spanish players who played in Italy? Let’s find out together.
Table of Contents
- 1 1. Luisito Suárez
- 2 2. Luis del Sol
- 3 3. Joaquín Peiró
- 4 4. Pep Guardiola
- 5 5. Fernando Llorente
1. Luisito Suárez
The only Golden Ball of Spanish football
Today the most famous Luis Suárez on the planet does not come from Spain but from Uruguay and, above all, has never played in Italy, despite Juventus in the past – when the cost of his card was not yet so prohibitive – had tried to bring him. in our country.
But a few decades ago the name of Luis Suárez was synonymous with the great playmaker of Inter and the Spanish national team, the only Iberian player able to win the Ballon d’Or (in 1960), with the exception of the original Di Stéfano.
Born in 1935 in La Coruña, he made his debut at the age of 18 in Deportivo, the team of his hometown, passing the following year to Barcelona, first coached by the Italian Sandro Puppo, then by Helenio Herrera, the coach who would become his mentor.
With the Blaugrana he managed to win the first two editions of the Fairs Cup in 1958 and 1960, two consecutive league titles in 1959 and 1960 (all trophies won with Herrera on the bench), and reached the final of the European Cup in 1961, surprisingly lost against Benfica of Béla Guttmann but not yet of Eusebio.
From footballer to coach
After also winning the Ballon d’Or, Herrera’s new team arrived at Inter for 300 million lire. He stayed in Milan for nine years, winning three championships, two European Cups, and two Intercontinental Cups.
He crowned his magical decade with the conquest, as a protagonist, of the 1964 European football championships, played at home (at least in the four-team final phase). He was one of the most important numbers 10 of the decade, if not perhaps the most important of all, able to give order to the midfield and make precise throws towards the strikers.
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After the extraordinary experience at Inter, he closed his career at Sampdoria, where he played between 1970 and 1973, leading the Genoese to three peaceful saves. He then also attempted a career as a coach, with poor results at the club level (he also went to the Inter bench three times, without achieving much).
More important was the experience with the Spanish national team. With the Under-21 he obtained second place in the European Championships in 1984 and the title in 1986, while with the senior national team in Italy ’90 he was eliminated in the round of 16 by Yugoslavia.
2. Luis del Sol
The Herrera midfielder
The good results given to Inter by the purchase of Luisito Suárez did not go unnoticed in Italy, so much so that other famous teams immediately decided to dive into the Spanish market, with mixed results. Juventus fished well enough, which in 1962 secured the talent of a contemporary of Suárez, Luis del Sol.
The Spaniard would have worn the black and white jersey for eight seasons, demonstrating extraordinary continuity and good performance both in the interdiction phase and in the setting phase.
Born in Soria, in the center-north of the country, but raised in Seville, he made his debut at a very young age in Betis, a team with which he won two promotions in 1954 and 1958, attracting the attention of Real Madrid.
With the Blancos he played for two and a half seasons, immediately becoming the owner of the midfield that supported strikers of the caliber of Di Stéfano, Puskás, and Gento and winning two league titles, a European Cup and an Intercontinental Cup.
The arrival in Italy
In 1962 he, therefore, arrived in Italy, giving solidity to a Juve that did not pass a good period after the end of the cycle of Boniperti, Sívori, and Charles. However, he helped her to win the 1967 Scudetto thanks to a daring overtaking against Helenio Herrera’s Inter (while Heriberto Herrera was on the Juventus bench) on the last day of the championship.
A victory that came despite the lack of prominent names in the squad. The most famous in the team was in fact the Brazilian Chinesinho, not one of the best known in the history of the old lady.
After 8 seasons in black and white, del Sol closed his Italian experience with two years at Helenio Herrera’s Roma, before returning to Betis by now thirty-seven, a team in which he would later continue as manager. With the national team of the red furies, he won the ’64 European Championship, but without playing in the starting eleven.
3. Joaquín Peiró
The cup bomber
The last successful Spaniard of the sixties in Italy was Joaquín Peiró, who passed through Turin, Inter, and especially Rome between 1962 and 1970. Born around Madrid in 1936 and raised in the Atletico youth team, he was fast forward and shrewd in the penalty area.
All qualities that allowed him to make his debut in the first team of the colchoneros in 1955, not yet twenty. He soon became the owner and dragged the team in 1962 to win the Cup Winners’ Cup. On that occasion, he scored at Fiorentina both in the Glasgow final in May and in the Stuttgart repeat in September.
Thanks to these excellent performances he was noticed by Turin, who brought him to Italy again in 1962. In the first season, however, he found himself closed by the good performances of the Argentine Locatelli and the English Hitchens and by the rule that forbade the field of more than two foreigners in the championship.
The 1964/65 season
The second-year went better, with Locatelli’s move to Genoa and with some good performances that earned him the attention of Inter where his compatriot Suárez was already playing. Even in Milanese city, Peiró found himself closed by two foreigners (this time Jair and Suárez himself) but managed to win the 1964/65 Champions Cup.
