Monday, August 6, 2012

Juan Lozano: The best player you’ve never heard of

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Unless you followed European soccer closely in the early 1980s, chances are you are not familiar with a player named Juan Lozano.
This is a player who could have potentially played for the Belgian National Team of the 1980s and was recruited by Real Madrid, but ended up with no international matches to his name and his career was wrecked early by injury.
Juan Lozano was actually not a Belgian; he was a Spanish born player who grew up in Belgium.
Juan José Lozano Bohorquez (full name) was born in Sevilla. When he was ten years old, his family moved to Antwerp, Belgium due difficult economic conditions.
He started his career at modest Belgian club Beerschot, whom he had joined as a youth player. In 1980, he joined NASL’s Washington Diplomats.
During his short stay there, the club was dissolved while on a tour.
Upon his return, he was contacted by Barcelona and was led to believe that they were ready to sign him. However, upon his arrival, he was suddenly told that he must try out upon the insistence of club Manager Helenio Herrera, who was not familiar with Lozano.
After a week of try-outs he left in anger, since his situation was not clear and was not receiving any concrete answers from the management.
He had no hesitation upon joining Belgium’s most famous outfit Anderlecht of Brussels.
In those days Anderlecht were one of the strongest sides in Europe with a squad full of International level players such as Belgian stars such as Frank Vercauteren, Ludo Coeck and Danish stars like Morten Olsen and Kenneth Brylle.


Photo From: Onze, May 1983
(Juan Lozano with Anderlecht 1982/83)

Lozano attracted attention mainly by excelling in the European Cup matches as a talented attacking midfielder.
He was instrumental for Anderlecht reaching the semifinals of the Champions Cup in 1982 by eliminating Juventus and Red Star Belgrade along the way.
However, Anderlecht were defeated narrowly by eventual winners Aston Villa in the semifinals.

Photo From: Mondial, March 1985
(Juan Lozano with Anderlecht vs. Aston Villa 1981/82)

His excellent club form also attracted the attention of Guy Thys, the Belgium National Team Manager. Thys wanted to include him for the upcoming 1982 World Cup in Spain.
Originally, Lozano had hoped to be called up by his native Spain, but neither Ladislao Kubala nor Santamaria, his successor as Spanish National Team Manager, contacted him.
With time running out and the World Cup approaching, he accepted Belgium’s call.
Lozano had still retained his Spanish citizenship, therefore the Belgian Federation requested the Belgian Government to fast track Lozano’s citizenship process in time for the World Cup.
Under normal circumstances, this process would have taken up to a year; however, the Federation wanted it to be resolved in a matter of months.
It seemed such a formality, that Lozano had even participated in Belgium squad’s pre-World Cup get together.
The Belgian politicians were infuriated when they saw a photograph of Lozano in Belgian uniform, before a decision was made on their part.
The Belgian Chamber had already passed, however, the Senate did not and Lozano’s World Cup dream was over.


Photo From: Mondial, May 1982
(Juan Lozano photo with the Belgian NT uniform that angered the Belgian Senate)
With the World Cup gone, Guy Thys effectively gave up on the issue and did not attempt to pursue the naturalization process and Lozano’s international prospects were over.
His excellent displays continued for his club Anderlecht and for the 1982/83 season, Lozano and Anderlecht triumphed in the UEFA Cup by defeating Portugal’s Benfica.
His European displays had not gone unnoticed and he had the possibility of joining AS Roma or Real Madrid.
He signed a pre-contract with AS Roma, but after they signed Brazilian Toninho Cerezo, that option was no longer a possibility.
He chose to join Real Madrid, with the advantage of his Spanish citizenship enabling Real to hold on to their two foreigners already on the books (West Germany’s Uli Stielieke and Dutchman Johnny Metgod).
He also hoped his transfer to Real Madrid might increase his chances for the Spanish national team.
Spanish National team Manager Miguel Munoz had hinted at the possibility upon his arrival.

Photo From: Foot Magazine, November 1983
(Juan Lozano in action for Real Madrid, 1983/84)

Lozano did not have a successful career at Real and in his two seasons, injuries and poor form sidelined him to the bench. He was light years away from the player who shone in Europe for Anderlecht. He had fallen into anonymity and his career suffered.
When Real Madrid was paired with his former club Anderlecht during the 1984/85 UEFA Cup, Lozano played no part in those matches and later complained sarcastically that he was only taken along to act as interpreter.
At the conclusion of 1984/85 season, he was determined to leave and jumped at the chance to rejoin Anderlecht.
His first season back (1985/86), he celebrated by winning the League Title and another Champions Cup semifinal appearance vs. Romania’s Steaua Bucharest.
The following season (1986/87) would be the beginning of the end of his career, despite once again triumphing in the League.
On April 11, 1987, he was severely injured by Waregem’s Ivan Desloover and he never fully recovered. For the following two seasons, he battled to regain his form but to no avail. At the conclusion of 1988/89 season, he was released by Anderlecht.
He then joined Aalst in the Belgian Second Division and ended his professional career in 1990.
It was a sad ending for a player who by all accounts deserved to have had international appearances for Belgium and/or Spain.
Just looking at most national teams today, there are many players who are foreign born, but at the time, such examples were rare.
If he were playing today, he most likely would have obtained citizenship with greater ease and would have played for a National Team.
Today he is largely forgotten to Football fans, but for a brief few seasons, he was one of the most sought after and consistent performers in the European Cups.

6 comments:

  1. Great job. Extraordinary blog. Greetings from Colombia. I'm a new follower!

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  2. Juan Lozano was one of the top 10 players in the world between 1980 to 1985. If you told him to play freely on a field, he would play with the feet of any player, Pele style during Pele advertising dribbling young kids on a beach if you remember. Of course, he had to follow his coach's directions, therefore, he was only extraordinary brilliant...
    No need to say he is one of my favorite player ever.

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  3. I have to remember this name as he was the executioner of my Benfica in the night of May 18th 1983 :(
    Sorry but I don't like this guy very much!!!

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  4. If only he hadn't put on that Belgian national jersey and had his photograph taken :-)

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  5. Considered in Belgium as one of the best midfielders ever played the game at Belgium soil...

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