MADRID: Jose Maria Zarraga, captain of the Real Madrid team who beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in the ‘greatest game of all time’ – the 1960 European Champions Cup Final – has died at the age of 81.
Zarraga was one of only three players – Alfredo Di Stefano and Francisco Gento were the others – who played in all five of Madrid’s historic European winning sequence in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He played lefthalf – a defensive midfield role – in four of the finals and at leftback in an injury emergency in 1959.
The 1960 final, in front of a record final crowd of 135,000 at Hampden Park, Glasgow, was the peak of Madrid’s achievements. They hit back to win after going 1-0 down early on with four goals from Ferenc Puskas and three from Di Stefano.
He played eight times for Spain and scored 96 goals in 306 appearances for Madrid over 13 years. His loss follows the death last month of another of Madrid’s heroes from that era, fellow defender Marcos Alonso know as Marquitos.
Zarraga, Basque-born student of medicine, retired in 1962 after a gala friendly match against Manchester United in the Estadio Bernabeu. He was later a coach and, at one stage, general manager of Valencia and then Alaves. During the latter stint he was responsible for bringing the young Jorge Valdano into Spanish football.
Zarraga was honoured with a minute’s silence before last night’s Champions League tie between Madrid and APOEL Nicosia and the team wore black armbands as a mark of respect.
# # # #