Diego Maradona’s room-mate at Barcelona drove them to domestic and European glory before a spat with Terry Venables ended in him joining their bitter rivals
By Ffion Thomas
3 October, 2022
Born in Augsburg in 1959, Bernd Schuster started his professional career at Cologne and by the age of 20 the midfielder had played in a European Cup semi-final – the second leg of the 4-3 aggregate defeat to Nottingham Forest in 1979 – and made over 60 Bundesliga appearances. Having starred in West Germany’s victorious Euro 80 team, his technical ability, flair and physical prowess attracted the attention of numerous clubs but it was Barcelona that “der Blonde Engel” – “the blonde angel” – opted to join that summer.
After winning the Copa del Rey in his first season, in December 1981 a horror tackle from Bilbao’s Andoni Goikoetxea sidelined Schuster for nine months. He watched on as his team-mates threw away a five-point lead in La Liga but won the European Cup-Winners Cup, while West Germany lost in the 1982 World Cup final. Diego Maradona joined Barcelona that summer from Boca Juniors for a world record fee but with only two foreign starters allowed, something had to give between the Argentinian, the returning German and Allan Simonsen. Put out at the new arrival, the Dane’s unlikely next step was Charlton Athletic.
Room-mates Maradona and Schuster connected on and off the pitch in their two seasons together, winning the Copa del Rey and reaching the European Cup-Winners Cup quarter-final, going out to a Manchester United comeback from 2-0 down in March 1984, but Maradona departed for Napoli that summer. The 1983-84 season also saw the final game of Schuster’s brief international career, having clashed with head coaches Jupp Derwall and Franz Beckenbauer; he refused to play at Euro 84.
Terry Venables arrived at Camp Nou and his side lost just twice as they cruised to the 1984-85 title with Schuster their midfield engine. They faced Steaua Bucharest in the 1986 European Cup final but, enraged at being taken off after 85 minutes, Schuster stormed back to the hotel and did not even see his team-mates draw a blank in the shootout. The resulting fallout and legal wrangles over his contract saw him miss all of the next season, and though he returned for the 1987-88 campaign, a series of further spats fuelled rumours of a switch to Real Madrid.
He made the controversial move in June 1988 and in his first season helped them to a fourth successive title. John Toshack took over and Real dominated La Liga again, but a pre-season tour dispute saw the club buy out Schuster’s contract.
His next move was once again to a rival as he crossed the city to join Atlético Madrid in October 1990. His first goal came that month in a 2-1 win over Barcelona and by early April Atlético were just four points behind them in the title race. They lost six of their last eight to finish ten points adrift, though won the Copa del Rey.
The 1991-92 campaign saw just two points separate eventual champions Barcelona, Real and Atlético before an all-Madrid Copa del Rey final at the Santiago Bernabéu. Schuster’s stunning free-kick set Atlético on the way to a 2-0 win over their rivals, the sixth and final time he would win the trophy.
Injuries meant the following season would be Schuster’s last playing in Spain as he finished his career at Bayer Leverkusen and Universidad Nacional in Mexico, retiring in 1997 at the age of 37. He went on to manage a string of clubs including Cologne, Xerez, Shakhtar Donetsk, Getafe and Besiktas, as well as returning to Real Madrid to lead them to the 2007-08 league title.
This article first appeared in WSC 425, October 2022. Subscribers get free access to the complete WSC digital archive
Want to see your writing published in WSC? Take a look at our pitching guide and get in touch