“I get a kick out of being an outsider constantly. It allows me to be creative.” – Bill Hicks
Goalkeepers are supposed to be different. Estranged, aloof and regularly inhabiting the more extreme regions of the personality spectrum, the men who spend their time intercepting spherical projectiles with all parts of their anatomy and are often viewed as football’s great outsiders.
Indeed, the notion that ‘keepers are unpredictable and individualistic seems to have permeated the sphere of management, a realm where very few glovemen make the transition from player to coach at the end of their careers. Very few goalkeepers have enjoyed success in the dugout, only Dino Zoff and Bruce Arena achieving anything of note at the highest level of late, something which is likely to be a simple matter of statistics (i.e. there are ten outfield players to every goalkeeper) but is also widely thought to reflect the often zany characters of many ‘keepers.
While goalkeepers may not have a strong reputation for management, one man in the history of football stands out as a shining exception, a former number one who went on to enjoy success as a coach in the very highest echelons of the European game. That man was Raymond Goethals, the Belgian who led Marseille to Champions League glory over AC Milan in 1993.
Born in the outskirts of Brussels in 1921, Goethals began his footballing life with Royal Daring Club Molenbeek in the late 1930s, enjoying a consistent if unremarkable decade there before concluding his career at Racing Club de Brussels in the early 1950s. Never representing the national side or winning any major honours, Goethals’ was an unspectacular career, but one which set this mysterious and idiosyncratic man up for what would be a far more high-profile life as a manager.
A classically bohemian coach in the style of César Luis Menotti, Goethals regularly sat in the dugout with a cigarette hanging from his lip, his face fixed in constant rumination and hair parted scruffily to the side. A true philosopher of the game, the Belgian’s first major management role came with Sint-Truidense in 1959, his reputation quickly growing to the extent that he was made national team coach as soon as 1968.
During eight years in the job Goethals led his country at Euro 1972 (which was, incidentally, hosted by Belgium), beating Hungary in a play-off to claim third place overall. He also qualified the team for World Cup 1970 after Belgium had missed out on the previous three tournaments, the side ultimately failing to negotiate its way out of a group also containing Mexico and the Soviet Union.
In 1976 Goethals was relieved of his duties with the national side, joining Anderlecht later that year and guiding them to the Cup Winners’ Cup final in his first season, losing to Hamburg but returning the following season to beat Austria Vienna and claim his first major title as a manager. Two spells with Bordeaux and a short time in Brazil via a match-fixing scandal in Liège followed, Goethals eventually ending up at Marseille in 1991, the club that would benefit from his greatest managerial achievement.
Owned by controversial political figure Bernard Tapie, Marseille were a wealthy and extremely ambitious club in the early 1990s, Goethals’ brief being to guide L’OM to the European Cup as quickly as possible. The Belgian’s first season at the Stade Vélodrome saw the club reach the European Cup final only to lose out on penalties at the hands of a remarkably talented Red Star Belgrade, Tapie’s dreams for the club coming tantalisingly close to realisation.
Having been voted European coach of the year in 1991, Goethals set about perfecting a 4-3-3 system which could accommodate the likes of Alen Boksic, Abedi Pelé and Rudi Völler. Two years and a pair of domestic titles after disappointment in the ’91 final, Marseille again reached Europe’s great showpiece in 1993 where they faced the Milan of Fabio Capello in Munich’s Olympiastadion. A header from Basile Boli shortly before half-time won the game for L’OM, Goethals writing his name into history with the greatest success ever achieved by a French club.
His success in the Champions League may have been overshadowed by the Ligue 1 match-fixing scandal which blew up around Tapie shortly afterwards, but Goethals’ studied success and managerial ability has never been in doubt. One of the few goalkeepers who has made it as a manager and one of the game’s great bohemian characters, Raymond Goethals deserves to be remembered as one of Belgium’s finest coaches – the ‘keeper who came in from the cold.