There are two facets of Hugo Sanchez that are always discussed when it comes to his legacy. Like many legends of their countries, the relationship with the fans and media, and one’s own story, becomes fuddled.
This week, those conflicting sides of Sanchez came together. Yesterday, it was the 27th anniversary of his signing with Real Madrid where he would break club records on his way to four league titles and five Pichichis.
A day later, he is returning to coach in the Mexican League with Pachuca after an unceremonious exit in 2005 from the league marred by his relationship with his club, officials, and fans.
It’s tempting to compare Hugo Sanchez to Diego Maradona, a man that could never handle off the field while graciously making art on it. But Sanchez is not a failure off the pitch by any stretch of the imagination.
While his coaching career with Pumas ended on the brink of relegation in 2005, it also included a paramount distinction. His team is the only team to win two titles in the same year since Mexico switched to the short tournament format.
With the national team he was never able to deliver, on the field or on the sideline. It’s hard to know what went wrong at the national level with Sanchez, perhaps the pressure was too much but the failures, especially as a manager, are undeniable. In a region where Mexico is king, Hugo floundered badly, epitomized in the elimination from the Olympics.
Perhaps what Sanchez needed was to return to the land that gave him his greatest glory. He signed on to coach Almerica in the Spanish League 2008. He would take the team to 11th place in just its second season in the first division to then be fired the next year, again leaving his club in the brink of relegation.
Brilliance is meant to be unpredictable, and Sanchez is just that with his outbursts and contrarian attitude. It’s easy to turn Sanchez into a caricature for being larger than life, but his career proves that he is. No Mexican player has gotten close to accomplishing what he has done, much less with one of the best teams in the world.
The relationship that Hugo Sanchez has with Mexicans could be reminiscent of Lionel Messi, a country that has a hard time recognizing a player that had its greatest success with another country. Messi seems to have the skin to handle it, Sanchez instead decided to react adversely to any criticism.
It's not all Hugo Sanchez' fault that his legacy can't be accepted for what he is. While Maradona remains king in Argentina, Hugo Sanchez is treated like the middle aged parent that continues railing on about his high school success.
He returns to the Mexican League looking to have glory at home again with the usually acerbic tone he has always taken with the local establishment. Mexicans will be divided by the ones wanting to see the return of a long lost emblem, while others will want to see the fall of a bitter old man.
Only Sanchez with his style of play and his accomplishments; and, undoubtedly, with the way he approaches his work, will get to win over one of those crowds and stop trying to antagonize the other.