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Helenio Herrera Biography

Thu 01 April 2021 | 8:30

One of the most influential people in football was Helenio Herrera. He had big changes in tactics and managing style. His revolutionary ideas worked perfectly, especially in Inter and Barcelona. Let’s find out about Helenio Herrera biography.

There are many famous and successful football managers, but not all of them are iconic. More than 100 years of professional football in England have been passed, but there are a few managers as iconic as Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger. Italian football has a rich history of great managers, but not all of them were as revolutionary as Arrigo Sacchi.

Some managers are like architects and they build a marvelous palace with their players. A palace no one could not even imagine. You may have heard about the Italian defense. In the football world, it's famous as Italian food. One of the most important people in the formation of Italian tactical evolution and simultaneously of the most successful in the history of Calcio, is Helenio Herrera, undoubtedly. He was the one that developed the sort of tactics that we know as Catenaccio.

Before his journey to Italy, he had great days in Spain, leading

Atletico Madrid



to a string of titles and trophies. His reign in football began in the early 50s and lasted for about two decades. It's not very accurate, but Helenio Herrera is somehow the prophet of advanced defensive play in football.

All You Need to Know About Helenio Herrera Biography

Today it's very common for managers to get credit for the results of the team but before Herrera, it wasn't like that. Helenio Herrera could be considered the first celebrity coach in football. He had international experiences and achievements and the tactical evolution of Catenaccio is just one of the things he's famous for. Even though Catenaccio wasn't invited by Herrera, he made it a trademark tactic.

He won plenty of titles in Spain before moving to Italy to complete his masterpiece.


under his management got "La Grande Inter" nickname that means Great Inter. He is still one of the most decorated football coaches, but at his time he was a genius pioneer.

Helenio Herrera Information

Helenio Herrera was Argentinian, but he admitted to the citizenship of France. His parents were originally Spanish. In the 60s, he had two spells in the national teams. The first team was Spain, as his own roots were in there, and then Italy, where he migrated to flourish.

Helenio Herrera Bio

  • Full name: Helenio Herrera Gavilán

  • Nicknames: “Il Mago” [the wizard]; “H.H.” [name initials]

  • Profession: Professional Football Player and Manager

Helenio Herrera Physical Stats

  • Height: 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)

  • Weight: 75 kg

  • Hair Color: Black

Helenio Herrera Football Information

  • Playing Position: Defender

  • Professional Debut: the 1931-32 season

Helenio Herrera Date of Birth and Personal Information

  • Date of birth: 10 April 1910 (1910-05-10)

  • Place of birth: Buenos Aires, Argentina

  • Date of death: 9 November 1997 (1997-11-9)

  • Place of death: Venice, Italy

  • Wives: Lucienne Léonard, Maria Morilla Pérez, Fiora Gandolfi

  • Father: Francisco Herrera

  • Mother: Maria Gavilán Martínez

  • Sibling: Aurore Herrera Gavilán

  • Children: Francis Herrera, Hélène Herrera, Linda Herrera, Danièle Herrera, Angel Herrera, Rocío Herrera, Helios Herrera, Luna Herrera

Helenio Herrera Early Life

According to his official website, Helenio Herrera's birth date is on April 10, 1910, but on his passport, it is six days later, 16th. The first number is valid. He was born in the Palermo district, in the heart of Buenos Aires. His family was from southern Spain, migrated to Argentina because of their political views, apparently.

Helenio Herrera's childhood

was in Argentina, but when he was ten, his family decided to leave the country.

They moved to Casablanca, which is geographically close to their Andalusian origin. He learned French In Casablanca and became a professional footballer for the first time. His first club was named Roches Noires Casablanca in 1928. Three years later, he joined

Racing Casablanca

before his move to France in 1932. He became the new defender in Club Athlétique des Sports Généraux in Paris. After a season, he left CASG, and before World War II came up, he played a couple of seasons in Stade Français, Charleville, and Excelsior Roubaix.

In 1940, he transferred to Red Star, the third oldest French football club. He played for Red Star for two seasons and then returned to Stade Français. Before his retirement as a player, he had a season in both EF Paris-Capitale and Puteaux. He started his managing career in Puteaux while he was their player too, at the same time.

Helenio Herrera Profile

Helenio Herrera's life story

had a huge turn when he became a manager. After his experience as a player-coach, he returned to Stade Français for the third time, but this time as a manager.

