Helenio Herrera

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Helenio Herrera
Herrera with Inter Milan during the 1973–74 season
Personal information
Full name Helenio Herrera Gavilán
Date of birth (1910-04-10)10 April 1910
Place of birth Buenos Aires, Argentina
Date of death 9 November 1997(1997-11-09) (aged 87)
Place of death Venice, Italy
Position(s) Central defender
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
Roches Noires
1931–1932 Racing Casablanca
1932–1933 CASG Paris
1933–1935 Stade Français
1935–1937 Charleville
1937–1939 Excelsior Roubaix
1940–1942 Red Star Olympique
1942–1943 Stade Français
1943–1944 EF Paris-Capitale
1944–1945 Puteaux
Managerial career
1944–1945 Puteaux
1945–1948 Stade Français
1948–1949 Real Valladolid
1949–1952 Atlético Madrid
1952 Málaga
1953 Deportivo de La Coruña
1953–1957 Sevilla
1957–1958 Belenenses
1958–1960 Barcelona
1959–1960 Spain
1960–1968 Inter Milan
1966–1967 Italy
1968–1970 Roma
1973–1974 Inter Milan
1978–1979 Rimini
1979–1981 Barcelona
*Club domestic league appearances and goals

Helenio Herrera Gavilán (Spanish pronunciation: [eˈlenjo eˈreɾa ɣaβiˈlan]; 10 April 1910 – 9 November 1997) was an Argentine-French football player and manager. He is best remembered for his success with the Inter Milan team known as Grande Inter in the 1960s.

During his managerial career, Herrera won four La Liga titles in Spain (with Atlético Madrid and Barcelona) and three Serie A titles in Italy with Inter. He also guided Inter to European glory, winning two consecutive European Cups, among several other honours. He is regarded as one of the greatest managers of all time.[1]

Herrera was arguably the first manager to collect credit for his teams' performances,[2][3] in the process becoming a superstar in the world of football. Up to that time, managers were more marginal figures in a team. All teams throughout Europe were known for their headline-grabbing individual players, e.g. Di Stéfano's Real Madrid, whereas Inter during the 1960s is still referred to as Herrera's Inter.

Early life and playing career[edit]

Herrera was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Spanish parents. His father Francisco, who worked as a carpenter, was an exiled anarchist from Andalusia. His mother, Maria Gavilán Martínez, was a cleaner.[4] In 1920, Herrera’s family left Argentina for Casablanca, Morocco, then a French colonial city, in search of a better life. In Casablanca, Herrera started his career as a footballer.[4]

Playing as a central defender, in 1932 he earned a transfer from RC Casablanca to mainland France – CASG Paris. Before World War II, Herrera (or H.H. as he was known) played in Stade Français, Charleville (where he was called up for the national team twice) and Excelsior Roubaix. During the war, he played for five years more in Red Star Paris, Stade Français, EF Paris-Capitale and Puteaux, where he started his managing career in 1944 as a player-manager. He retired in 1945, and while his playing career was very short of notable successes, his managing career, coinciding with the early beginnings of UEFA competitions, had a marked effect on the game's tactical definitions.

Managing career[edit]

After his first season in Puteaux, Herrera rejoined Stade Français for a third time, now as manager. After three seasons with no trophies collected, the club's president opted to sell the club. Herrera moved to Spain, where he spent the next six years with Real Valladolid, Atlético Madrid (where he won La Liga in 1950 and 1951), Málaga, Deportivo de La Coruña and Sevilla, before moving to Portugal and a two-year tenure with Lisbon side Belenenses. Later, returning to Spain, he managed giants Barcelona, where he won various titles (including La Liga, twice), but several problems, including disagreements between him and star player Ladislao Kubala, forced him to leave the club in 1960.[5]

Sandro Mazzola and Herrera with Inter Milan in 1973

He immediately emigrated to Italy and signed with Inter Milan (where he was to remain until 1968), winning three Serie A titles and two European Cups during his stay with the club, where he used a 5–3–2 formation, and modified a tactic known as the Verrou (door bolt) – used by Karl Rappan – to include larger flexibility for counter-attacks; thus, the Catenaccio system was born. The side was later nicknamed Grande Inter, due to the club's successes under Herrera's eight–year spell, which saw the team win back–to–back European Cup titles in 1964 and 1965, as well as three Serie A titles, and two Intercontinental Cup titles.[5][6][7] During this time he was also coaching Spain (between 1959 and 1962) and Italy (1966–67).[5]

In 1968, Herrera moved to Roma, where he became the highest paid manager in the world, with a contract worth an estimated £150,000 per year. He won the Coppa Italia in his first season, but relations with club president Alvaro Marchini had already soured over the tragic death of his centre-forward Giuliano Taccola in the team dressing room at an away game against Cagliari. The following season, 1969–70, erratic results in the league gave Marchini the excuse to sack him.

