Emilio Butragueno appeared on the international scene just as the BBC were getting used to pronouncing the phonetic nightmare 'Severiano Ballesteros'. Proud as they were for finally getting to grips with the golfer's name, they had terrible problems with the new star from Real Madrid, insisting on pronouncing his surname 'Butragwaynyo'. In fact, they never got it right. The notoriously tongue-tied David Coleman was indeed happy to learn that the player's nickname was the 'Vulture' (el Buitre), and used the easier alternative whenever he was assigned to commentate on a game featuring Spain. The period best known and cherished by a large proportion of Madridistas, that of the Quinta del Buitre, is a curiously resonant one. The Spanish - not just the Madrid variety - have a curious penchant for naming eras and periods of time, as if they had some national need to all agree on what was happening, at any specific moment in time in I heir history. Since Real Madrid have set the template for Spanish football since the 1950s, their periods, as we have seen, have all been named, signed and rubber-stamped into folk consciousness. And of course the quinta appeared after a period of relative crisis at the club -like a new lover who benefits from the 'rebound'.
'La Quinta del Buitre' means roughly The Vulture Squadron', but does not easily translate. The scavenger in question was thus called for his habit of arriving and finishing off the kill that others had set in motion. He was to gradually replace Sanrillana as the king of the terraces up until the mid-'90s when he was in turn replaced by the present monarch, Raul. The word quinta is borrowed from military service, and refers to the group of buddies with whom you coincided during this potato-peeling year and with whom you might have remained in contact afterwards. With the appearance of this group of friends, Madrid could at last boast that one of its great periods stemmed from local roots, all five of the original quinta having done their Castilla apprenticeship. More importantly, they were all Madrilenos apart from Pardeza, who was perhaps the least important figure of the five. The quinta restored the concept of Madridtsmo and repositioned it at the centre of things, within a heady mix of popular culture and sport. The phenomenon turned up at the right moment, just as the movida Madrilena (Madrid scene) was flowering - a period of musical and cultural dynamism that was diverting attention away from Barcelona and back to the capital.
It rekindled Madrid's self-confidence, converting the phrase into something strangely magical for Real Madrid supporters. It has also lent Butragueno legendary status, one that certain detractors claim he does not deserve on the basis that the quinta has been lent a mythical status above and beyond the sum of its parts. There may be some truth in this, but as we shall see, the main factor for the doubting Toms was the squad's inability to endorse the period with a European Cup, with the elusive septima (seventh Cup). In an interviewed Jorge Valdano for this book he was equally effusive about his ex-teammate Butraguegno, and it was obvious that he meant it. In answer to my question about whether Madrid's supporters had always tended to perhaps over-appreciate 'gutsy workers with skill', he made the interesting point that Butragueno represented the death of this concept at the Bernabeu, replacing it with a more sensitive feel towards the football aesthetic. As far as the five are concerned, the one who ranks highest in the Top 100 centenary poll is Michel, at number 9. Butragueno comes in second at number 11, Sanchis third at 16, then Vasquez at 48. Pardeza does not figure, perhaps due to spending his best years at Zaragoza.
The first two to be promoted from the ranks of Castilla by Di Stefano were the defender Manuel Sanchis and the midfielder Martin Visquez, in a 0-1 win at Murcia in 1984. Sanchis, who managed 40 goals in a record 689 appearances for the club, actually scored his first that evening in Murcia. He was to become the only member of the quinta to soldier on and finally lift a European Cup in 1998 and 2000, dedicating the first trophy to his four squadron friends, by then all retired. Though Sanchis was a hero in Madrid circles, John Toshack, on the final day of his first spell as manager of the club in 1991, was to say of the veteran defender that he was, The worst person it has ever been my misfortune to meet'. It is not known what Sanchis thought of Toshack, but the Welshman was taking the lid off the alleged darker side of the group, in an acid reference to the power that the quinta were supposed to have established by then in the dressing-room of the Bernabeu, as well as in the presidential corridors and in the national side. Toshack had cause to regret his little speech when he returned to the club eight years later, and Sanchis was still there. Toshack had been brought back from Turkey by the stressed-out President Sanz, desperate for results and searching for a hard-man to sort out the swollen egos in the astronomically expensive squad. Sanchis' nearest contemporary, Vazquez, went on to play in Italy for Torino, a rare example of a Spaniard who travelled well. He had, nevertheless, left the club under a cloud, arguing with the old president Mendoza after the latter had refused to pay him more money. On returning to Spain he ended up at Deportivo de La Corufla, managed inevitably by John Toshack.
