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Hugo Sánchez and the Art of Finishing

Goal scoring is a delicate art form. Football has produced plenty of great finishers, but few could master this unique skill quite like Hugo Sánchez. The Mexican striker dominated for much of the mid to late 1980s and firmly etched himself into the annals of history during his record-breaking stint at Real Madrid.

Hunt for the Pichichi

Hugo Sánchez’s first opportunity to play professionally across the pond came from Atlético Madrid. Los Colchoneros took interest in him after hearing about the striker’s exploits with his local side Pumas UNAM and the San Diego Sockers of the long-extinct original North American Soccer League. “Ever since I was little, I wanted to be one of the best forwards in the world,” Sánchez told La Liga’s official YouTube channel in a recent interview, and that is exactly what he would go on to achieve in Spain.

After a slow start to life in Madrid, which saw him score a meager eight league goals in his first season, Sánchez soon found his feet and got acclimated to La Liga. Over the course of his four years at Atleti, the Mexican forward scored 54 league goals and won the prestigious Pichichi trophy, La Liga’s Golden Boot, in his final season.

Crossing into Enemy Lines

Despite its long-standing rivalry against Atleti, Real Madrid came calling in 1985. Sánchez, foreseeing the opportunity to team up with a higher-quality team, jumped at the opportunity to represent Los Blancos. Real had gone six years without a La Liga title and, spurred on by a group of talented homegrown youngsters dubbed La Quinta del Buitre (the Vulture Squadron), was desperate to end its drought.

Sánchez elevated the youthful Real side and through his 22 goals catapulted them to the top of La Liga, winning his second Pichichi in the process. And then he went and did it again the following campaign and the season after that. Los Blancos with Sánchez up front were simply unstoppable.

Record Breaker

After becoming the first player to win four consecutive top-scorer honors in La Liga, Sánchez captured his fifth Pichichi in 1989/90, having been beaten to the award by Atlético’s Baltazar the previous year. The 89/90 season was one of the most impressive individual campaigns in the history of the sport.

Sánchez scored an incredible 38 league goals in 35 games, winning not just the Pichichi but also the Golden Shoe as Europe’s highest scorer, and he led Real to its fifth consecutive La Liga trophy. The most absurd statistic of all is that every one of his 38 strikes was a first-time finish. His technique allowed him to hit the ball so sweetly that he didn’t need a lot of touches. The ability to sense an opportunity and finish it off expertly under pressure made him one of the greatest forwards of all time.

Hugo Sánchez made goal scoring look easy.

 

Illustration by @inakivector.

This story was featured in one of our newsletters.