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Miguel Pardeza: the famed Real Madrid outcast who took Real Zaragoza to unprecedented heights

Miguel Pardeza: the famed Real Madrid outcast who took Real Zaragoza to unprecedented heights

The notoriously predatory Emilio Butrageuño was the dominant figure within Real Madrid’s legendary Quinta del Buitre. The striker, who went by the nickname El Buitre (The Vulture) – was so lethal a marksman that it was his nickname which adorned the collective moniker of the Quinta del Buitre – roughly translated as Vulture’s Cohort – a label which had been handed to Butragueño and the four teammates he emerged with from Real Madrid Castilla during the early-to-mid 1980s.

Strangely, given the Quinta del Buitre billing, it was Butragueño who was the last of this famous five to make his first-team debut for Los Blancos. Beating him to this honour was Míchel, Manolo Sanchís, Rafael Martín Vázquez and Miguel Pardeza.

Of those four teammates, Butragueño would go on to an array of trophy-laden years in the iconic all-white of Real Madrid – but only with three of them. While Míchel, Sanchís and Vázquez prospered spectacularly alongside El Buitre, Pardeza would slip the Bernabéu net, arguably making him the most mysterious and enigmatic member of the Quinta del Buitre.

Pardeza made his Real Madrid debut at home to Espanyol in December 1983, five weeks before Butrageueño took his first bow. By the end of the 1983/84 season, Pardeza had added just two more first-team appearances, while El Buitre’s arrival upon the LaLiga scene had been so dramatic that, despite only four months separating his first game and goals for Real Madrid and the opening game of Euro 84, Butrageuño managed to elbow his way into Miguel Muñoz’s squad for the tournament in France.

Butragueño’s meteoric rise was in sharp contrast to the path Pardeza took. While Butragueño, Míchel, Sanchís and Vázquez remained in the Real Madrid squad for 1984/85, Pardeza was returned to the Castilla side, one which had won the Segunda División in 1984 despite being ineligible for promotion to the Spanish top-flight.

Undeniably Castilla’s star performer in 1984/85, if Pardeza was a frustrated onlooker, as the other members of the Quinta del Buitre assisted Real Madrid in lifting the UEFA Cup, it certainly didn’t show outwardly. Pardeza was in imperious form alongside his strike partner Julià, a player who would go on to a productive if modest career at Real Oviedo. 

Conscious that Pardeza had outgrown his Castilla surroundings by the summer of 1985, Real Madrid assessed their options and, with an embarrassment of riches available to them in forward positions, they decided he should go out on loan for a season to a fellow LaLiga club of substance.

With Butragueño becoming a global star, the consistency of World Cup winner to be Jorge Valdano, and the ageing but still effective legends of Santillana and Juanito to get past, Pardeza jumped at the opportunity of regular LaLiga football for the 1985/86 season. This course of action became even more imperative when Real made their earth-shaking swoop on cross-city rivals Atlético Madrid for the goal-scoring services of Hugo Sánchez, largely in a bid the end their five-season league title drought.

Read  |  Emilio Butragueño: the vulture

La Romareda would be Pardeza’s destination, and Real Zaragoza was the perfect club for him to acclimatise to the rarefied air of LaLiga. A club which had periodically threatened to pull up a chair to the very top-table of Spanish football, they had risen dramatically during the 1960s, when they enjoyed an eight-season span during which they never finished outside the top five places in LaLiga.

It was during this time that Zaragoza also collected their first pieces of major silverware, playing in the final of four successive Copa Generalísimo’s between 1963 and 1966, prevailing in the second and the fourth of those finals. When they won the 1964 final against Atlético Madrid at a vibrant and packed Bernabéu, it came just 11 days after they had won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup against Valencia at a half-full but still atmospheric Camp Nou.

Zaragoza fell away, even succumbing to relegation in 1972, although within three years the club was obtaining its highest ever league finish, trailing a very distant runner-up to a dominant Real Madrid. In a decade when Los Maños drifted from one extreme to the other and then back again, Zaragoza were relegated once more in 1978.

The Zaragoza that Pardeza teamed up with in 1985 was again on an upward trajectory. Despite an uninspiring league finish the season before, there had been a run to the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey, while the two seasons prior to that had seen the club narrowly miss out on European qualification. 

Pardeza was followed to La Romareda by another Bernabéu exile in the shape of Francisco Pineda, an attacking player who felt the need for pastures new and to play on a week-to-week basis, something he had been denied at Real Madrid. They were joined in the Zaragoza forward line by young Uruguay striker Rubén Sosa, who would eventually excel in Serie A with both Lazio and Internazionale. This new strike triumvirate was blessed to be the beneficiaries of the midfield promptings of Spain international Juan Antonio Señor, who had played in theEuro 84 final and would go on to represent his nation in Mexico at the 1986 World Cup. 

