Before Cristiano Ronaldo there was Hugo Sanchez. Real Madrid fans and football in general have seen Ronaldo’s brilliance for Los Blancos for the past decade and more, but before him there was another player whose name was sung at the Santiago Bernabeu and also by fans around the world and in his native Mexico. This was a player who would take scoring to the next level, much like Ronaldo.
Today’s generation may not remember his achievements, but he was one of the best players in his day and is still considered one of the best in Mexico today.
During his career, Sanchez played for a total of ten clubs in Mexico, the USA and Europe.
He was also the talisman of his country during those years, wearing the national jersey of 58 teams and scoring 29 goals.
His greatest contribution, however, was to inspire a generation of talent from Mexico to football who Sanchez saw as evidence that Mexicans can play on par with the world’s top players.
Hugo Sanchez scored 38 La Liga goals for Real Madrid in the 89/90 season. The incredible thing about this statistic isn’t the number of goals scored, but the fact that 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 spent five years scoring 97 goals in 188 games. During his time at the club, UNAM won two league championships, the CONCACAF Champions Cup, and a Copa Interamericana.
In 1979 he was loaned to the San Diego Rockers of the North American Soccer League, where he played in the summer months and played for UNAM for the rest of the year.
After spending five yeasts, Sanchez was caught by the Spanish team 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 games and his team finished eighth in the league standings.
In the next two seasons, his numbers improved slightly, as he scored 15 goals in 31 games in the 1982/83 season and 12 goals in 27 games in the 1983/84 season.
However, it was the 1984/85 season that he really blossomed as he scored 19 goals in 31 La Liga games on his way to winning the Pichichi Trophy.
His goals caught the attention of Atletico’s city 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 Los Blancos.
This was done because Atletico wanted to avoid a backlash from its fans.
The seven years he spent at the club would make him a legendary football not only for Real but also in Mexico.
Hugo Sanchez ‘incredible goal scoring at #Real Madrid remains undefeated.
Even @Cristiano has not yet reached his record of four Pichichi awards in the club.
🙌https: //t.co/be0f0OUDoO pic.twitter.com/hprBtKH0Dv
– MARCA in English (@MARCAinENGLISH) 4th April 2018
After winning the top scorer trophy with Atletico, Sanchez held the trophy for another three seasons.
This makes him the only player to win four Pichihci in a row until Lionel Messi’s record was broken in the 2019-20 season.
Sanchez was part of a legendary Real Madrid team that won five straight La Liga titles, three Supercopa de Espana, one Copa del Rey and the UEFA Cup.
– Real Madrid CF 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) April 24, 2021
It should also be noted that 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 are part of the famous La Quinta del Buitre (“Vultures Cohort ”), a group of five local Real Madrid players.
Sanchez set several records during his several years at the Santiago Bernabeu.
In the 1989/90 season, Sanchez scored 38 La Liga goals, the highest in a single season, setting the record for Athletic Bilbao’s Telmo Zara in the 1951/52 season.
This would lead him to the 1990 European Golden Shoe winner.
⚽️🇲🇽 Hugo Sánchez
– Real Madrid CF (@realmadrid) September 24, 2015
The amazing thing was that all of these goals were scored by him on his first touch, which showed his control, technique and divine shooting skills.
He also became the best foreigner in La Liga, a record that 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 – Player with the most penalty goals in @LaLiga Story:
61 – Cristiano Ronaldo
56 – Hugo Sánchez
55 – LIONEL MESSI
– OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 7, 2020
Sanchez returned to Spain for a lonely season to play for Rayo Vallecano, for whom he scored 17 goals in 30 games. His contribution to a weak squad was immense and it was his goals that practically saved them from relegation as they prevented relegation by a single point.
Hugo Sánchez, Rayo Vallecano, 1993-1994. pic.twitter.com/m3FYnEFIHX
– Nostalgia Futbolera ® (@ nostalgiafutbo1) December 25, 2020
Sanchez then played for a number of clubs including Atlante, Linz and FC Dallas before hanging up his boots in 1998
Sanchez’s first taste of international football came at the 1975 Pan American Games, where he blossomed for his country and scored two hat-tricks against Costa Rica and Canada when Mexico beat Brazil on home soil and won the gold medal.
A year later he was selected for the Mexican team that would represent the nation at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal where he also scored one goal in a 4-1 loss to France.
And just like his club career, his international career gained momentum when he helped his country win the 1977 CONCACAF championship.
🗣️ “If a player scores such a goal, the game should stop and be offered a glass of champagne to the 80,000 fans who saw 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 fatal partnership with Victor Rangel, as the duo scored a total of 10 goals (Sanchez 4 goals and Rangel 6 goals).
That win also secured Mexico a place at the 1978 World Cup, where they were eliminated in the first round after losing all games, including a 6-0 win against West Germany.
After failing to qualify for the 1982 World Cup, Sanchez was part of a team that made it to the quarter-finals at the next World Cup on home soil before losing to West Germany on penalties.
FORGOTTEN GOAL: This week marks the 31st anniversary of Real Madrid’s Hugo Sanchez against Logrones.
Hellfire. That’s bloody great.pic.twitter.com/iCzWScXNkw
– A fun old game (@sid_lambert) 4th April 2019
After that, he would not achieve any major success with the national team as they were banned from the 1990 World Cup in Italy after they were found guilty of using overaged players in a qualifying match for a youth tournament.
However, he would play an important role when Mexico reached the 1993 Copa America final.
His last appearance was at the 1994 World Cup, where Mexico were eliminated in the round of 16 against Bulgaria.
The Mexican had a trophy-laden career and won many team and individual awards over the course of his career.
Here is a list of his personal achievements
|Best winger in the Mexican Primera Division||1977-78, 1978-79|
|Mexican Primera Division Balon de Oro||1978-79|
|Golden shoe of the Mexican Primera Division||1978-79|
|European golden shoe||1990|
|La Liga Pichichi Trophy||1984-85, 1985-86, 1986-87, 1987-88, 1989-90|
|Don Balon Prize La Liga||1986-87, 1898-90|
|Top scorer in the CONCACAF championship||1992|
|Best spotlist from Mexico of the 20th century||–|
|IFFHS Best Mexican Footballer of the 20th Century||–|
|IFFHS Best CONCACAF Footballer of the 20th Century||–|
|FIFA 100 team||–|
|Golden Foot Legends Award||–|
|FIFA World XI 1982||1981-82|
LIFE AFTER FOOTBALL
Sanchez ventured into football training and joined the youth club UNAM as a coach. During his tenure, UNAM dominated the local scene and won the Primera División: Clausura 2004, Apertura 2004, Campeón de Campeones: 2004.
After a poor performance in the 2005 season, however, he was fired and given the task of leading the national team at the 2006 World Cup.
Sanchez’s first appearance was good, as Mexico were eliminated in the round of 16 against Argentina 2-1 after extra time.
The next year he would only narrowly win his first international trophy as a coach, but he would not win the CONCACAF Gold Cup or the Copa America.
However, poor performance, including a loss to Guatemala, resulted in his dismissal in 2008.