PARIS: For Michel Hidalgo, playing football the right way always meant playing the beautiful way.
Hidalgo, who coached current world champions France to their first major football title at the 1984 European Championship with an unrelenting commitment to an attacking style of play, died on Thursday at the age of 87, the French Football Federation (FFF) said.
Hidalgo, who had been ill for a number of years, died “of natural causes” at home in Marseille, his family told radio station France Info.
Hidalgo also took France to the 1982 World Cup semi-finals, losing to West Germany on penalties, but the 1984 tournament on home soil was an emotional highlight with French playmaker Michel Platini grabbing nine goals in five matches to finish as the tournament’s top scorer.
France beat Spain 2-0 in the final at the Parc des Princes in Paris.
The creative midfield quartet marshalled by Platini with Alain Giresse, Jean Tigana and Luis Fernandez was acclaimed as the “Magic Square” (Carre Magique).
“As coach, Michel took the France team to its greatest heights, opting for a beautiful style of football which allowed each one of us to fully express our individual talents,” said Platini in a statement.
“Michel Hidalgo left a considerable legacy. He rebuilt French football at international level. His vision and his work still resonate today in every match our national team plays.”
Inspired by the symbiotic Hidalgo-Platini connection, France came within a whisker of reaching its first World Cup final in 1982, losing on penalty kicks to West Germany following a pulsating 3-3 draw.
France has since won two World Cups, including the most recent in 2018.
But Hidalgo put France back on the football map in scintillating style, creating its best team since Les Bleus reached the semifinals of the 1958 World Cup.
“The federation, our football is in mourning,” said FFF president Noel Le Graet. “Michel Hidalgo is one of the greatest names in French football ... through his footballing philosophy, his personality, his exemplary passion, he contributed to our sport shining internationally and its popularity in France.”
Born in 1933, Hidalgo — whose father was a Spanish immigrant — also enjoyed a richly successful playing career.
After starting at Le Havre, he played for the great Reims side of the 1950s, featuring, and scoring, when they lost 4-3 to Real Madrid in the first ever European Cup final in 1956.
Hidalgo went on to win two league titles and two French Cups with Monaco in the early 1960s.
He coached France from 1976 to 1984 and was director of football at Olympique de Marseille from 1986 to 1991.
Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2020