It was a dream campaign for Zaragoza, claiming a fourth-place finish, their highest league position in over a decade and lifting their third Copa del Rey, in the process ending a 20-year trophy drought. It was a startling return to prominence for the Aragon club and Pardeza was central to it all.

Blessed with a low centre of gravity, strength, and an eye for an unexpected angle of the through ball, Pardeza was a peculiarity to the traditional pattern of play for Spanish clubs, who were used to their central attacking players concentrating on the final third of the pitch. If you need a comparative player, you could perhaps look towards Mark Hughes, who spent the 1986/87 season at Barcelona, where he would suffer due to a similar lack of understanding over his movement and positioning despite playing under the management of Terry Venables.

At Zaragoza, however, Pardeza found an environment which was happy to embrace his niche approach to the game. Sosa, Pineda and Señor all benefitted from the creativity of Pardeza, who chipped into the goals tally for the season with five. In the case of Señor, he never had a higher scoring season in the colours of Zaragoza than he did in 1985/86.

Read  |  The seven years that saw Emilio Butragueño and Hugo Sánchez score 43% of Real Madrid’s goals

Zaragoza were unbeaten in their last 12 league games, a run that meant only Real Madrid, Barcelona and Athletic Club finished above them. As Pardeza’s mother-club clinched its first LaLiga title in six years, his loan side swept to glory in the Copa del Rey, defeating Barcelona in the final at the Vicente Calderón in Madrid thanks to a heavily deflected winner by Sosa.

While the Copa final had been the biggest game of Pardeza’s career so far, it was the two legs of the semi-final that decided his immediate future. He had been impossible to contain for his opponents, Real Madrid one of them. His stunning performances in helping Zaragoza to the final convinced Los Blancos that he would be spending the 1986/87 season at the Bernabéu, a decision which was first pondered when Pardeza and Zaragoza overwhelmed Castilla in the quarter-finals.

Just 15 days beyond the 1986 Copa del Rey final, Pardeza was back in a Real Madrid shirt, facing Barcelona once more, this time at the Camp Nou in the short-lived Spanish League Cup. He was on target in a 2-2 draw and was now looking to proving himself a worthy addition to the Real Madrid squad for the defence of their LaLiga title and their first European Cup campaign since 1980/81.

Pardeza played a crucial cameo role in Real Madrid’s successful defence of the title in 1986/87, offering a distinct difference from the periphery when called upon. He even scored both Real Madrid goals in a 2-1 victory at the Bernabéu over Zaragoza during a closely contested run-in. When chasing their tail in the second leg of the European Cup semi-final against Bayern Munich, it was to Pardeza that Leo Beenhakker turned, in a forlorn and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to turn around a 4-1 first leg deficit.

He may have had a LaLiga winners medal in his hand, but once again, Pardeza’s talents were being bound in the limitations of the horizons Real Madrid allowed him to have. In the summer of 1987, with Beenhakker unwilling to let him go on a permanent basis, Pardeza returned for another season at La Romareda. Zaragoza welcomed him with open arms.

Unbeknown at the time, it would be 10 years before Pardeza finally kicked his last ball in anger for Zaragoza, while his expected swift return to the Bernabéu would only come more than 20 years later, as sporting director under the presidency of Florentino Pérez, rather than as a player.

The 1987/88 campaign was perfect for Pardeza on a personal level, linking effortlessly once again with Sosa in a Zaragoza side that occasionally contained an injury-blighted Frank Rijkaard. A mid-table finish of 11th was a disappointment but not one which stopped him agreeing a permanent move to La Romareda that summer.

With the departures to Serie A of both Sosa and Rijkaard, Pardeza became the man that Zaragoza built their side around. Despite the exodus of talent, in his debut season as a manager, Radomir Antić led Zaragoza to an incredible fifth-place finish in 1988/89. They had been expected to struggle, and for a long stretch of the season they did, until an impressive 11-game unbeaten run to the finish line earned them a UEFA Cup spot.

Read  |  Real Zaragoza: the kings of the Copa

Antić put together an eclectic collection of players, inclusive of the bludgeoning Francisco Higuera, Bulgarian striker Nasko Sirakov, and the unpredictable goalkeeping of José Luis Chilavert. It was a combustible but entertaining team, which also boasted Spanish internationals to be in Francisco Villarroya and Juan Vízcaino. It might not have been the Quinta del Buitre but Pardeza was once again a part of an expressive and free-thinking collective.

Although 1989/90 failed to offer the collective highs of the previous season, Pardeza made a breakthrough at international level, appearing as a substitute at the Nep Stadion in Budapest in a crucial World Cup qualifier against Hungary. He also made Luis Suárez’s squad for the finals in Italy, reuniting him with the other four members of the Quinta del Buitre.

