Monday, November 9, 2009

9 November 1997 - Herrera's Last Departure

On 9 November 1997, 87-year old Helenio Herrera died in Venice from heart failure. Nicknamed "Il Mago," Herrera is remembered chiefly as one of the chief architects of catenaccio, the defensive strategy that helped Inter claim two European Cup trophies.

Herrera was born in Argentina to Spanish parents, but moved to Morocco at the age of four where he became a French citizen. He started his playing career in Morocco, but moved to Paris in 1932 and played for a number of French teams. In 1944, he joined Puteaux for one season as a player-manager, then retired from playing in 1945.

After undistinguished stints at Stade Français (1945-48) and Real Valladolid (1948-49), Herrera took over at Atlético Madrid where he was an instant success, winning the league in his first two seasons. After his third season, however, he left and started a journey that took him to five different Spanish and Portugeuse clubs over the next seven years, including a successful period with Barcelona (1958-60).

In 1960, he moved to Inter, where he developed the style that made him famous. He used a 5-3-2 formation called the verrou (Italian for "door bolt"), which used four fixed defenders, plus a sweeper who patrolled the area between the defenders and the keeper and who was responsible for stopping anyone who made it through the defense. The formation also used the defensive back line to launch rapid counter-attacks.

Although the formation did not originate with Herrera, it became popular after the 1964 European Cup Final in which Inter defeated Real Madrid, 3-1. It was widely adopted in Italy and became known as catenaccio.

Herrera left Inter in 1968, having won three league titles (1963, 1965, 1966), another European Cup (1965), and two Intercontinental Cups (1964, 1965). He retired in 1981.

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