MADRID: One old Real Madrid favourite, Iker Casillas, had led the tributes to an older one, Manuel Velazquez, who has died aged 72.
Velazquez was a playmaker in the all-Spanish Madrid team, nicknamed Ye-Ye, who won the club’s sixth European Champions Cup by defeating Partizan Belgrade 2-1 in Brussels in 1966.
Born in Madrid on January 23, 1943, Velazquez was a club youth product who spent 12 years at the Estadio Bernabeu between 1965 and 1977 as a professional before winding down his career in Canada with Toronto Metros-Croatia.
Previously he had also had loan spells with Rayo Vallecano and Malaga and was an amateur champion of Spain with Madrid in 1962.
Velazquez scored 59 goals in 402 senior appearances for Madrid, winning six league titles and three Spanish cups as well as playing 10 times for the national team.
President Florentino Perez described Velazquez as one of the most successful youth products in the club’s history and Casillas, who similarly rose through the ranks before moving last summer to Porto, described him as a “club legend”.
Madrid’s players wore black armbands as a gesture of respect for last weekend’s 5-1 win over Gijon which was preceded by a minute’s silence.
The midfielder made over 400 appearances for Madrid and scored 59 goals, while he also won 10 international caps for Spain before ending his career with Toronto Metros-Croatia in 1978.
Velazquez’s hero as a youngster had been Ferenc Puskas and he always admitted to mixed emotions that he took over the No10 shirt for the 1966 Champions Cup final while the veteran Hungarian watched from the stands.
Six years later it was Velazquez’s turn to take a career step back after Madrid signed West German European Championship-winning playmaker Gunter Netzer.
Later he recalled: ”Puskas was my idol. I admired Di Stéfano and Gento, two wonderful superstars, but Pancho had something special about him. As I’d been born and brought up in the Calle Víctor Andrés Belaunde, 300m from the Bernabéu,
“I was his greatest fan. I’d skip school sometime to sneak into the stadium and watch them all training – but Puskas above all.”