You know the cliché about the best football managers not necessarily having been very good players? Well, Juande Ramos fits into that profile perfectly.
Juan de la Cruz Ramos Cano, born in Pedro Múñoz, near Ciudad Real in September 1954, certainly never reached the heights as a player – drifting around and representing Elche ( a city worth checking out, by the way, if only for the incredible number of palm trees), Alcoyano, Linares, Eldense, Alicante and Denia, mainly in Second Division B or A. A knee injury at the age of 28, though, turned Juande Ramos’ thoughts to coaching and he quickly decided that this was the area in which his talents would be best served.
Incredibly, to British eyes perhaps, Tottenham Hotspur are the eleventh club Ramos has managed, in a managerial career that only started in the 1993 – 94 season. Bear in mind, though, that Spanish clubs do change their managers much more frequently than their English counterparts. After two preliminary seasons – firstly with former club Alcoyano and then with Levante, who enjoyed a record number of victories during his season there – Ramos achieved his first success by taking unheralded Logroñés, in the Rioja region, into Spain’s top division. This achievement attracted the attention of Barcelona who invited him to take charge of their B team for a season.
From 1998 until 2001, Juande Ramos took charge of the unfashionable Madrid side Rayo Vallecano, again guiding them from the Second Division into La Liga and eventually taking them into the UEFA Cup competiton. Rayo managed to go all the way to the semi-final, where they lost to fellow Spanish team Alaves, who went on to lose to Liverpool in a memorable final in Dortmund – the one with the own goal golden goal winner! This was the longest time Juande Ramos has spent at one single club, and, as he had to work with the club’s notoriously combustible president, Teresa Rivero, it will have gotten him used to working with eccentric presidents and prepared him well for Sevilla.
After leaving Rayo, Ramos worked for a season each at Real Betis and Malaga and, for 5 games only, at Espanyol but he was then summoned to join another notoriously difficult president, Jose Maria Del Nido, at Seviila, a club which had just qualified for Europe for the first time in a decade but had sacked their manager, Joaquin Caparros, because they thought he had taken them as far as he was capable.
After a difficult time winning over the crowd, Ramos turned Sevilla into one of Spain’s most attractive teams, playing fast, fluid football and employing two wingers and athletic full backs who joined the attack at every possibility. They kept the competitiveness they had previously been known for, but added flair and speed and Ramos, although not always popular with the players because of his strict disciplinarianism, certainly knew how to bring the best out of them. During his stay with the club, Sevilla won the UEFA cup twice, the UEFA Super Cup, the Spanish Cop del Rey and Supercopa. In his final season, by finishing in 3rd place, the team qualified for the Champions’ League for the 2007 – 8 season.
Life was not always easy for Ramos at Sevilla, though. Del Nido likes to take most of the credit for the team’s success himself and often tried to seriously undermine his manager. In addition, there was the infamous incident in the Copa del Rey fixture with fierce local rivals Real Betis when Ramos was struck by a bottle thrown from the crowd and the game was abandoned. Finally, Ramos had to help his players deal with the tragic death, during a league game against Getafe, of the immensely popular locally born player, Antonio Puerta.
It was always thought that Juande Ramos would go to England to manage there. He was linked with the post at Manchester City but, at that stage, was fully committed to remaining at Sevilla. Many people thought that his ambition was to take charge at Chelsea but then came the revelations that he was being lined up to succeed Martin Jol at Tottenham. However, following a manager who was popular with the fans and had just qualified for the UEFA Cup was something Juande Ramos had done before – so why not try it again!