Real Valladolid, Atletico Madrid, and Sevilla

After three seasons without any silverware, Herrera left France and went to Spain. His first team in Spain was

Real Valladolid

. Valladolid was recently promoted to La Liga and he managed to keep them in the top flight. After that, he joined Atletico Madrid and in the debut season, they won the La Liga title. At the time, Herrera's managerial style was very offensive.

Atletico scored 71 goals in 26 matches, and after


with 72 goals, they were the second most goals scored. In the 1950–51 season, he was successfully defending the league title and Atletico won their fourth La Liga championship. In the third season, Atletico didn't win the title, and Barcelona, with their new Hungarian star László Kubala, won the league.

He left Atletico and had two short spells with


and Deportivo de La Coruña. Both Deportivo and Málaga were in the relegation zone. In 1953, he signed a contract with


, the same time the Argentinian striker Alfredo Di Stefano transferred to

Real Madrid

. Helenio Herrera finished fifth in the 1953–54 season, fourth in both 1954–55 and 1955–56 seasons. In the 1954–55 season, Juan Arza from Herrera's Sevilla won the Pichichi Trophy as the league's top scorer.

Herrera's best result in Sevilla was in the 1956–57 season, where they finished runner-up after dominating Real Madrid. After this season, he had a single season in Portugal coaching Belenenses, but it only lasted one year.


Real Madrid, with Di Stefano, was unstoppable and they took advantage of the Hungarian's failed revolution and hired football legend Ferenc Puskás to be Di Stefano's pair in the front line. Their rival Barcelona could not stop them even though they had László Kubala and Luis Suarez in the fire line. For the 1958–59 season, Barcelona hired Herrera to end Real Madrid's reign. Barcelona didn't go without benefits from Hungarian immigration and signed two top stars, Sándor Kocsis and Zoltán Czibor.

Herrera won the La Liga title with Barcelona in his first season, while their top scorer, Evaristo, scored fewer goals than Di Stefano and Puskás. Barcelona players scored 96 goals in 30 matches, which means more than three goals per match ratio. They also won

Copa del Rey

in that season and that means double titles in the first season at Barcelona. At the beginning of the 60s, they defended the La Liga title and Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. His striker Luis Suarez won the Ballon d'Or over Real Madrid's Ferenc Puskás. Helenio Herrera had a very high profile restriction for the squad and some players found his way very difficult. In Barcelona, he had an issue with their star, László Kubala, and that became a reason to leave.

Inter Milan

Herrera left Barcelona and joined Inter in Italy. Angelo Moratti, the famous Italian tycoon, and Inter Milan owner, had a secret meeting with H.H. in Spain and had an agreement for the manager role. He was

Spain's national team

coach at the same time where he had one of the most magical attacking trios in football history, including Di Stefano, Puskás, and Luis Suarez. Suarez left Barcelona for Inter. In the 1962 FIFA World Cup, Herrera could not progress from the group stage.

In Italy, he was nicknamed "Il Mago" which means the Wizard. The nickname was given to him by Italian journalists and at some points, they did not agree with the results-oriented strategies he chose. Helenio Herrera arranged a team in a 5-3-2 shape that was flexible to perform fast build up counter attacks. Moratti had a string of manager changes and needed someone to make Inter great.


was dominating the league with Omar Sívori and Giampiero Boniperti.

Inter in Herrera's debut season reached the third rank in Serie A behind Juventus and


. Inter and Juventus rivalry was heating up due to a great start from Inter. In one of the most contraventions in football history, Inter was forced to rematch with Juventus for an unfinished game that Inter was in lead. Herrera and Moratti decided to send the youth team in protest of the injustice. Juventus won the match, 9–1, which was the heaviest defeat for Inter.  The one goal from the Nerazzurri side was scored by a young rookie, Sandro Mazzola.

Mazzola and Facchetti were two promising stars who made their way to the senior squad. For the second season, Luis Suárez joined him from Barcelona for more technique in Nerazzurri. Inter for the second time claimed the winter top position with Herrera. At the end of the season, Scudetto was given to Gianni Rivera and Cesare Maldini in Milan. Despite the great performances from Corse and Suárez Inter finished five points behind Milan.

The arrival of Tarcisio Burgnich was a key factor for Inter's defense line. Burgnich and Facchetti appointed as two full back sweepers. Mazzola and Suárez contributed a great partnership. Picchi and Guarneri were in the heart of the defense. All these changes ended with Inter's championship after nine years.

