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.
- Genius and personality: That is Hugo Sanchez, who this Wednesday turns 54. We take a look back at his career full of success and also failure. Photo: Mexsport
- The famous “Penta Pichichi”began his career with Pumas. He debuted in 1976-177 with five goals in 19 matches. He shared the field with another Pumas legend, Cabinho. Photo: Mexsport
- Hugo was always a predator in the area. He had great technique and touch with his left, scoring various scissor and bicycle kicks. After winning the title with Pumas and a brief spell with the San Diego Soccers in the US, he was transferred to Atletico Madtrid for the 1981-1982 season, when he won the Pichichi (individual scoring title). Photo: Reproducción Internet
- Without a doubt, where Hugo had his greatest success was with Real Madrid. The team signed the young Atletico striker where he would win four more Pichichis, five league titles, three Spanish Super Cups and the UEFA Cup. Despite never winning the Champions League, his legacy is remembered by the fans of the team for his tenure between 1985 and 1992. Photo: AP
- After his time with real Madrid, Hugo returned to Mexican soccer with America in the 1992-1993 season, scoring 18 goals in 38 matches. Photo: Mexsport
- Sanchez returned to Spain with Rayo Vallecano, with whom he scored 17 goals. His hope was to retire with Real Madrid but he never got the opportunity, instead returning to Mexico to play for Atlante. Photo: Mexsport
- With the national team he had a difficult relationship. He played in three world cups without delivering his best performances in Argentina 1978, Mexico 96, and United State 94. In 1986, he played all four games, scoring in the 2-1 victory over Belgium, but he missed a penalty kick in the 1-1 tie against Paraguay. In the quarterfinal against Germany, he was hardly a factor. Photo: Mexsport
- With Mexico he played 58 official matches, scoring 29 goals. He won the Gold Cup in 1993, but will be remembered for the controversy in the 1994 World Cup where he refused to play in the position the manager, Miguel Mejia Baron, shoes for him. After the loss against Germany, Sanchez criticized the manager. Photo: Reproducción Internet
- In the 1996-1997 campaign, Hugo played for Celaya where he reunited with two of his former Real Madrid teammates, Emilio Butragueno and Michel. Photo: Mexsport
- In 2000, he played in a legacy match for Cabinho where he played with Pumas for the last time and first expressed interest in managing the team. Photo: Mexsport
- After his retirement, he focused on transitioning to being a manager. He began with Pumas in the summer of 2000, taking the team to the semifinals through he was let go due to issues with the front office. Photo: Mexsport
- He would return after a short recess in the Winter of 2001 where he would begin building one of the best teams he ever coached. Photo: Mexsport
- After various attempts to reach the final, the great prize finally came in the Clausura 2004 after defeating Chivas in penalty kicks. Hugo finally got the title that vindicated his career as a manager. Photo: Mexsport
- The title with Hugo was the first for Pumas in 13 years, returning the team to the championship and becoming a fan favorite despite his controversies. Photo: Mexsport
- From the stands, Hugo generated controversy for his behavior and complaints. He was distinguished for throwing off his coat and covering his face with his shirt. Photo: Mexsport
- 2004 would become one of the best years in the history of Pumas, even defeating Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabeu, a great success for Sanchez back in his second home. Photo: Mexsport
- After an irregular season to qualify in eight place in the Liguilla, Pumas defended its title, defeating Monterrey in the Apertura 2004. The last team to defend its title in the Mexican League. Photo: Mexsport
- Hugo Sanchez celebrates with his son as Pumas became the only Mexican team to win two titles in one year. Photo: Mexsport
- After his success with Pumas, things slowly shifted as he took the team closet o relegation, including various problems with players in the locker room. He would finally get the opportunity he always dreamed of: becoming head coach of the national team in 2006. Photo: Mexsport
- Hugo’s debut with the national team was less than stellar; he began his tenure with a 2-1 loss against the United States on February 7, 2007. Photo: Mexsport
- During his time with the team, Hugo coached a total of 18 games, including the Olympic qualifiers for Beijing 2008. Photo: Mexsport
- The first stumble for Hugo was a loss against the United States in the Gold Cup, leaving Mexico out of the 2009 Confederations Cup. Photo: Mexsport
- The biggest accomplishments for Sanchez was winning third place in the 2007 Venezuela Copa America. Photo: Mexsport
- Things took a downturn when Hugo took the reins of the U-23 Olympic team looking for a spot in Beijing 2008. It was a total failure, and Mexico could find no way to score and was eliminated. The manager was forced to resign on March 31, 2008. Photo: Mexsport
- The criticism from the fans and media was evident, and Hugo Sanchez was made responsible as Mexico was left out of the Games. Photo: Mexsport
- The Mexican manager looked to get revenge when an opportunity came up in Spain to coach Almeria in December of 2008. Photo: Mexsport
- During Almeria’s visit to the Santiago Bernabeu that season, the Real Madrid fans gave a small ovation to the Mexican star. Photo: Mexsport
- A year later, in 2009, he was let go as manager after poor results and a los against Espanyol. Photo: Mexsport
- Almost three years later, after not finding a spot with a European club, Hugo Sanchez returned to Mexican soccer to coach Pachuca for the 2012 Apertura season. Photo: Mexsport
- Hugo faces a serious challenge with the Tuxos, as the front office has spent a lot of Money to ensure a championship. Photo: Mexsport
- For the first match of the season he will face one of his storied rivals, Ricardo La Volpe, who returned to Mexico to coach Atlante. Photo: Mexsport