The Englishman who brought Barcelona back to life: Terry Venables

At the age of 80, Terry Venables, an exceptional former player and coach, whom Gary Lineker called “the best and most innovative manager he ever played with”, has succumbed to a prolonged illness. Gary Neville, with whom Venables made his debut for the national team, made a similar comment. In 1985, the tactician nicknamed “El Tel” was considered the best coach in the world by World Soccer magazine, after having returned the title of champion to the famous Barcelona after 11 years.

Although he is best known to the public as a coach, Venables has also had an impressive career as a player, with over 500 appearances in La Liga.

The creative midfielder played for Chelsea and Tottenham, with whom he won the League Cup (1965) and FA Cup (1967) respectively. In London, he moved a total of four prestigious addresses, celebrating promotion to League One with QPR.

He ended his active career due to arthritis and did not abandon his former clubs. At Crystal Palace, he got his chance shortly after hanging up his boots and immediately earned respect with a double promotion from the third division to the first division with an unusually young squad.

He then returned to QPR, where he recalled the magic of the domestic cup and, with the second-tier side in the 1982 FA Cup final, brought Tottenham to significant shame. With Spurs, another of his former breadwinners, he whetted his own appetite in the same competition with a win in 1990.

Before that, Venables had his most famous stint when he arrived in the Catalan capital in 1984, on the recommendation of Bobby Robson. His typically English 4-4-2 immediately scored points in Spain, winning the league with Barcelona in 1985 and reaching the final of three incredible cup competitions the following season.

They won the League Cup but failed to win the Copa del Rey. They also finished just below the top in the European Cup, where Barça lost to Steaua on penalties. It was, however, the first time Barça had played in a major European final since 1961.

The penalty shoot-out also spoiled Venables’ impression of his country at Euro 1996, where they were eliminated in the semi-finals by Germany. A few days earlier, however, England, with the Sheringham-Shearer duo, had thrashed the Netherlands 4-1 in one of the best performances of the modern era.

Even without his protégé Lineker, who he led to great success at Barcelona and later at White Hart Lane, Venables managed to do so – and who knows how Albion would have fared at the obscure 1998 World Cup if Venables had not announced before the Euros that he would no longer lead the national team due to a court case over Alan Sugar’s ugly split from Tottenham.

In the new millennium, the charismatic coach, normally very popular with his charges, did not have much success and, as assistant to Steve McClaren, he played an undeniable part in England’s ignominious absence from Euro 2008.

He quickly embarked on a career as a television commentator, returning to Spain at the end of his life, where he was employed as a hotel employee before retiring.