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Real's culture vultures beat Spurs

On Tuesday night, Tottenham took a big step towards Champions League elimination with a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Real Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Their only previous meeting in European competition came at the corresponding stage of the UEFA Cup in the 1984-85 season, when Madrid also came out on top and Tottenham were left to rue a dodgy decision and two aberrations from Steve Perryman. At least it was close this time.

In an era when fourth place can secure entry to the elite of European football, it is hard to envisage a time when a team with as great and glorious a history as Real Madrid were scrapping in the UEFA Cup, while their league campaign floundered badly. But in 1985, they were doing just that. As was written in The Guardian, Madrid arrived in England to face Tottenham "with a large reputation but limited horizon... a team disillusioned at home and desperate to succeed in a European competition which would once have been the least of their ambitions".

But even with the club's stock at a record low, the green shoots of recovery were seen. A new generation of players were emerging in the Spanish capital, and it was one that would redefine the club. Though greater feats would await them, the Quinte del Buitre's legacy of success began with a victory in the UEFA Cup of 1985 - Real's first trophy in Europe since the 1966 European Cup.

A durable and distinctive evolution was taking place, one that would transform the fate of Los Merengues. As early as November 1983, change was in the air. That was the month that El Pais journalist Julio Cesar Iglesias profiled a crop of exciting young talents who would win the Segunda Division title with Real's Castilla reserve team in 1984, dubbing them the 'Quinta del Buitre'. The spiritual leader of this generation of young talents was Emilio 'the Vulture' Butragueno, a fearsome striker who would go on to score 123 La Liga goals and become one of Spanish football's greats.

Defender Manuel Sanchis, midfielders Michel and Martin Vazquez and forward Miguel Pardeza were the other partners in the cultured quintet. The first two, along with Butragueno - the unconventional yet brilliant striker, who defied the traditional image of a Spanish footballer - would become all-time greats for Real. Sanchis outlasted his contemporaries and even won two Champions League titles at the conclusion of his career, and although the roles played by Vasquez and Pardeza were more limited, they were still essential to the rejuvenation of the club.

The man who oversaw their progression at Castilla was Amancio Amaro, a hero of the 1966 European Cup-winning side known as the 'Ye-ye' team. After being appointed coach of the senior side in 1984, he naturally relied on the talents he himself had fostered, although he was sacked before the Quinta would secure their first trophy in 1985. Five successive Primera Division titles followed as a new, glorious chapter was written in the history of Madrid.

But the trophy that started it all hung very much in the balance in that quarter-final clash with Spurs. After all, heading into the two-legged fixture, it was the North Londoners who were favourites.

Tottenham, in contrast to Madrid, had enjoyed continental success the previous season when beating Anderlecht in the UEFA Cup final of 1984. Manager Peter Shreeves had been appointed in place of Keith Burkinshaw following that victory and set about attempting to marry art with application, even asking the languid and graceful Glenn Hoddle to indulge in a few tackles. However, Spurs' classic style, forged by Bill Nicholson, had not been completely abandoned, with Hoddle and Ossie Ardiles adding aesthetic value.

Tottenham were also unbeaten at home in European competition in 24 years and 44 matches, while Real had won only one of their previous ten fixtures in Spain prior to the first leg at White Hart Lane and were 14 points adrift of Terry Venables' Barcelona in the table. As Shreeves said: "I should think they are relieved to get on a plane and leave Madrid behind."

Although Spurs sought tactical advice from Catalan scout Venables, their performance at home on March 7 was uncharacteristically limp as they succumbed to a 1-0 defeat, surrendering their proud unbeaten record. Hoddle was described in one report as "a profound disappointment" and, although the goal came in unfortunate circumstances, Madrid were far the better side with Butragueno a constant menace.

After 15 minutes, German libero Uli Stielike started a counter-attack with a pass to Michel. Butragueno then picked up possession on the right wing and his cross was deflected by Ray Clemence onto the knee of Steve Perryman and over the line. After the final whistle, the optimistic PA announcer declared "this tie is far from over". However, Shreeves knew his side had been given a lesson. "It doesn't please me to say it but Real played some superb stuff at times and we will have to do better than this in Madrid," he said. "I think this is a night when we must salute the victors."

Shreeves was gracious in defeat, but a controversial second leg in Madrid on March 20 was harder to stomach. Though Real were favourites having scored 14 goals in their three previous UEFA Cup games at home that season, and had not lost a game in continental competition at the Bernabeu for 12 years, Tottenham produced a much more cohesive performance.

With both sides trading chances, a moment of high controversy came after 75 minutes. Mark Falco beat Miguel Angel to a cross and headed home, but the goal was ruled out by Swiss referee Bruno Galler before TV replays showed there had been no contact. Perryman would later describe it as an "incredibly bad decision", but worse was to come for Tottenham's all-time record appearance holder. Just three minutes later, he brought down Argentinean striker Jorge Valdano with a dangerously high challenge. Writing in The Guardian, Hugh McIlvanney described Perryman's tackle as "scything in high enough to include instant vasectomy, or something even more basic, among its possible effects".

Perryman revealed it was an act of retribution. "I was a little bit selfish, which was unusual for me," he told The Independent in April 2011. "I got a bit of revenge on Valdano, who really did me badly from behind down the Achilles. Ossie told me later he'd thought I was [Graham] Roberts, because Roberts had apparently kicked him. It was my last ever game in Europe so a shame it ended that way."

Real held on to record a 0-0 draw in the home leg, and a 1-0 win on aggregate. Even now, Perryman remains frustrated with the outcome of the quarter-final. "It was great to play against a fantastic club but we came away with a nasty taste," he says. "There was a bit of doubt as to the validity of the result."

Perhaps a sense of injustice has festered and developed over time, because contemporary reports acknowledged Madrid were deserved winners, controversy aside. McIlvanney wrote: "If Tottenham could claim that the refereeing they experienced in Spain was less than flawless, they certainly weren't entitled to see any raging injustice in what happened to them over the two legs of their tie with Real Madrid. The simplest, most relevant interpretation of the three-hour contest is that Real played more good football in London than either side managed to produce in Madrid and so probably deserved to go through to the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup."

Even Shreeves conceded that "it was an indifferent performance in the first leg in London that put us out", before adding: "When I see the kind of class Butragueno showed for Real against us in London ... I can't help letting admiration mingle with the pain and worry."

In retrospect, there was no shame in losing to Butragueno and his acolytes, who went on to defeat Inter in the semi-finals and Videoton of Hungary in the final. Having beaten Spurs, albeit in contentious circumstances, the Quinta del Buitre had acquired a taste for success.

What happened next? Perryman had played his last game and finally departed North London in 1986 to join Oxford. Shreeves also left in the same year. Madrid went on to secure five successive league titles with the likes of Butragueno and Hugo Sanchez starring, while an ageing Sanchis won the European Cup trophy that had ultimately evaded his cohorts when playing a part in Real's victory over Juventus in 1998.


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