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Remembering Radomir Antić: only man to manage Barcelona, Atlético, and Real Madrid

His legacy is very unusual

Germany v Serbia: Group D - 2010 FIFA World Cup Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Radomir Antić died two days ago due to complications from pancreatitis. The Serbian is the only man to coach Barcelona, Atlético, and Real Madrid, the three biggest clubs in La Liga.

Antić won La Liga and Copa del Rey once each, both with Atlético. At Barcelona, however, he is remembered for steadying what was at one point a sinking ship .

He played out his career as a defender from the late 60s until the early 80s. He started out at Sloboda Užice, then played for Partizan, of Belgrade in his native country, and then Fenerbahçe in Turkey. Afterwards he moved to Spain (Real Zaragoza) for a year and then England (Luton Town) to finish out his playing days.

As a coach he first managed Zargoza before being appointed by Real. They were a team in crisis at the moment, with Antić being the third manager to take over that season after John Toshack and Alfredo Di Stéfano were shown the door.

Antić took a bit to get going but eventually helped the team improve. By next season he had the team atop La Liga, although he was sacked after a wobbly period. His replacement, Leo Beenhakker, squandered the lead he had achieved.

He then landed the job at Real Oviedo, a club which he improved, too. That lead to Atlético hiring him, which would bring him his biggest successes. In 1996, he earned a domestic double, beating Barcelona’s “Dream Team” under Johann Cruyff in the Copa del Rey final first. Atlético then won La Liga by four points over Valencia, leading most of the way to the title.

He was eventually sacked after two years without the title, but then immediately re-appointed after his successor failed to improve the team. He was once again let go at the end of the season and then once again re-appointed the following season. That would prove his last stint there, however.

He returned to Oviedo but this time was relegated, and fired soon after. His next opportunity would come at the helm of Barcelona. Antić was the third coach for the Catalans that season after Louis van Gaal and Enric Reyna. They were in 15th place and some had even begun to wonder about relegation.

At Barcelona, he helped promote the careers of future club legends Víctor Valdés and Andrés Iniesta by giving them more time, and relieved Xavi of some defensive duties to allow him to play closer to goal.

Antić helped Barcelona rediscover their form and they finished a respectable sixth that year. His contract, however, ran out as Barcelona declined to use the option for another year, instead appointing Frank Rijkaard.

His last stint in European club football would be with Celta Vigo. It was not a good time and he quit amid poor results. He took charge of Serbia in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, although they were eliminated in the group stage. He ended his career by managing two teams in the Chinese Super League.

Antić’s legacy probably is most fondly remembered by Atlético fans. Prior to Diego Simeone’s triumph in 2014, the only time they had won the league since 1976 was under Antić. Simeone, incidentally, was a key player in that 1996 title win. Antić, however, did one better, by winning the national double, the only time Atléti have managed this.

As a Barcelona and Real Madrid coach, he is remembered as a short term option that helped the team when they were in a massive tight spot. Obviously, he does not have the trophy cabinet to compete with some of the most famous men to manage those two super clubs. However, he has his own bits of La Liga history that will be very hard to match.