Part of the famed 'La Quinta del Buitre', Manuel Sanchís reflects on 1998 UEFA Champions League glory ahead of Real Madrid CF's semi-final second leg against FC Bayern München.
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By the time Manuel Sanchís retired in 2001, the former Real Madrid CF defender had amassed 524 Liga appearances and won eight championship medals and two UEFA Champions League titles, while claiming back-to-back UEFA Cup honours in the mid-1980s. The one-club man reminisces about former coach Jupp Heynckes, who paved the way for Madrid to reclaim their place among Europe's elite but will be in the FC Bayern München dugout for Wednesday's semi-final second leg.
UEFA.com: The 1998 UEFA Champions League was an important moment for all Madrid fans. What memories do you have of that day?
Sanchís: The final was possibly the most important game in Real Madrid's history. That's not to say the other eight weren't but the club had been waiting for 32 years. In all that time the hunger had been growing among the fans, the players and the club, and you can imagine the desire we had when the day came. My most memorable moment was the time between our goal in the 66th minute and the final whistle. It must have felt like an eternity for people commentating or watching the game, but for me, it ended in a heartbeat. After we scored, the time flew by.
UEFA.com: So was there a lot of pressure on that team, reaching the final after those 32 years? Or did you feel more hope than pressure?
Sanchís: No, there was tremendous pressure. It was enormous. There were players in their first season at Madrid, and for them it was a completely new experience. In fact, they must have thought after the game how easy it was to win the Champions League. However, for me it was different because I had been there for 15 years without winning the Champions League. I had experienced a semi-final but we lost to PSV on away goals. On top of that, the club hadn't won it for 32 years, so there was a lot of pressure.
UEFA.com: The coach whom Madrid are facing now is Jupp Heynckes, who at that time was your boss at the Santiago Bernabéu. How important was Jupp was for that squad back then?
Sanchís: He was the person who made all the tactical decisions. He also had to make sure the squad was mentally prepared; it was a complicated year. The other day I had the chance to speak with him and he agreed it was a difficult time. In the league, we had a poor season and when you aren't winning league games, it's very difficult to find any sort of consistency. It is also difficult to find the necessary concentration to perform at a high level during the Champions League knockout stage. But he succeeded in getting us into a mental state, whereby we forgot about our league woes and gave our best in Europe.
UEFA.com: What do you think is the most important quality of Heynckes, or his main abilities as a coach?
Sanchís: He manages to create very balanced teams. There are certain coaches who rely on a strong defensive structure, and there are others who let their teams attack, utilising the qualities of their forwards. I think Jupp Heynckes is someone who creates a balance between defence and attack and as a result his teams are strong.
UEFA.com: Do you see that as a similarity between your team and this current Bayern side?
Sanchís: Yes, perhaps that is the most important point. Heynckes puts a big emphasis on balancing defensive and attacking work on the training ground. He builds a solid team with an ability to close the game out, or open it up when necessary. When teams aren't balanced they fail to possess these qualities. He brought that quality to the '98 Madrid team and I noticed that the current Bayern side operate in a very similar way.