José Maria Zárraga: Winner of five European Cups with Real Madrid

In any credible list of football's greatest matches, Real Madrid's 7-3 dismembering of Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1960 European Cup final would rank highly.

Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskás, who shared all Real's goals, enhanced global reputations which endure to this day. Yet their captain in Glasgow, José Maria Zárraga, remained a relatively unsung figure except among Madridistas of a certain age.

In a team brimming with invention, with Francisco Gento and Luis Del Sol also sending 127,000 spectators away from Hampden Park feeling that they had witnessed artistry from another galaxy, Zárraga supplied industry as a ball-winning, defensive midfielder. He was a "water-carrier", to use the term Eric Cantona applied to France's World Cup-winning captain of 1998, Didier Deschamps; the counterweight to more flamboyant players that successful sides need (although his pass also initiated the move for Di Stefano's equaliser after Eintracht had the temerity to score first).

Intriguingly, given the contempt in which fans in the Basque Country and Catalonia hold Real – stemming from the perception of them as the sporting arm of Franco's fascist government – Zárraga was also a Basque. Acknowledging the hostility they faced at away grounds, he claimed that their polyglot team were "completely insulated against local atmosphere," adding: "We carry our own ivory tower around with us."

Hailing from Getxo, near Bilbao, he was playing in Spain's third division for his local team, Arenas, when a Real scout arrived to assess their left-half. His report noted that the right-half, Zárraga, was better, quicker and able to use both feet. He joined Real in 1949, five days before his 19th birthday, and spent the next two years in their second team, Plus Ultra.

Real Madrid had won only two Liga titles, the most recent two decades earlier, when he made his debut against Valencia in 1951. By the time he retired 11 years later, they had added six championships, one Spanish Cup, and, in a run that created the aura which made Real arguably the world's most popular club, they lifted the European Cup in each of the first five seasons it was staged.

A measure of this achievement can be gauged from the fact that no team has won back-to-back Champions League finals since the competition was revamped in 1992. And from the Parc des Princes, Paris in 1956 to that spring rampage in Scotland, Zárraga, Di Stefano and Gento were the only players to appear in every final.

In a policy which found echoes during the modern era in the expensive signings of "Galácticos" such as David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo, Real constructed their hegemony on the capture of a new star every season. In 1952 it was Gento: then came Di Stefano, Puskás, José Héctor Rial, the Brazilians Canario and Didi, and Raymond Kopa, from Rheims of France, who Zárraga had marked in the first European Cup final. Amid all the glamour, however, he had no delusions of grandeur.

Not long after Real had finally lost a European tie, to Barcelona of all teams, after a 1960 match in which the English referee, Reg Leafe, disallowed four "goals" by them, he described his style in The Real Madrid Book of Football. "I'm a practical player, not a brilliant one. My task is functional, not decorative. I never cease to work or harass my opponent. Football must be played hard. I've been told I could pass for an English player, in my strength at least. Because I play the man close, I'm often accused of being tough, (but) this is a glib way of dismissing the type of player I am."

A total of 96 goals in 306 matches in all competitions for Real indicated that there was more to his game than preventing others from playing. But even among colleagues, his qualities were not always recognised. Gento, naming his fantasy "World XI", included nine current or ex-Real players, yet he omitted Zárraga and named Barcelona's Joan Segarra in the left-half berth he usually occupied.

Zárraga won eight international caps, the first in a 1-1 draw with England at his home stadium in 1955, when he recalled having "quite a job" helping Spain's left-back contain 40-year-old Stanley Matthews. He ended his own playing career rather earlier, just before he turned 32, and went on to coach Malaga and Real Murcia. Having recovered from a stroke in 1993, he died the day before Real Madrid routed Apoel Nicosia 5-2 to join Barcelona in the semi-finals of the competition whose mystique he helped to create.

José María Zárraga, footballer: born Las Arenas, Spain 15 August 1930; played for Arenas 1948-49, Plus Ultra 1949-51, Real Madrid 1951-62; capped 8 times by Spain; died Madrid 3 April 2012.

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
newsChester Zoo have revealed their newest members
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
News
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Insight Manager

£40000 - £43000 Per Annum plus company bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Hydrographic Survey Manager

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Structural Engineer

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Structural Engineer Job...

Commercial Litigation

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHELTENHAM - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - A...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape