PARIS: Michel Hidalgo, Euro-winning coach of France and one of the last survivors of the teams who contested the inaugural Champions Cup Final, has died aged 87 writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Hidalgo made his name originally as an outside right with Le Havre. In the 1956 European Cup Final he put Reims 3-2 ahead against Real Madrid but the Spanish champions recovered to win 4-3. Ironically Hidalgo was one of identical twin sons of an exiled Spanish metalworker.
Francisco Gento is the only Madrid veteran still alive along with a Reims trio of leftback Raoul Giraudo, lefthalf Robert Siatka and left winger Jean Templin.
Hidalgo was a champion of France once with Reims and twice with Monaco with whom he also won two French cups and appeared on one occasion for the national team. He chaired the French players’ association and helped found the international footballers’ union FIFPRO.
Above all, Hidalgo will be best remembered as national coach of France in the 1980s. In 1982 they lost a dramatic World Cup semi-final to West Germany on penalties but then triumphed as European Championship hosts two years later under the playing inspiration of captain and top scorer Michel Platini.
Hidalgo then stepped down as was appointed general manager by Marseille where he became caught up in the corruptions scandals swirling around owner Bernard Tapie. Hidalgo was sentenced to a suspended eight-month jail term despite denying all wrongdoing.
Platini, later manager of France himself and subsequently UEFA president, was among the many who paid tribute to his old boss.
He said: “My first match for France [against Czechoslovakia in 1976] was also his first match so we started and grew together. Michel was not a great tactician but a man who knew who he could trust and how to select the right players.”
Noel Le Graet, the French federation president, said: “Michel Hidalgo has been one of the biggest names in French football. Through his style of play, his personality, his exemplary passion, he contributed to the influence of our sport at international level, and to its popularity in France. He inspired incredible emotions that will stay with us forever.”
** Michel Hidalgo: born March 22, 1933; died March 26, 2020.