Inter made their debut in the European Cup, facing


in the first round. After beating Everton, Partizan, and

Borussia Dortmund

, it was Real Madrid's turn to be beaten by Grande Inter. Inter won the final in Vienna with two goals from Mazzola and one from Milani. In Serie A, there was a surprise.


won the Scudetto and Inter finished runner-up. 1964–65 was the peak of Herrera and Grande Inter.

They repeated European Cup championships added up with a Scudetto and Intercontinental Cup. The only title that slipped out of Herrera's hands was Coppa Italia. In Coppa Italia's final, they lost the match to Juventus in a close game. Burgnich from Inter and Del Sol from Juve both were sent off in the 75th minute of the game. Inter defended the European Cup title by defeating


in San Siro. In one of the most exciting comebacks of football, Inter made up the first leg, 3–1 defeat in the semi-finals against


. The 3–0 win in San Siro made their way up for glory.

In the next season, Grande Inter under Herrera continued to harvest titles. They won scudetto once again and Intercontinental Cup, while they couldn't pass the semi-finals in European Cup and Coppa Italia. Facchetti scored ten goals that season and it remained a record for most goals by a defender for Inter until 2001.

In the European Cup semi-finals, they faced Real Madrid and a single goal from Facchetti wasn't enough to prevent Real from winning the championship. In 1966, Herrera was about to have 21 years old German midfielder Franz Beckenbauer from Bayern München and Portuguese striker Eusébio from Benfica, but the Italian government banned football clubs from hiring foreign players.

After 1967, April, Inter's strength started to fade out. Inter failed to win any of the last six league matches. Losing against


in the final fixture was the miracle Inter performed in favor of Juventus to win the league title by one point. In the European Cup, Inter met


from Scotland. Celtic had a very offensive style of play, while Inter had more emphasis on defense. The match ended with the victory of a Scottish team, also known as the Lions of Lisbon.

Inter started a face-off in the squad. But changes were not welcome and they finished fifth on the table. In Coppa Italia, they were eliminated in the first round and that was a bitter ending for Grande Inter.

AS Roma & Retirement

In 1968, he signed a contract with


, making him the highest paid manager in the world. In Roma, Herrera's only achievement was a Coppa Italia in the first season. Constant conflicts with the club president Alvaro Marchini were a big issue for Herrera. In the third season, Marchini sacked Herrera. At the end of the season, Marchini was replaced by a new president, Gaetano Anzalone. Anzalone brought Herrera back to Giallorossi.

In 1972, Herrera won the Anglo-Italian Cup by beating Blackpool in the final. On December 17, 1972, in the Roma-Inter match, the Giallorossi fans invaded the field after the assignment of a dubious penalty granted to Inter at 90'. The match was suspended and Roma lost, 2–0. This triggered a contrast between Herrera and Giallorossi fans and led to Herrera's departure after a few weeks. Il Mago returned to Inter's bench but a heart attack in 1973 February made Inter replace him. He spent a long time away from the tension of football.

In 1978–79 he came back to football as the manager of


in Serie B, but unfortunately it was the time of the Totonero scandal in Italy. Rimini relegated at the end of the season, but not due to illegal activities. He returned to Barcelona for a short spell between March 1980 until May. It was the last time Herrera managed a team. After that, he started his journalistic activity, writing for several daily papers and press agencies. He lived his last seasons of life in Venice.

Style of Management

Herrera had a very specific type of discipline and motivation. He used pep talks and other psychological tools to motivate his players. He had his firm restrictions, too. Every player had to follow his health care plans, including sports diets and a ban from smoking and drinking. He even controlled the player's sexual activities by sending club officials to his home. Some people didn't tolerate it and found his method harsh.

Once, he noticed that the father of one of his players had died, but he used the player unaware of his father's death. After the match ended, he told the player that awful news. He used and took credit for the Catenaccio system. In some points, that system was notorious due to its emphasis on defense, but some criteria found that anti football. That is a little unfair because he proved his team can perform perfect offensive football on several occasions. He has a huge impact on Italian football and even the world. You can trace back the style of today's Italian Football to Helenio Herrera’s Methods.

Helenio Herrera Career Statistics

There isn’t much information about Herrera’s career statistics as a player. So, in this part of

Helenio Herrera's bio

, we’ll discuss his statistics as a manager.


