Legendary Argentine World Cup Coach César Luis Menotti Dies at 85


In a profound loss to Argentina and the footballing universe, César Luis Menotti, the remarkable coach who charted the course to Argentina’s first acclaimed World Cup title in 1978, bid adieu to the world, in an official announcement made by the Argentine Football Association on a solemn Sunday. Menotti, affectionately called ‘Flaco’ – the Spanish epithet for ‘thin one’ – was 85 at the time of his passing.

“Adios, dear Flaco!” paid tribute the Football Association, leaving the cause of his demise undisclosed. Local intelligence networks hinted that Menotti grappled with grave anemia, leading to his admission in a clinic in the fading days of March. A surgical procedure for phlebitis reportedly took place a month later, post which Menotti made his way back home.

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Menotti was an enchanting persona, his undying passion for the sport paired perfectly with his uncanny knack to dissect and explain the intricacies of the beautiful game. His legacy is revered as he cemented his place as one of the pivotal figures who etched a new dimension into Argentine soccer.

Off the pitch, Menotti was known for his active political involvement, aligning himself with the Argentine Communist Party, a penchant for boxing, and a discerning taste for the literary marvels of Latin American writers including, but not limited to, Mario Benedetti, Gabriel García Márquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Mario Sábato and Joan Manuel Serrat.

In one of Menotti’s memorable dialogues, he recollected being interviewed by Borges. Upon his inquiry if his smoking habbit was bothersome, Borges replied: ‘What intoxicates me is not the cigarette, but the stupid conversations.’ Menotti used to add with a twinkle, “So, I asked about everything … but not about soccer, because I know about soccer!”

His enviable career was initiated as a player for Rosario Central, with stints at Racing Club, Boca Juniors, all Argentine clubs. His remarkable talent took him across borders, playing for the New York Generals, Brazil’s Santos, and Italy’s Juventus.

At Santos, he played along with the revered Pele whom he unabashedly touted as the best player among legends. Menotti became the coach of the Argentine national team from 1974 to 1983, and earnestly believed the team’s World Cup triumph in 1978 was overlooked due to the country’s military regime then, known for its widespread human rights abuses.

Menotti’s tenure also includes coaching Mexico’s national team (1991-1992), fueling the pursuit of excellence for teams including Barcelona (1983-1984), Atletico Madrid (1987-88), Uruguay’s Penarol (1990-1991), Italy’s Sampdoria (1997), and Mexico’s Tecos (2007).

Known for his signature long hair and a dangling cigarette, Menotti was an intriguing figure. However, he hung up this habit after a hospitalization due to his tobacco addiction in 2011. Unused to hairstylists, he proudly disclosed, “I cut my own hair. I take the scissors, I cut the ends.”

In his autumn years, Menotti adopted a philosophical approach towards mortality. He once stated, “It’s the only thing I’m sure of. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t died at some point.” Indeed, he may be gone, but his indelible imprint on Argentina’s football history will forever remain.