With his unique athleticism, Sánchez scored spectacular goals for Los Blancos and mirrored his technique with his trademark acrobatic back-flip celebration. A true legend in every sense of the word when it comes to the Mexican national team, Sánchez represented his country at three World Cup finals, reaching the quarter-finals when Mexico hosted the tournament for a second time in 1986.
But he is best-remembered for his goalscoring exploits at the Santiago Bernabéu, and it was under the management of Welshman John Toshack that he scored 38 goals in the historic 1989-90 season as the club from the Spanish capital stormed to a fifth-consecutive title, scoring 107 league goals in the process. Sánchez claimed his fifth Pichichi award and fifth La Liga title, together with the European Golden Shoe, during that incredible season. Having initially made his name at city rivals Atlético Madrid, the prolific striker became a central figure in an era of domestic domination for Real Madrid following his arrival at the club in the summer of 1985, and wasted little time in making a huge impression.
During the course of his seven seasons at Real Madrid, Sánchez would score 208 goals in 283 appearances, but it was his return of 29 goals in 58 games for his country that would make a true national hero. Despite reaching the quarter-finals in 1986, Sánchez only scored one goal at the finals against Belgium, uncharacteristically failed to convert a penalty against Paraguay, and missed the final group match through suspension. It was an indication of his volatile and passionate nature, a trait that unfortunately tarnished his largely forgettable managerial career that followed once he called time on his playing career, which also included a spell in charge of the Mexican national team.
Having trained as a gymnast as a child, his skills on the mat transferred seamlessly to the penalty area as he scored a series of volleys and bicycle kicks. His largely diminutive presence aided his aerial elasticity, and his ability to finish from the most improbable of angles ensured his legendary status remained long after his retirement. Only Cristiano Ronaldo eclipsed the records that Sánchez set during his time at the Santiago Bernabéu, and this in no way dilutes his achievements or reduces his status in the history of the game. “Whoever invented soccer should be worshipped as a God,” Sánchez once famously said. But for millions of Mexicans and Madridistas, he is in fact the football God who should be worshipped.
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