In that competition, he signed a decisive and famous goal against Liverpool in the semifinals, scored by stealing the ball from the opposing goalkeeper while the latter made him bounce to the ground. He was also the starter in the final against Eusebio’s Benfica and in the two Intercontinental finals of 1964 and 1965 against the Argentines of Independiente.
In ’66 he moved to Rome, where he was also played as an attacking midfielder but where he finally managed to have the opportunity to play continuously, so much so that he also became the captain of the team.
Here he also won an Italian Cup in 1969 and a Cup Winners’ Cup semifinal the following year, lost only due to the unfavorable toss of the coin after three draws with Gornik Zabrze. In 1970 he returned to Spain, then pursued a career as a coach between the 1980s and 1990s.
4. Pep Guardiola
The coach who came to train in Italy
After the glories of the 1960s, the importation of Spanish players stopped abruptly. This happened earlier due to the closure of football borders; then, in the 80s and 90s, due to the actual poor quality (or adaptability) of the Iberian champions.
People like Iván Helguera, Iván De La Peña, Javier Farinos and José Mari had come to our country to make it big, but we hardly remember them today. Also because in some cases they were returned to the sender after a few games.
The fate of Pep Guardiola, on the other hand, was different, they arrived in Italy when his career was almost at the end. His only goal was to further train for his future coaching career.
Born in Santpedor, Catalonia, in 1971, he entered the center of Barcelona at the age of 13, acquiring the style of play of the Blaugrana. From 1991 he became one of the columns of the midfield of the team that would be renamed the Catalan Dream Team (in honor of the American basketball team that won the Olympics in Barcelona).
With Cruijff on the bench, he won three league titles and a Champions Cup ( overcoming Vialli and Mancini’s Sampdoria in the final). With Robson – and Mourinho as his assistant – a Cup Winners’ Cup. Finally, with Van Gaal, two other championships. A curriculum that made him one of the most successful midfielders in the world at the time.
The last few years in Italy and success as a coach
He did not have the same luck with the Spanish national team, missing two editions of the World Cup due to injury in a period in which the Roja was still struggling to win. In 2001, when he was thirty, he decided to change scenery and accepted Brescia’s offer.
The team was then coached by Carlo Mazzone and the expert Roberto Baggio and the young Luca Toni and Daniele Bonera played there. The Lombard team had a good season, reaching the final of the Intertoto (and losing, only for the away goals rule, with Anelka’s Paris Saint-Germain ).
He also did well in the Italian Cup (semi-final) and in the league, finishing in thirteenth place. Guardiola’s performances were so convincing that they convinced Fabio Capello’s Roma to sign him for the following season.
In the Giallorossi, however, he only played four games, before being sold back to Brescia in January, where he contributed to the series of sixteen consecutive useful results that brought the team to 9th place in the standings.
He then spent a few seasons in Qatar before pursuing a career as a coach first to Barcelona and then to Bayern Munich and Manchester City. A career that has earned him national titles, Champions League, and World Cups for club teams.
5. Fernando Llorente
The Basque center forward of Juventus
The real rebirth of Spanish players in our league, however, is something of the last few years, if not actually of the last season.
The arrivals of Fernando Llorente at Juventus, Pepe Reina, Raul Albiol, and José Maria Callejon at Napoli, and, for the longest time, Borja Valero at Fiorentina have in fact strongly relaunched the odds of the players who trained in the La Liga. And they showed that not only the midfielders are of quality, but often the strikers and defenders as well.
Of all the players who have impressed us recently, we have chosen Llorente, for the simple fact that even before his arrival at the Juventus Stadium he had achieved excellent results with Athletic Bilbao and that he still has a more than promising career ahead of him.
Others are either in their first season as protagonists, or, as in the case of Reina, are now heading towards the end of their career, with a more uncertain future. Born in Pamplona in 1985, Llorente grew up in Athletic Bilbao.
Initially sent to play in the satellite clubs of Baskonia and Bilbao Athletic, he made his debut in the first team in 2004/05, immediately making 15 appearances. After three seasons on the bench, he became a regular in 2007. The following year he dragged his team to the final of the King’s Cup and lost to Guardiola’s Barcelona.
Under the guidance of Marcelo Bielsa and showing a great game, Athletic made it to the final of both the Copa del Rey and the Europa League in 2011/12, losing both. The year after the announcement that he did not want to renew with Athletic he relegated him to the bench, before joining Juventus in 2013.
Here he earned the starting shirt thanks to the 16 goals scored this season, essential for winning the third consecutive national title.
At the national level, he participated in the expeditions to South Africa in 2010 and Poland-Ukraine in 2012. In this way, he put on his curriculum a World and a European title, even if he has always been closed in the starting lineup on the one hand by Fernando Torres, on the other from the choice of del Bosque to play without a real center forward.