What is the spirit of Juanito?


This has been a week to forget so far. The curse of the semi-final struck again as we were demolished 4-1 by a far, far superior Borussia Dortmund side who didn't make any mistake except Mats Hummels momentary lapse which helped us get an away goal. Other than that, they didn't take a step wrong.

Since then many at the club have shown a positive, confident and reassuring stance that the comeback is possible. It has come from Iker Casillas, Jose Mourinho and Sergio Ramos. The club's internal media officers have been working hard to resurrect videos of old comebacks to get the fans vocal and act as the "12th man" in pushing the players towards the final and maybe, just maybe, that La Decima we all desperately want.

There has been a lot of chatter of bringing back "the spirit of Juanito" when talking of the second leg and trying for a comeback. But, what is the spirit of Juanito that everyone has been talking of?

Juanito or Juan Gomez Gonzalez started his career at Atletico Madrid where he played for their youth ranks. He apparently forged his identification papers to play for Atletico's U18 side against Benfica where he scored two goals but as luck would have it, he picked up a year long injury in that game. This resulted in an end of his career at Rojiblancos as when he returned, he was told there was no space for him in the team.

Juanito decided to go on loan to Burgos CF where he played for four years. After three years in the second division, he helped the team go up to the first division where he played in the top division for the very first time. His first year in La Liga was a successful one as he was awarded the player of the year by Don Balon magazine.

His goal scoring skills were picked up by Real Madrid and they signed him in June 1977 for 27 million pesetas. Upon his presentation, he famously said,

"Playing for Real Madrid is like touching the sky, Real Madrid has always been my first choice as a team and Madrid has always been my favorite as a city"

Interestingly, Juanito declined to sign for Barcelona who were offering 50 million pesetas.

He played on the right wing with the likes of Santillana, Vicente Del Bosque and Jose Antonio Camacho. Besides being a fantastic player, he turned into a fan favourite due to his grit and determination which has always been synonymous with the club. While this never say die attitude and aggressive behaviour had its upsides, it also brought about a lot of trouble for him as a player and drew the ire of the club's administration.

In 1978 in a game against Grasshopper he "attacked" referee Adolf Prokov for which he was banned for two years from European competitions (later that punishment was reduced to 14 months).

However, his most memorable mark on the clubs' history was yet to arrive. In the quarterfinals of 1979-80 European Cup game against Celtic, Real Madrid lost the first leg 2-0 in Glasgow. Needing a massive task of scoring three goals to win at the Bernabeu, Los Blancos scored three goals with the last one coming from Juanito thereby ensuring progress to the next stage. The first two came from Santillana and Stielike.

Real Madrid 3-0 Celtic Glasgow 1979/80 by robertomaspa

Next comeback was against Borussia Monchengladbach in 1985/86. Having lost the first leg by a 5-1 margin in Germany, Real Madrid had a herculean task of making a comeback in Madrid. But Real Madrid managed to score four goals in the ninety minutes to progress to the next stage. The first two goals came courtesy of Valdano with Juanito himself providing the assist. Santillana scored the next two goals with the fourth coming in the final minute which ensured Real Madrid's progress to the quarterfinals. Upon being substituted with seconds to go, Juanito couldn't hide his jubilation and excitement of the impending whistle and the heroic comeback by the Whites.

Two more classic comebacks were in order in the 1984/85 UEFA Cup first against Anderlecht and then Inter Milan. In the last sixteen having lost the first leg 3-0 in Belgium, Real Madrid had a comfortable time as they won 6-1 at the Bernabeu. The first half saw four goals being scored by us (Sanchis, Butragueno and a brace by Valdano). The second half saw us score two more from Butragueno as Emilio picked up his hatrick and Real moved to the quarterfinals.

In the semi-finals of the competition, Real faced Inter Milan and lost 2-0 at the San Siro. Real Madrid managed to win 3-0 in the second leg with goals coming from Santillana (double) and Michel. Although Juanito played only 14 minutes in the game as he came on as a second substitute for Fraile.

It was before the Inter Milan game that Juanito said his most famous words,

90 minutes at the Bernabeu is a very long time.

His hot head proved to be his downfall at the club as he stomped on Lothar Matthäus in a Bayern Munich v Real Madrid game in 1987. He would later be given a five year European ban for this deliberate act. Real Madrid on its part fined him 300,000 pesetas. His career at the club was nearing to its end with disciplinary problems engulfing his career than his brilliance on the pitch.

It is believed that 15 comebacks were made during Juanito's time at the club.

Juanito died in a car accident in April 1992. To this day, Real Madrid fans sing , 'Illa Illa Illa Juanito Maravilla' in the seventh minute in his honour.

We need his spirit to shine over us in the second leg against Dortmund if we are to go Wembley.

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