On Wednesday, FC Barcelona will come up against an Osasuna team managed by Real Madrid legend José Antonio Camacho, one of the most experienced Spanish managers working today. As a study in contrasts, the differences between Camacho and Guardiola could not be more extreme: both men are icons for rival teams, and where Camacho brings experience and discipline to the table, Guardiola counters with tactical innovation and a squad overflowing with raw talent. The question on everyone’s mind then is this: will Camacho lead his squad to strike a blow for his former club, or will the newcomer Guardiola emerge victorious in this battle?
Camacho came to Madrid at age 18 where he starred in the Madrid central defense from 1973 to 1989. During that 15 year span, he played over 600 matches with the club, winning eight league titles and two UEFA Cup trophies. During the same period, he played his way into 81 caps with the Spanish national team, an international career that spanned the 1982 and 1986 World Cup finals.
How did this undisputed brilliance as a player translate into coaching? Camacho’s pedigree as a football manager is unquestionable, but his results have been mixed to say the least. After his official retirement from the game in 1989, Camacho went on ironically to lead both Madrid-based Rayo Vallecano, and Barcelona team RCD Espanyol, winning promotion for both outfits to the First Division. In 1998, Camacho was poised to coach for Real Madrid, but his term ended after only 22 days because of ongoing disputes with the Madrid management.
The next year, Camacho tested his skills at the international level when he accepted a position as manager of Spain’s national team. He led the squad to the French Euro 2000 finals, where Spain was ousted 2-1 in the quarter-finals by France, and to the 2002 World Cup finals in Korea and Japan, where the team controversially went out in the quarter-finals on penalties to South Korea.
Camacho then returned to coach at the club level and has bounced around between a number of clubs over the last decade. In 2002, he tested the waters in Lisbon, accepting a coaching position at Benfica. In 2004, he returned to manage Real Madrid after the firing of Carlos Queiroz, but resigned later in the season after a run of poor results. The latest stop in this whirlwind career has been Pamplona where he signed on to manage CA Osasuna in October of 2008, replacing outgoing manager José Ángel Ziganda.
Over the last season, tactical fluidity has been a trademark of Camacho’s approach to the game. He freely alternates between a straight 4-4-2, a more modern 4-2-3-1, and even a more defensive 4-4-1-1 formation. In the last meeting between Osasuna and Barcelona, back in October of 2009, Camacho’s 4-2-3-1 produced a 1-1 draw at the Estadio Reyno de Navarra.