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In the autumn of 1963, the notion of coaches touring Europe to swot up on the latest tactical trends was almost unheard of, but the repercussions of one particular trip would ripple across European football for years to come.
At the instigation of the Scottish Daily Express newspaper, Dunfermline Athletic FC manager Jock Stein and his Kilmarnock FC counterpart Willie Waddell visited Italy to study the methods of Helenio Herrera, the groundbreaking Argentinian coach of FC Internazionale Milano, a man who reportedly slept with a model of a football pitch beside his bed.
The visit changed the entranced Scots' lives – and their careers. "Jock saw Herrera was a man who lived football," said Waddell, who left Kilmarnock to become a journalist before taking over at Rangers FC in 1969, "a man with the single-mindedness and driving urge to get the best out of his players."
On leaving Milan, both men would embrace the previously unknown concept of being a 'tracksuit manager'. One – former winger Waddell – would use the defensive template to win Kilmarnock their first league title in 1965. The other – erstwhile centre-half Stein – would dedicate himself to discovering how to break down Europe's finest defences.
Stein never forgot the lessons learned during his trip to Milan. In December 1965, shortly after taking over at Celtic FC, he saw Scotland lose to Italy in Naples. Afterwards, Stein took Herrera's most articulate player, Giacinto Facchetti, to a hotel bar where, with the aid of diagrams scrawled on napkins, he picked the goalscoring left-back's brains until the early hours.
In 1967, with a team made up of players all born within 50km of Celtic's Parkhead ground, Stein's Bhoys reached the European Champions Clubs' Cup final. The Scottish side's opponents in Lisbon? Herrera's Inter.
The Italian champions went into the final as clear favourites, but Stein was quietly confident. "
We don't just want to win this cup, we want to do it playing good football, to make neutrals glad we won," he said.
Under Herrera, Inter block-booked their Muxito hotel and kept themselves isolated. The players fretted about being over-trained and, as midfielder Sandro Mazzola admitted later: "We started to be frightened of losing." Stein was more relaxed and Celtic's Estoril base was almost an open house to media and fans alike.
Before the final, Stein put his knowledge to good use, telling his left-back Tommy Gemmell: "Your job is to play like Facchetti, to think like Facchetti, to be Facchetti."
The match at the Estádio Nacional began to play out as expected, with Inter going in front early through Mazzola's well-taken penalty. Instead of subduing Stein's men, the goal seemed to inspire them. The manager's homework started to pay off as Celtic pinned their illustrious opponents back, passing shortly and accurately.
Inter's Catenaccio system left gaps for full-backs Jim Craig and Gemmell to rampage forward, and the Inter defenders were drawn out to the flanks to try and stem the threat. "
It felt like there were 22 Scottish players shooting at us from every direction," said Inter centre-back Aristide Guarneri.
Gemmell was so good at playing – and thinking – like Facchetti that he equalised just after the hour mark. When Steve Chalmers put Celtic ahead with seven minutes remaining, the Inter players were almost relieved. Captain Armando Picchi later confessed: "Extra time would have brought a drubbing."
After the final whistle, Stein was ecstatic: "I cannot find the words. These are the greatest bunch of boys I have ever met."
Herrera, the man who had shared his thinking with Stein, was beaten. Between 1964 and 1967, 'il Mago' (the Wizard) had won the European Cup twice with Inter and led them to another final and semi-final. After this mauling by the Lisbon Lions, he moved on, joining AS Roma in 1968. He never won another European trophy.
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