Having not even made the bench for Spain’s opening two games, Pardeza was amongst the substitutes for the final group game against Belgium, appearing for the final two minutes. However, the chance for all five members of the Quinta del Buitre to share a pitch together at the World Cup finals was lost as Butragueño had departed the Bentegodi pitch just a short few minutes prior to Pardeza’s arrival.

It was the fifth and final time that Pardeza represented his country. He watched on helplessly as an unused substitute as Spain slipped out of the World Cup in the last-16 against Yugoslavia. Next to him sat Butragueño, who had been controversially removed from the fray despite Spain needing a goal to push the game into extra-time.

Beyond the World Cup, Pardeza returned to La Romareda and found only upheaval. Antić had departed and heading out of the club were Villarroya to Real Madrid and Vízcaino to Atlético. Sirakov, after only one season at Zaragoza, left for Espanyol. It was back to the drawing board for Zaragoza as they opted for former Uruguayan international midfielder, Ildo Maneiro.

While Maneiro wouldn’t last the full season in charge, he did make one very telling contribution to the future well-being of the club. He was responsible for the arrival of Gustavo Poyet, a player who would span the remainder of Pardeza’s time at La Romareda. The new campaign was torrid for Zaragoza. Maneiro was succeeded by Víctor Fernández, who would lead the club for six productive years and was credited as the man who converted Poyet from a striker to an attacking midfielder.

Within the eye of the storm, Zaragoza very nearly crashed to relegation. Pardeza, Higuera and Poyet fought hard to pull the club through a relegation playoff win against Murcia, from where Fernández laid the foundations that would lead Zaragoza back to the promised land of silverware, both domestically and in Europe.

Within 12 months of their flirtation with relegation, Zaragoza were ending the 1991/92 season in a credible fifth place, clinching with it UEFA Cup football and the signing of Andreas Brehme. Pardeza remained key to it all and, in 1993, they reached the final of the Copa del Rey. Injury would restrict Pardeza to no more than the role of an unused substitute at the Mestalla, while Brehme would miss out completely. Without their two most prominent components, Real Madrid were simply too strong for Zaragoza. 

Read  |  The decline of Real Zaragoza, a club that once lifted trophies amongst LaLiga’s elite

A year later, however, Pardeza and Zaragoza were back in the final. By now Pardeza was club captain and he was joined in the side by the former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Nayim and Argentine striker Juan Esnáider. In a poor game at the Vicente Calderón, Zaragoza prevailed on penalties after a goal-less 120 minutes. The quality of the match mattered little to a club whose successes are fleeting and there to be embraced passionately. They also finished third in LaLiga.

With shades of their 1960s heyday, a chair at the very top-table of Spanish football seemed to be in the offering for Zaragoza. The 1994/95 season brought them the most iconic moment in their history, with Pardeza the captain. It would be his crowning glory. It was at the Parc des Princes in Paris, with just seconds of extra time remaining, that Nayim launched his audacious last-gasp attempt to settle the 1995 Cup Winners’ Cup final. With the score locked at 1-1, it was an effort that was much more measured and premeditated than many observers gave credit for. 

As David Seaman lay against his own netting, unable to summon the senses to rise to his feet, Zaragoza’s incredulous players, coaching staff and fans spontaneously combusted. The image of Pardeza and Fernández embracing on the pitch was a joyous one. These two men had combined, almost telepathically, to make this moment possible. Pardeza’s on-pitch vision worked to perfection in symbiosis with the ideals and meticulous planning of Fernández.

Pardeza and Zaragoza had reached the peak of their powers. He would play at La Romareda for two further seasons that saw the club regress to mid-table water-treading, before enjoying two years in Mexico at Puebla alongside his former Zaragoza teammate Higuera.

The respect with which Pardeza was held saw him return to both Zaragoza and Real Madrid as sporting director, his on-pitch intelligence transferred to the corridors of power at La Romareda and the Bernabéu.

As a member of the Quinta del Buitre, Pardeza took the path less travelled compared to his other four comrades. At the Bernabéu he was arguably stifled by his natural gravity-led sense of positioning. Dropping deep for the ball, it took him into an area of the pitch that belonged to Míchel as a higher positioned midfield playmaker.

In traditional Spanish football, Pardeza was an oddity, and it needed a club to build a team around him to win the best of his talent. Zaragoza gave him that and it says everything about how unique Pardeza was that he spent so long at La Romareda. Unlike when Real Madrid allowed Vázquez to depart the Bernabéu for Torino – after which they saw the error of their decision and reclaimed the midfielder within two years – Los Blancos missed out on Pardeza for good.

Not only that, at no point did a Barcelona or an Atlético Madrid feel that they could accommodate him within the pattern of their formations. If anything, Pardeza would have found himself in high-demand had he found his way into the English game. Yet it was in Spain and LaLiga that he would remain, etching a legacy as one of the finest talents to play outside of the traditional big two. 

By Steven Scragg @Scraggy_74

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