He returned to management for a one-year stint with Inter for the 1973–74 season. Herrera then suffered a heart attack, did not want to coach full-time any more and retired in Venice, where he lived the rest of his life. While inactive between 1974 and 1978, Herrera returned briefly during the end of the decade, managing Rimini, and finally ending his career with a return to Barcelona for one-and-a-half seasons in 1980 and 1981.


Herrera (center) along with boxer Carlos Monzón (left) and colleague Juan Carlos Lorenzo

He pioneered the use of psychological motivating skills – his pep-talk phrases are still quoted today, e.g. "he who doesn't give it all, gives nothing", "with ten our team plays better than with eleven" (after his team had to face the second half of a game with only ten players on the field) and "Class + Preparation + Intelligence + Athleticism = Championships". These slogans were often plastered on billboards around the ground and chanted by players during training sessions.

He also enforced a strict discipline code, for the first time forbidding players to drink or smoke and controlling their diet – once at Inter, he suspended a player after telling the press "we came to play in Rome" instead of "we came to win in Rome". He also sent club personnel to players' homes during the week to perform '"bed-checks."[citation needed] He introduced the ritiro, a pre-match remote country hotel retreat that started with the collection of players on Thursday to prepare for a Sunday game.

He was also one of the first managers to call on the support of the "twelfth player" – the spectators. While indirectly, this led to the appearance of the first Ultras movements in the late 60s. While defensive in nature, his understanding of the Catenaccio was slightly different from that practised by other Italian teams and the original Verrou, as he often used the full backs (particularly Giacinto Facchetti) as half backs (defensively supported by the libero) to launch faster counter-attacks, a staple of Italian tactics – yet, he never denied the heart of his team relied on defence.

In 2004, Herrera's widow Fiora Gandolfi (his third wife) released a book called Tacalabala. In it, were collected sayings, sketches and notes from Herrera's notebooks and journals.[8][9]


Herrera's standard formation at Inter was the 5–3–2 system, which almost always included a sweeper (usually the team's captain, Armando Picchi), as well as four man-marking defenders.[10] He was openly dismissive of teams that had an obsession for dominating ball possession, declaring that "the ball always moves further, and more quickly, when there isn't a player behind it".[4]

Although Herrera's Barcelona side was known for playing a fluid, attacking brand of football, his pragmatic Catenaccio tactics at Inter were often criticised for producing few goals, and for being dull, overly defensive, or even destructive;[5] Herrera and several of Inter's players at the time refuted these claims, however,[5] with Herrera later stating: "The problem is that most of the ones who copied me copied me wrongly. They forgot to include the attacking principles that my Catenaccio included. I had Picchi as a sweeper, yes, but I also had Facchetti, the first full-back to score as many goals as a forward".[11]

Aside from the team's defensive strength and organisation when defending behind the ball, some of the key elements of Herrera's Grande Inter side of the 1960s were the use of vertical football and very quick, efficient counter-attacks, which allowed the team to score with few touches.[12] This was made possible due to Herrera's use of very quick and energetic, attacking full-backs, such as Giacinto Facchetti, and Tarcisio Burgnich, who would often detach themselves from the back-line, and catch their opponents by surprise with their overlapping runs.[12] Furthermore, the team's main creative force, Spanish deep-lying playmaker Luis Suárez, played a fundamental part in Inter's success during this period, due to his outstanding work-rate, technical skills, vision and passing range; these attributes enabled him to aid the team to win back possession, and subsequently launch quick attacks with accurate long balls out to the on-running full-backs, who would often go on either to score or assist the strikers.[12][13][14]

After successive European Cups in 1964 and 1965,[5] Helenio Herrera's Catenaccio style of play suffered a massive blow in the 1967 final in Lisbon, when they came up against Scottish champions Celtic of Glasgow, – nicknamed the Lisbon Lions – who consisted of a group of players who were all born within 30 miles of Celtic's home ground, Celtic Park. Celtic won the game 2–1 after coming back from a seventh-minute Mazzola penalty, with many pundits claiming this was a "victory for football" against the defensively-destructive Catenaccio.[15][16][17][18]


Helenio Herrera was nicknamed il Mago (the Wizard) and H.H. (from the initials of his name) by Italian sports journalists (who recognised him as one of the finest coaches in Italian football history), due to his success and tactical prowess, and because on occasion he would provocatively announce the results of Sunday's games, and often his prediction turned out to be correct.[10][19]

Managerial statistics[edit]

