Back in 1973, an 18-year-old by the name of Victor Manuel Vucetich made his professional debut with Mexican side Leon. A hardworking midfielder, he had a very modest playing career. However, the same cannot be said of his time as coach, with the Tampico native having enjoyed national and international success with a host of teams.
In less than two weeks’ time, the 56-year-old will experience one of the proudest moments of his life when his Monterrey side debut at the FIFA Club World Cup. FIFA.com takes a look back at the rollercoaster career of Victor Manuel Vucetich, and asks the man himself about the secret of his success and aspirations for Japan 2011.
A man for the big occasion
Vucetich took his first steps as a coach at a relatively young age. In fact, by 33, he had already tasted success in Mexico’s second division with Toros Neza, with whom he won his first championship and promotion to the country’s top flight. However, the club was sold before Vuce could enjoy a taste of life in the Primera. Taking the setback in his stride, he then took up the reins with former club Leon, at the time also in the second tier, and again secured promotion.
He would finally make his top-flight coaching debut on 27 Sept 1990 and go on to enjoy a respectable first season among the elite. Even better was to come the following year, when he led Leon to the championship final and only the club’s fifth-ever title, thanks to a 2-0 extra-time defeat of Puebla.
Twenty-three years have gone by since his first triumph with Toros Neza, and all told he has won 11 titles with seven different clubs. It is a record that makes him unquestionably one of the most prolific and successful coaches in Mexican football.
However, the most outstanding fact about Vucetich's career is that he has yet to lose a final. Hence, the origin of one of his nicknames, King Midas, in reference to mythical Greek sovereign who only had to touch something for it to turn to gold.
We have players capable of handling anything they come up against. We have genuine dreams of winning this title.
Vucetich believes one of the key factors in his success is the way he treats his teams like family members. “We interact intensively,” he said. “Ok we don’t have blood ties, but there is affection there. Every human being experiences [difficult] episodes, and sometimes we’re the people closest to help them with those problems.”
With competition between clubs increasing all the time, a good atmosphere in the dressing room can make all the difference, as Vuce explained. “I look for values like honesty and integrity. Total commitment, professionalism, respect for others and hard work are the things we aim for. Solidarity is what binds us so tightly together.”
Back with a bangVucetich would be the first to admit he has had his share of difficulties over the years. After winning the Apertura with Pachuca in 2003, his Midas touch seemed to desert him. Over the next couple of seasons he tried coaching three different clubs, but lasted no more than ten games with any of them.
This barren spell also coincided with a family tragedy, with his wife dying in 2008. He then decided to swap coaching for a spell as a TV analyst. “I’m a widow, which is why it’s sometimes essential for me to be at home," he explained. "I have three children, and they are what keep me going forward. They are the responsibility that comes with marriage."
However, the lure of coaching proved too strong, and shortly after the start of the 2009 Apertura he filled the vacancy left by Ricardo La Volpe at Monterrey. The magic returned immediately, as the club celebrated a league triumph in his first season back. “This title is for my wife,” he said movingly at the time.
Thanks to that victory, Los Rayados qualified for the 2010/11 CONCACAF Champions League, where they ended up facing Major League Soccer's Real Salt Lake in the decider. True to form, Vucetich led his side to victory and secured a coveted berth at next month’s FIFA Club World Cup.
Monterrey will get their campaign underway on 11 December, when they face the victors of the match between Auckland City and the J.League champions. If they win that game, Brazilian giants Santos will await in the semi-finals, with Barcelona possible opponents should they reach the final
Vucetich said: "It’s hard to see Europe’s domination of the tournament ending. Barcelona are a great team, just as Santos are. However, I think the Spanish side have the edge, given they have one of the finest squads anywhere in the world."
So how does he see things panning out in Japan? “We have what it takes to advance to the semi-finals and are dreaming of going even further," Vucetich stated. "This type of competition is the only way to measure the real strength of Mexican football. We have players capable of handling anything they come up against.
"We have a great opportunity, and I believe my team are in good shape – strong, united and with real quality. They are also hungry, which is important. We have genuine dreams of winning this title.