Club Atlético de Madrid's Diego Simeone can become the first non-European coach to lift the European Cup since 1965 – and the two previous winning coaches from outside Europe were also Argentinian.
In contrast to the subsequent domination of the competition by European technicans, it took only three editions of the embryonic European Champion Clubs' Cup for a South American to guide a team to glory. Luis Antonio Carniglia – aka 'Yiyo' – led Real Madrid CF to their third and fourth continental crowns, starting with the 1958 final against AC Milan, a club he later managed.
Famed for his stubborn character, Carniglia got the best out of stars such as Alfredo Di Stéfano, Héctor Rial and Francisco Gento, all scorers in the 3-2 triumph over Milan in Brussels. Born in Buenos Aires, and originally a forward with CA Boca Juniors, OGC Nice and SC Toulon, 'Yiyo' once said: "People accuse me of being surly, which isn't true. What I have is character. I say what I feel, what I think. I tell the truth. I demand hard work and discipline. If I see something isn't working, I will say so."
Those demands were evident when Hungarian great Ferenc Puskás arrived at the Santiago Bernabéu a few months after that 1958 success. "I don't know what I can do with that man, he is significantly overweight," said Carniglia, who had simultaneously steered Madrid to the Spanish title. The 'Galloping Major' was promptly put to work on the training pitch, losing 12kg – and duly hit four hat-tricks in his first Liga campaign.
Puskás, however, missed the 1959 European Cup decider which Madrid won 2-0 against Stade de Reims in Stuttgart, with Enrique Mateos and Di Stéfano on target. "Madrid were completely on top in the second half," said Carniglia. "We were far superior to the French team."
The Argentinian's 27-month reign ended in July 1959, however. It was five years later that his compatriot Helenio Herrera got his hands on the trophy. Like Simeone, Herrera was born and bred in Palermo, Buenos Aires's largest barrio, and that is not all the pair have in common. 'Il Mago' – the wizard – also coached Club Atlético de Madrid, winning the Liga in 1950 and 1951.
Initially a defender in Morocco and France, Herrera also oversaw two championship triumphs with FC Barcelona before joining FC Internazionale Milano in 1960 and directing their back-to-back European Cup victories of 1964 and 1965. One of the first trainers to extensively use motivational techniques, and a strong believer in team spirit and togetherness, Herrera fine-tuned the catenaccio system on which 'La Grande Inter' were founded.
Two-goal Sandro Mazzola and Aurelio Milani helped Inter past Madrid in a 3-1 Vienna success in 1964 before, 12 months later, Jair's solitary strike made the difference against SL Benfica at San Siro. His Nerazzurri also contested the 1967 final yet fell 2-1 to Celtic FC in Lisbon, venue for this season's showpiece. "We can have no complaints," Herrera said. "Celtic deserved their victory. We lost but the match was a victory for sport." Simeone will hope for a different ending in Lisbon.
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