Before Cristiano Ronaldo, there was Hugo Sanchez. Fans of Real Madrid and in football in general have for the past decade and more witnessed the brilliance of Ronaldo for the Los Blancos but before him, there was another player whose name was sung at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium and also by fans across the world and in his home country of Mexico. This was a player who would take goal scoring to the next level much like Ronaldo.
Today’s generation may not remember much of his exploits but in his time he was one of the best players and is still today considered Mexico’s finest ones.
During his career, Sanchez played for a total of ten clubs across Mexico, the United States and Europe,
He was also his country’s talisman during those years and donned the national jersey 58 teams and scored 29 goals.
However, his greatest contribution was to inspire a generation of talent from Mexico to football who saw Sanchez as proof that Mexicans could play on par with the top players in the world.
Hugo Sanchez scored 38 goals La Liga goals for Real Madrid in the 89/90 season. The incredible thing about this stat is not the amount of goals scored, but the fact he scored every single one of them with his first touch. Extraordinary. pic.twitter.com/7tofDLddOC
— Gav (@LaLigaGavila) January 11, 2019
CLUB UNIVERSIDAD NACIONAL ASOCIACION CIVIL (UNAM)
Sanchez joined UNAM as a teenager and would spend five years scoring 97 goals in 188 appearances. During his time at the club, UNAM won two league championships CONCACAF Champions Cup and a Copa Interamericana.
In 1979 he was loaned to North American Soccer League side San Diego Rockers where he played in the summer months and would return to play for UNAM during the rest of the year.
After spending five yeast, Sanchez was snapped by Spanish side Atletico de Madrid.
— Hugo Sánchez (@hugosanchez_9) April 13, 2020
His first season in the league was disappointing as he scored eight goals in 20 appearances with his side finishing eighth in the league standings.
In the next two seasons his numbers would improve marginally as he scored 15 goals in 31 appearances in the 1982/83 season and 12 goals in 27 appearances in the 1983/84 season.
However, it was the 1984-85 season where he truly blossomed as he scored 19 goals in 31 La Liga matches on his way to win the Pichichi trophy.
His scoring exploits caught the eye of Atletico’s cross town rivals Real Madrid who signed him for the 1985-86 season. Due to the rivalry between the two clubs, the player was transferred back to UNAM from where he was signed by Los Blancos.
This was done as Atletico wanted to avoid backlash from their fans.
The seven years that he spent at the club would elevate him to the status of a legendary football not only for Real but also back in Mexico.
Hugo Sanchez’s incredible goalscoring at #RealMadrid remains unbeaten.
Even @Cristiano is yet to match his tally of four Pichichi awards at the club.
— MARCA in English (@MARCAinENGLISH) April 4, 2018
After winning the top scorer trophy with Atletico, Sanchez continued his hold over the trophy for another three seasons.
This makes him the only player to win four consecutive Pichihci until the record was broken by Lionel Messi in the 2019-20 season.
Sanchez was part of a legendary Real Madrid side which won five consecutive La Liga titles, three Supercopa de Espana, one Copa del Rey and UEFA Cup.
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) April 24, 2021
It is to be also noted Sanchez managed to be the best player in a team that consisted of players such as Emilio Butragueño, Manuel Sanchís, Martín Vázquez, Míchel, and Miguel Pardeza who were part of the famous La Quinta del Buitre (“Vulture’s Cohort”), a group of five homegrown Real Madrid players.
Sanchez set several records during his time at the Santiago Bernabeu which stood for several years.
In the 1989-90 season, Sanchez scored 38 goals in La Liga, the highest in a single season tying the record set by Athletic Bilbao’s Telmo Zara in the 1951-52 season.
This would lead him to be named the winner of the 1990 European Golden Shoe.
⚽️🇲🇽 Hugo Sánchez
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadrid) September 24, 2015
What was amazing about this was all those goals were scored by him through his first touch which showed his control, technique and divine scoring ability.
He also became the highest-scoring foreigner in La Liga, a record which was eventually broken by Messi and Ronaldo.
After his success in Spain, Sanchez returned to his native Mexico and won the 1992 CONCACAF Championship with Club America where he scored 11 goals.