He joined Stade Français as a manager in 1946, the club he played for three seasons. They had a 54% win ratio in 114 games in two seasons. In 1948, Herrera Joined the Valladolid club only for a season and in 1949 he went to Atletico Madrid and stayed until 1952. His win ratio again was 50% in 120 games. After a brief spell in Malaga, H. H. Joined Sevilla and guided the team, winning 62 out of 123 games. His mid career in Spain ended in Barcelona with an amazing win ratio of 75%.

In 1960, he left Spain to join Inter Milan and managed them eight seasons until 1968, winning a handful of titles and cups. In 343 games, they won 193 times and draw 83. In five seasons in AS Roma, his win ratio wasn’t so good. He helped the team win 64 games in 190 total. After a brief spell in Inter and Rimini, he went back to Spain and managed Barca again for two seasons, winning 30 games out of 48. 

Helenio Herrera Personal Life 

Helenio Herrera’s nationality

was Argentina. He was born on Calle Thames in Palermo, a residential district of Buenos Aires. After moving to Paris in 1937, he was pressured by his mother to return to Morocco and marry Lucienne Léonard, a girl he met in a dance hall and was eight month pregnant. Herrera had seven children. Their first child, Francis, was born in Paris in 1937. A year later, Hélène was born on July 12.

Being called up for military service and avoid being sent to the front, in 1941 their third child, Linda, was born at Neuilly, Paris. While he was playing in the defense for Entente Stade Français-CA and realizing that he could be a better coach than a player, his fourth child, Danièle was born on August 15, 1942. Helenio Angel, son of Helenio Herrera and Maria Morilla Pérez was born in January 1952 in Madrid. They were unable to marry because Maria was still tied to another marriage. This was when he left France, and joined Atletico in Spain.

While he was in Portugal with the Belenenses club, His daughter Rocío was born in Seville in 1957. Rocío Herrera died in August 2002. In his second season in Roma, he met Fiora Gangolfi during an interview and she became his third wife. During the after effects of the poisonous scandal in AS Roma, Totonero, in 1972, his seventh child, Helios, was born in Paris. In the following year, he came back to Inter for a promising start to the championship. But he suffered a posterolateral heart attack even though he didn't drink or smoke. The only reason was too much stress. He moved to Mazzorbetto (one of the islands of Torcello), which can be reached only by rowboat.

In 1976, he adopted a sick girl sitting on a bench in the Plaza del Pino in Barcelona. Helenio brought the two year old to Italy for an Operation and named her Luna. A year after that, he moved to Rimini with his whole family and took the role of technical advisor. FIFA sent him around the world to train coaches and bring them up to scratch–in Ruanda, Columbia, Algeria, Mauritania, and Greece.

After a period of journalistic activity and writing for several papers and press agencies, Herrera died on November 9, 1997, in Italy, when he was 87.  

Helenio Herrera Honors

In 1942, Herrera won a player’s prize in the Coupe de France, playing in the defense for Entente Stade Français-CA. Stade Français is a club in Paris playing in the suburb town of Vaucresson. Stade Français’ rugby union section is currently the most successful. After giving up playing, he found that his talent is in the coaching career. In Atletico Madrid, he guided the team to win two consecutive La Liga titles in 1949–50 and 1950–51 seasons. Also, in 1950, they won a Copa Eva Duarte. It was played between September and December, usually as one-match finals. The trophy was the predecessor of the current Supercopa de España.

In Barcelona, he again won two consecutive La Liga titles, in 1958–59 and 1959–60 seasons. In the 1958–59 season, he helped the team to win the Copa del Rey against Granada. They also won the first Inter-Cities Fairs cup that took place over three seasons from 1955 to 1958. Herrera joined Barca in 1958, when they had won the play off in 1957 against Birmingham City. The finals were against London XI, which at the second leg, Barca won 6–0. The second Inter-Cities Fairs cup was held from 1958 to 1960 and again Herrera’s Barca managed to win it. Herrera came back to Barcelona at the end of his career and won another Copa del Rey in the 1980–81 season. 

Helenio won three Serie A titles with Inter Milan in the 1962–63, 1964–65, and 1965–66 seasons. Also, his majestic Inter won two consecutive European Cups, in 1963–64 and 1964–65 seasons and two consecutive International Cups in 1964 and 65. After Inter, he took the job in Roma and won the 1968–69 Coppa Italia. As a member of the Italian football hall of fame (2015), he was ranked 4th by World Soccer and 5th by ESPN, both in 2013, and 7th by France Football in 2019 as one of the greatest managers of all time.




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source: SportMob