Michel Hidalgo, a former French coach of Spanish origin who led the French team to its first major international trophy, the 1984 Euro Cup, died this Thursday in Marseille, four days after his 87th birthday, confirmed the footballers’ union, of which he was president.
Sources from his environment quoted by local media indicated that the death had nothing to do with the coronavirus epidemic that is plaguing the world at the moment and pointed out that it is linked to a disease that had weakened him in recent years.
First as a player, a member of the Stade de Reims led by Raymond Kopa, and then as a coach, Hidalgo, the son of a Spanish metallurgist exiled in France, became one of the most important faces in French football and one of his most respected voices.
Born in Leffrinckoucke (north), small but very talented, he started at Le Havre before making the leap to Stade de Reims, with whom he reached the final of the first European Cup in history, which his team lost against Real Madrid de Alfredo di Stefano despite a goal of his (4-3).
There he coincided with the legendary Kopa and also with coach Albert Batteux, who became his mentor.
The following year he signed for Monaco, with whom he raised two other French leagues and two French Cups.
In 1976, after a stint on the bench for the modest Menton, he was named coach, where he earned the most prestige.
At the head of the “bleus” he imposed an offensive and colorful vision of the game, which led the team to the semifinals of the 1982 World Cup in Spain, where he fell in a dramatic penalty shootout against Germany.
Two years later, this time in his country, he conquered the Euro Cup after defeating Spain in the final marked by a huge mistake by goalkeeper Luis Arconada.
It was the consecration of a generation of footballers led by Michel Platini but in which there were also figures like Alain Giresse, Jean Tigana, Bernard Genghini or Luis Fernandez, among others.
All of them and some other representatives of that fifth paid tribute to him in Marseille last February, knowing that his state of health had deteriorated.
After lifting the European trophy, Hidalgo was hired by Bernard Tapie to direct Olympique de Marseille, a negative experience, because he was convicted within the investigation into the club’s accounts.
His trail also remained in the footballers’ union movement, which he led between 1964 and 1969 and from which he was one of the architects of the creation of the European union FIFpro.
From that platform, he promoted the elimination of lifetime contracts that until then had been in football and the introduction of temporary ones.
In recent years away from the front line of football, Hidalgo was still a widely heard voice of that sport.
In 2006, he was commissioned by the Professional Soccer League to prepare a report that would make soccer more attractive in his country and proposed that two points be given to each team in matches that ended in a draw with goals, to favor offensive play.