3 – Players with the most penalty goals in @LaLiga history:
61 – Cristiano Ronaldo 🇵🇹
56 – Hugo Sánchez 🇲🇽
55 – LIONEL MESSI 🇦🇷
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 7, 2020
Sanchez would return to Spain for a solitary season to play for Rayo Vallecano for whom he would score 17 goals in 30 games. His contribution was immense in what was a poor squad and it was his goals that practically saved them from relegation as they avoided the drop by a single point.
Hugo Sánchez, Rayo Vallecano, 1993-1994. pic.twitter.com/m3FYnEFIHX
— Nostalgia Futbolera ® (@nostalgiafutbo1) December 25, 2020
Sanchez would then go on to play for a host of clubs such as Atlante, Linz, FC Dallas before hanging up his boots in 1998
Sanchez’s first taste of international soccer would come at the 1975 Pan American games where he thrived for his country and scored two hattricks against Costa Rica and Canada as Mexico defeated Brazil on home soil to win the gold medal.
A year later, he would be picked for the Mexico side that would represent the nation in the 1976 Montreal Olympics where he also scored a goal in a 4-1 loss to France.
And just like his club career, his international career was also growing in stature as he helped his country win the 1977 CONCACAF Championship.
🗣️ “When a player scores a goal like that, play should be suspended and a glass of champagne offered to the 80,000 fans that witnessed it,” said Leo Beenhakker.
💥 Hugo Sanchez scored spectacular goals with astonishing regularity. Happy birthday to a 5-time Pichichi winner! pic.twitter.com/zkEEa1ROyt
— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) July 11, 2021
In the tournament, Sanchez formed a deadly partnership with Victor Rangel as the duo scored a total of 10 goals (Sanchez 4 goals and Rangel 6 goals) between them,
This win also secured Mexico a place in the 1978 World Cup where they were knocked out in the first round after losing all their matches which included a 6-0 thrashing at the hands of West Germany.
After failing to qualify for the 1982 World Cup, Sanchez was part of a team that made it all the way to the quarterfinals in the next World Cup held on home soil before losing to West Germany on penalty shoot out.
FORGOTTEN GOAL: This week marks the 31st anniversary of Real Madrid’s Hugo Sanchez doing this vs Logrones.
Hellfire. That is fucking magnificent.pic.twitter.com/iCzWScXNkw
— A Funny Old Game (@sid_lambert) April 4, 2019
After that, he would not have any major achievement with the national squad as they were banned from the 1990 World Cup Italy after they were found guilty of using overaged players in a qualifying match for a junior tournament,
However, he would play an integral part as Mexico reached the final of the 1993 Copa America.
His last appearance would be in the 1994 World Cup where Mexico were eliminated in the Round of 16 by Bulgaria.
The Mexican had a trophy laden career and won loads of team and individual awards throughout his career.
Here’s a list of his personal achievements
|Mexican Primera Division Best Winger||1977-78, 1978-79|
|Mexican Primera Division Balon de Oro||1978-79|
|Mexican Primera Division Golden Boot||1978-79|
|European Golden Shoe||1990|
|Pichichi Trophy La Liga||1984–85, 1985–86, 1986–87, 1987–88, 1989–90|
|Don Balon Award La Liga||1986-87, 1898-90|
|CONCACAF Championship Top Scorer||1992|
|Best Spotlist of Mexico in the 20th century||–|
|IFFHS Best footballer of Mexico of the 20th century||–|
|IFFHS Best footballer of CONCACAF of the 20th century||–|
|FIFA 100 Team||–|
|Golden Foot Legends Award||–|
|FIFA World XI 1982||1981-82|
LIFE AFTER FOOTBALL
Sanchez ventured into football coaching and joined boyhood club UNAM as coach. Under his tenure, UNAM would dominate the domestic scene winning the Primera División: Clausura 2004, Apertura 2004 Campeón de Campeones: 2004.
However, after a poor performance in the 2005 season, he was fired post which he was given the task to lead the national team in the 2006 World Cup.
Sanchez’s first stint was good as Mexico were knocked out in the Round of 16 against Argentina 2-1 after extra time.
The next year he would come within a whisker of winning his first international trophy as manager but failed to win either CONCACAF Gold Cup or the Copa America.
However, poor performances including a defeat to Guatemala led to his sacking in 2008.