It may not happen this summer, but one day in Barcelona, Lionel Messi will clean out his locker and someone else will have to wear shirt No. 10. Whoever it is, he could do worse than talk to Steve Archibald.
The former Scotland international is drinking tea in good shape at a bar in Barcelona and remembers how, when he signed for the Catalan club in 1984, he had to replace Diego Maradona, no less.
It’s legendary how he inherited the number 10, as already established midfielder Bernd Schuster didn’t want to wear it. And that Maradona hadn’t taken the aftershaves and lotions out of his locker before he left for Naples that summer.
Steve Archibald inherited the Barcelona number 10 shirt from Argentinian icon Diego Maradona
There was immense pressure to fill the void Maradona had left, but Archibald took it in his stride and helped Barcelona win La Liga for the first time in 11 years.
At least the locker smelled good? “I smelled pretty good when I put everything on,” Archibald jokes.
‘I knew Maradona was a giant figure in football and if you are going to replace him, you will be a loser because it is impossible. The key to me has always been the confidence to score a goal, whether it was for Aberdeen against the Old Firm, or playing against Manchester United or Liverpool when I was at Spurs. Why should I doubt myself? ‘
His confidence was grounded. After Tottenham’s £ 1.15 million transfer, he scored on his Barcelona debut with Real Madrid, helping them win La Liga for the first time in 11 years.
There is a pattern there too. He had previously helped Aberdeen win their first Scottish title in 25 years. And in his first season with Spurs, he was the top scorer and they won the FA Cup, their first trophy in seven years.
Will Messi regret it if, as it seems increasingly likely, he doesn’t try another top European competition before retiring? “No, he won everything here,” says Archibald. ‘The only thing he hasn’t won is the World Cup and there’s not much he can do about it.
He has everything here: fans who love him deeply and a team that plays for him. He’s at one of the biggest clubs in the world and he’s happy. I don’t think he will go anywhere else. ‘
Barcelona has a huge job in keeping Argentinian star Lionel Messi at the club
Archibald caught up with him Sportsmail about his time with the Spanish giants Barcelona
Barcelona is busy putting together the kind of package that will have Messi sign a new contract this summer. There’s even some suggestion that Sergio Aguero could be used to sweeten the deal – his Argentinian friend is about to leave Manchester City for free and is definitely looking to join.
‘I would take Aguero in a flash,’ says the man Barcelona fans still fondly remember as ‘Archigoles’.
‘He is a top finisher, he moves fantastic. I would say he is one step ahead of even Luis Suarez in terms of the very last move he makes in the area to get to the final pass.
And it’s intuitive with him. You can also see it in Suarez, but Aguero has an added advantage for him at that last minute. I think it would work great, as long as he is fit of course. ‘
Archibald believes that when Messi eventually leaves, the key will be to not replace him with something like that.
“There might be another Messi coming by, but he’s not here now, so you have to do something else,” he says.
Barcelona is not stupid and it is not [Ronald] Koeman. He knows that Messi is the only one who can make it work the way it does now. When Messi goes, they will have to reorganize. ‘
Archibald admitted he would take Man City striker Sergio Aguero ‘in a flash’ at the Nou Camp
Barcelona reorganized post-Maradona, replacing the Argentinian’s unpredictable genius with Archibald’s consistent clinical finishing. The change brought success and he still has fond memories of winning the league under Terry Venables who brought him to the club.
“We made it a point to celebrate in Madrid because we didn’t win it for eleven years,” he says. Then on the highway back to Barcelona from the airport it took us five hours to reach the city center. Normally it’s a 15 minute journey but there were party fans blocking the bus on the highway, it was incredible.
When I negotiated my contract with Vice President Joan Gaspar, he said to me, it’s a lot of money. I said: but I will score a lot of goals. What do I do if I score 20 goals?
