Monday 06 May 2024, 09:50

A tribute to César Luis Menotti: 1938-2024

César Luis Menotti, who passed away on 5 May 2024 at the age of 85, led Argentina as coach to their first FIFA World Cup™ title in 1978 and was widely admired for the way his teams played.

Nicknamed El Flaco (“The Slim One”), Menotti marked a turning point in the organisation of the Argentina national team, bringing stability to the role of senior national team coach.

Menotti was a lyrical speaker with clear ideas. In his home country, his name was synonymous with the concept of playing football the right way. To explain his perspective, he used to say that “the goal must be a pass into the net”. Menottismo, as his style came to be known, was not only a footballing philosophy, but also a way of life.

After a ten-year playing career, which included a spell in Brazil alongside Pelé in the famous Santos side, Menotti became a coach in 1970. Three years later, he led Huracán to their first professional title, the Torneo Metropolitano of 1973. This catapulted him to the role of Argentina coach in 1974 when he was appointed following their disappointing campaign at the FIFA World Cup in West Germany.

Menotti’s record with Argentina

  • Matches managed: 85

  • Wins: 46

  • Draws: 21

  • Losses: 18

  • Goals scored: 161

  • Goals conceded: 83

  • Points percentage: 66.47%

His greatest success was to lead Argentina to their first FIFA World Cup title when they hosted and won the tournament in 1978. In the build-up to the competition, Menotti decided to leave out a promising youngster named Diego Maradona from the final squad – a decision that was not without controversy.

However, the team went from strength to strength with future Argentina legends Ubaldo Fillol, Daniel Passarella, Osvaldo Ardiles and Mario Kempes all standing out, amongst others.

One year later, and with Maradona captaining the side, Menotti would lead Argentina to the FIFA World Youth Championship title in Japan, now known as the FIFA U-20 World Cup™. The legendary number 10 later said: “I rarely enjoyed myself as much on the pitch as I did with that team.”

Menotti could not repeat the success of 1978 at the FIFA World Cup in Spain in 1982, where Argentina were knocked out in the second round. El Flaco, who ended his coaching career in 2007, returned to the Argentinian Football Association in 2019 as Director of National Teams, a position he still held when he passed away.

With Menotti in that role and Lionel Scaloni as coach, Argentina won the Copa América in 2021 and followed that up by winning the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ to claim the title for the third time and the first since 1986. These successes were a testament to Menotti’s style, staying true to the concept of playing football the right way.

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of FIFA World Cup-winning head coach César Menotti,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

“Many coaches have followed Menotti’s vision of the beautiful game, ensuring his playing philosophy will become his legacy.

“César loved Argentina as much as his country loved him. He will be missed by the world of football.

“I wish to send my heartfelt condolences to the country of Argentina, the Argentinean FA and to Menotti’s family and friends.”