Santiago Bernabéu Yeste

Santiago Bernabéu Yeste

Santiago Bernabéu Yeste (June 8, 1895 – June 2, 1978) was one of the single most important men in Real Madrid's history, and the one to whom credit can be given for transforming Real Madrid from the second most successful club in Madrid into the most successful in Spain, and one of the most successful in Europe. The team's current stadium is named in his honour.

Youth

Born in Almansa (Albacete), the 8th of June, 1895, Bernabéu's family moved to Madrid when he was very young, and Bernabéu himself joined the Real Madrid junior ranks in 1909 at age 14, after being a regular spectator at their matches for years.

In 1912 when the club moved to its new location on O'Donnell street, Bernabéu was one of the volunteers who helped lay the pitch and paint the fences. He went on to join the first team at age 17 and recorded over 1200 goals as a striker, as well as wearing the captain's armband for years, before retiring as a player in 1927. He continued to be associated with the club until 1935, first as a director, before becoming assistant manager and finally manager of the first team. With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, professional football ceased to be played in Spain. During the war he fought as a soldier for the fascists under the general Muñoz Grandes and formed part of the invasion of Catalonia by Franco's nationalist forces.

Post-War Accomplishments

When the war ended and football began again in Spain, Bernabéu found at Real Madrid what was, to all intents and purposes, a dead club. The, or administration (several had been killed or disappeared during the war) and even some of the club's trophies from their early years had been stolen. What's more, at the time the establishment club was Atlético Madrid (re-named Atlético Aviación, the Air-Force's team) and Real Madrid did not receive any government help in rebuilding. Bernabéu proceeded to spend the next several months finding and contacting former players, directors, and club members, eventually restructuring the club. In 1943, after fan violence following a Real Madrid victory over FC Barcelona the government imposed a salomonic solution, forcing the Presidents of both clubs to resign, and Bernabéu was elected President of Real Madrid - a position he would occupy until his death on June 2, 1978. Success did not come immediately, however. The club was still in very poor shape and other clubs, such as the aforementioned Atlético, Barcelona, and Athletic Bilbao had very strong teams.

Bernabéu began to implant his ideas. He restructured the club at all levels, in what would become the normal operating structure of professional clubs in the future, giving every section and level of the club independent technical teams and recruiting people who were ambitious and visionary in their own right, such as Raimundo Saporta. He then endeavoured to build what would become the stadium that today bears his name, at the time the largest stadium in all of Europe, it was remarked as being "too much of a stadium for so little a club". The Ciudad Deportiva, built so that the players could train without destroying the stadium's pitch, was also constructed during these years. Finally, he embarked upon an ambitious strategy of signing world-class players from abroad, the most prominent of them being Alfredo Di Stéfano, and built the world's first truly multinational side. During Bernabéu's presidency many of Real Madrid's most legendary names played for the club, including Molowny, Muñoz, Di Stéfano, Gento, Rial, Santamaría, Kopa, Puskás, Amancio, Pirri, Netzer, Santillana, Juanito, Camacho and many more.

Influence in Europe and Legacy

In 1955, acting upon the idea proposed by the L'Equipe journalist Gabriel Hanot and building upon the Copa Latina (a tournament involving clubs from France, Spain, Portugal and Italy), Bernabéu met in the Ambassador Hotel in Paris with Bedrignan and Gustav Sebes and created what today is known as the Champions' League. Under the administration of UEFA, it is the world's premier club tournament. Before dying, Bernabéu had been the club's president for 35 years, during which he won 1 Intercontinental Cup, 6 European Cups, 16 League titles, and 6 Spanish Cups. He died in 1978, while the World Cup was being played in Argentina. In his honor FIFA decreed three days of mourning during the tournament.

In 2002 he was posthumously awarded FIFA Order of Merit.

External links

* [http://www.fifa.com/events/playergala/MR_A/48860_E.html Profile at FIFA.com]
* [http://www.realmadridfans.net/sbernabeu.htm Biography (in Spanish)]


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