“He said if you score that many goals, we’ll double your contract and put a statue in your city. I kept his word about the wages; I didn’t want to push him on the statue. ‘
Archibald is currently collaborating on a documentary that pays tribute to Venables’ enormous and sometimes overlooked contribution to modern Barça, which went on to win European Cups under Johan Cruyff and then Pep Guardiola.
“I wish people could understand what Terry was doing here,” he says. ‘It is amazing what he has achieved.
‘The whole cunning cockney thing goes out the window when you show up in a new country. Nobody knows what that is. But when he delivered his first speech in front of 70,000 people, he delivered it in their Catalan language and I thought, f ** k! If he can, I can score goals here.
Archibald helped Barcelona win La Liga in 1984-85 thanks to his consistent clinical finish
And he was tactically ahead of his time. Two weeks after his takeover, he had convinced everyone. It was solid defense at first and future freedom – a light went on with all the players. ‘
The tactic was also based on a savage press game. ‘It would start with me and everyone would come with me. We got the ball back high on the field very quickly, ‘he says.
The team was defeated on penalties by Steaua București in the 1986 European Cup final and replaced with Archibald before they failed to score from any of their spot kicks.
He believes Venables’s legacy would be very different had they won the final.
“That is my great regret,” he says. He deserved it. The team deserved it.
‘I find it unfortunate that we have not been able to take the last step. And sometimes they lower the performance of that team and everything goes towards Johan (Cruijff).
‘How many chances did Sampdoria miss at Wembley in ’92! Johan was lucky and Terry was not.
‘I liked Johan and we got along very well and I liked his playing style. I was happy for the club when they won it in ’92. But I would have given my left arm to win it. ‘
Archibald praised the legacy his former manager Terry Venables left behind at Barcelona
Archibald is collaborating on a documentary that pays tribute to Venables’ contribution to Barca
There is a lot about the modern game that Archibald dislikes. “A strong sneeze and you’re down,” he says about the way players win penalties. He is not anti-VAR, but believes it should be used against divers.
And of the five subs rule, he adds, “How the hell can you make three or four tactical changes to a game and not confuse the players?”
He also has many stories about the characters that shaped his career. “Fergie was aggressive,” he says. Always on, never off.
He recalls Sir Alex Ferguson’s very first training session open to the press and a reporter shouting: Fergie! Fergie! Fergie! Fergie!
The new boss stopped the session to bellow the gentleman from the press: Do you know me personally? do we know each other? When the man said no, he continued, Then why are you calling me Fergie? It’s Mr. Ferguson.
That was his first day. Let’s just say it impressed the players, ”says Archibald.
But he didn’t just live off the anecdotes since his retirement in 1996. He’s always had an entrepreneurial spirit that was honed by working as a mechanic when he came through as a young attacker at Clyde making cars to sell to teammates.
Jump ahead to 2017 and he founded the energy group FC Energia that provides renewable energy to companies all over Spain.
Archibald also spoke of Sir Alex Ferguson’s tough approach to management
“My partner in the company is Nexus Energia, a multi-billion dollar company and the largest green energy company in the country,” he says.
He says the company has grown and cut costs in the millions to save it; creating different rates, including a ‘hero rate’ for medical personnel during the pandemic; he is now in the midst of what he calls “a really aggressive hostile takeover” and adds, “Watch this space; wish me luck.’
‘I thought it was a job well done, but my multinational partner Nexus Energia wants to remove me from the company, maybe it’s exactly what’s happening at this level, the big guy crushes the little guy and takes control. But not without a struggle! ‘
He fought hard on the field throughout his career. Never more than when he had to wear the jersey worn by the greatest players football fans had seen at the time. Which brings us to a final question: ‘Shouldn’t Barcelona just stop with the No. 10 shirt when Messi finally leaves?
“No, I think that’s ridiculous,” says Archibald. ‘Throughout history there have been many players who have left their club and you have thought: what will happen to the club now? Is it the end?
‘But it doesn’t have to be that way. And it will not happen to Barcelona. They know how to regenerate. They know how to innovate. ‘