Pardeza, originally from Huelva, was the third to appear, followed by the Vulture, who lent his name to the group. A falsely mythical status he may have accrued, but he figures in the other hfarca poll as one of the members of the all-time Real Madrid top 11. One of the players alongside him in this pantheon of greats, Di Stefano, must take much of the credit for the appearance of the quinta, though he has always been at pains to play down his role in their emergence, claiming that it was just a case of good luck for him to have been around when the eggs were hatching. Though his period as manager of Madrid was brief and unsuccessful in terms of trophies, he did indeed see to the nurturing and development of the quinta. When Butragueno joined the club in 1980 as a 17-year-old apprentice, he went to training every day on his motor scooter. Di Stefano, on spotting him driving in one morning, told him that he would have to come by some other means, given that a player had to look after his main asset, his body. The young Emilio did as he was ordered, but one Saturday evening took his Vespa down town to see some friends. Hearing the blare of a horn behind him, he glanced into his mirror to see a red-faced Di Stefano, shaking his fist and cursing at him from behind the wheel of his car. He sold the bike soon after.
Butragueno, one of the club's vice-presidents and its General Director of Football during the second half of the Perez era, still looks as if he goes home every night to his mum. He still has the delicate looks, the boyish Peter Pan face, the curly fair hair and the slight frame that once made him look more like an angelic schoolboy than a footballer. No footballer had ever looked quite like him. Born and raised in the centre of Madrid, he helped out in his parents' perfume shop and played football at the weekends with family and friends, never really considering himself to be a potential professional. His father was a paid-up member of Real Madrid, but had not played to any significant level. When it was suggested that Emilio go for a trial to Atletico Madrid after scoring 8 goals for his school team at the age of 15, he almost fell into the clutches of the red and white rival, a fate that almost befell Raul ten years later. His father was on the point of signing an agreement with Atletico when a family friend (Juan Gallego), who was also manager of the Real Juniors side persuaded him to hang fire until he had given the youngster the once-over - just in case. Butragueno, a humble youth, told his father on returning home that he had played fatal (badly), but the official report on him that day noted that,
Three days later he signed apprentice forms, and in a friendly match at San Lorenzo, Luis Molowny, ex-player and manager, wandered along to see the game. After half an hour he sought out Gallego and exclaimed, 'Who the fuck is that weird-looking kid playing up front? Where did you find him? He's a genius.' Perhaps more ruthless than genius, if only in the goalscoring sense, for he never hurt a fly, was rarely booked, and his ability was based more on avoiding physical contact than actively seeking it. He must have been the perfect five-a-side player, the man to have on your side during the one-touch training sessions. Michel recalled that he could always rely on Butragueno to read his intentions. Michel, rated as one of Spain's best ever crossers of the ball, pointed out that it was the Vulture's art of the desmarque that was his greatest virtue - the ability to hang square in a line with the defence then suddenly break for the space when the ball was delivered. Watching a video of Butraguegno's career, it is remarkable the number of times Michel knocks the ball forward and the Vulture sprints out from the ruck to score. But the goals are never hammered home, never scrambled in untidily. He keeps his head and places the ball carefully home, or feints subtly to one side and taps it in. They are almost all unspectacular goals - a flick here, a chip there, quiet little efforts that became his killer's trademark. He managed 140 goals in 340 league appearances, 25 in 71 European appearances and 15 in 39 King's Cup games, plus 26 for the national side. He won six leagues with Madrid, two UEFA Cups and two King's Cups - not a bad haul.
|A very young Emilio Butragueno with Real Madrid shirt|