As of match played on 24 March 2023
Managerial record by team and tenure
Team Nat From To Record
G W D L Win %
Stade Français France 5 August 1945 30 June 1948 122 70 22 30 057.38
Real Valladolid Spain 4 July 1948 22 June 1949 26 10 2 14 038.46
Atlético Madrid Spain 23 June 1949 28 December 1952 115 55 19 41 047.83
Deportivo de La Coruña Spain 19 January 1953 19 July 1953 21 9 3 9 042.86
Sevilla Spain 1 August 1953 28 July 1957 138 72 16 50 052.17
Belenenses Portugal 13 August 1957 25 April 1958 19 9 4 6 047.37
Barcelona Spain 25 April 1958 30 May 1960 94 71 10 13 075.53
Inter Milan Italy 9 July 1960 30 June 1968 343 194 86 63 056.56
Spain Spain 13 March 1959 21 April 1960 6 5 0 1 083.33
Spain Spain 26 May 1962 7 June 1962 3 1 0 2 033.33
Italy (Technical Commission) Italy 1 November 1966 2 March 1967 4 3 1 0 075.00
Roma Italy 9 July 1968 5 April 1971 114 37 47 30 032.46
Roma Italy 29 August 1971 10 April 1973 62 23 20 19 037.10
Inter Milan Italy 19 July 1973 5 February 1974 24 12 7 5 050.00
Rimini Italy 5 March 1979 30 April 1979 8 1 3 4 012.50
Barcelona Spain 6 March 1980 18 June 1980 13 6 4 3 046.15
Barcelona Spain 6 November 1980 12 June 1981 36 24 6 6 066.67
Total 1,148 602 250 296 052.44



Atlético Madrid



Inter Milan




  1. ^ a b "Greatest Managers, No. 5: Herrera". ESPN FC. 8 August 2013. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  2. ^ Helenio Herrera: Perfector of Catenaccio and Architect of La Grande Inter Punditfeed.com, 7 April 2020
  3. ^ Throwback Thursday: Helenio Herrera, The Wizard of Grande Inter Cultofcalcio.com, Abdullah Bashiti 3 June 2020
  4. ^ a b c "The incomparable legacy of Helenio Herrera". 17 December 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Fox, Norman (11 November 1997). "Obituary: Helenio Herrera – Obituaries, News". The Independent. UK. Retrieved 22 April 2011.
  6. ^ "Profilo: Helenio Herrera" (in Italian). UEFA.com. 4 September 2016. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  7. ^ "Helenio Herrera: The Innovator Who Single-Handedly Changed the Beautiful Game". Sports Illustrated. 7 August 2019. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  8. ^ "Fiora Gandofi – books" (in Italian). Fioragandolfi.it. 29 April 2010. Retrieved 22 April 2011.
  9. ^ "Herrera's creative engine room: God, Freud and Yoga – Professor Champions League". FourFourTwo. 20 January 2010. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 22 April 2011.
  10. ^ a b "La Grande Inter: Helenio Herrera (1910-1997) – "Il Mago"" (in Italian). Sempre Inter. 15 October 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  11. ^ "Arrigo Sacchi is right, only Italy accepts defensive football | IFD". www.italianfootballdaily.com. Archived from the original on 7 March 2016.
  12. ^ a b c "Helenio Herrera: More than just catenaccio". www.fifa.com. FIFA.com. Archived from the original on 16 January 2017. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  13. ^ "Great Team Tactics: Breaking Down Helenio Herrera's 'La Grande Inter'". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  14. ^ "Mazzola: Inter is my second family". FIFA.com. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
  15. ^ Barham, Albert (25 May 1967). "Relentless attack captures European Cup". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
  16. ^ Forsyth, Roddy (15 May 2001). "Murdoch the true Lionheart". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  17. ^ "LOCAL HEROES: THE LISBON LIONS". Chris Hunt. June 2007. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  18. ^ "Celtic win European Cup 1967". BBC Sport. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  19. ^ "La leggenda della Grande Inter" [The legend of the Grande Inter] (in Italian). Inter.it. Archived from the original on 19 October 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  20. ^ "Hall of fame, 10 new entry: con Vialli e Mancini anche Facchetti e Ronaldo" [Hall of fame, 10 new entries: with Vialli and Mancini also Facchetti and Ronaldo] (in Italian). La Gazzetta dello Sport. 27 October 2015. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  21. ^ Along with Alex Ferguson, Rinus Michels, Valeriy Lobanovskyi and Arrigo Sacchi
  22. ^ "Валерій Лобановський потрапив до компанії найкращих тренерів усіх часів: на якому місці легенда «Динамо»" (in Ukrainian). Fakty i Kommentarii. Retrieved 25 December 2022.
  23. ^ Jamie Rainbow (4 July 2013). "The Greatest Manager of all time". World Soccer.
  24. ^ Jamie Rainbow (2 July 2013). "The Greatest XI: how the panel voted". World Soccer.
  25. ^ "Top 50 des coaches de l'historie". France Football. 19 March 2019. Retrieved 19 March 2019.

External links[edit]