With so many quality Spanish players playing in La Liga, we often forget that there are players of great quality coming out of other regions, other traditions. Argentina and Brazil are well-represented, but we disreard how much North Americans have helped shape the course of the Spanish league. No one has done more for the image of the North American player in Spain, than arguably the greatest Mexican player of all: Hugo Sanchez, Hugol.
Sure, we know him today for his less-than stellar turn at UD Almeria replacing Unai Emery, or his mediocre turn as coach of Mexico where he lost 9 of his 26 games in charge, but turn back before he played in Dallas in the inaugural MLS season for the Burn, to his time in Spain and to his formative years in Mexico City; where he was born on July 11, 1958.
Hugo began his career at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and the club that represents that university: UNAM Pumas. In the summer he would spend his vacations playing on-loan with the San Diego Soccers of the defunct North American Soccer League. Playing with the Mexican squad, Sanchez led his side to the 1975 Cannes Youth Cup. He spent six years in Mexico City and scored 99 goals and won two Mexican league titles with Pumas in 1977 and also in 1980-1981.
That very same year he was transferred to Atlético de Madrid of Luis Aragones, debuting on the 19th of September of 1981 in a match won by Atlético 2-0 against Athletic Bilbao. He would play 111 league games in all with Atlético de Madrid and score 54 goals. It was with the colchoneros where he would win his first Pichichi award for scoring 19 goals in 1984. His side would win the Copa del Rey, a Spanish Supercup and finish second to FC Barcelona.
The following season he was transferred to rivals Real Madrid, where he earned four more Pichichi trophies (four straight in fact) and his nickname Pentapichichi. His 1989-90 season was his best at Real Madrid. He would win his fifth trophy as the best goal scorer in Spain, win the Golden Boot, and would tie Telmo Zarra’s 1950-51 record of 38 goals. With Real Madrid he would win five consecutive league titles, one Copa del Rey, three Spanish Supercups and one UEFA Cup. He retired on May 29, 1997 as one of the greatest players ever to wear the white kit of Real Madrid.
His was the time of La Quinta del Buitre, Emilio Butragueño, Michel, Martín Vázquez, Manuel Sanchís, and Miguel Pardeza, but he saw himself not as much with them, but with the veterans at the club, the ones he called his Quinta de los machos, José Antonio Camacho, Rafael Gordillo and Paco Buyo. You can focus on his arrogance, or his macho attitude, but nothing compares to the passion or the joy that Hugo Sanchez brought to scoring goals, the chilenas or overhead kicks he made, or the somersaults he made after scoring, a dedication to his gymnast sister. He was one of a kind and a true madridista at heart if not by birth.