"At Monaco most of the youth players lived at home because there was no training centre like one would associate with 'La Masla'."
Nimes was a three hour plus drive away and thus Amoros was forced to live at a hotel near the ground. The hotel facilities were a world away from his cosy beginnings in Nimes, offering an exceptional view of the glamorous port of Monaco. The squad would meet for meals in the Biarritz restaurant and after having an early breakfast, travel to the Louis II stadium on foot. There they would get changed and undergo training at 10am. Due to the close proximity to the infamous Monaco nightlife. Amoros initially struggled with the discipline expected of a young footballer, glancing enviably at the hedonistic carefree youngsters he would pass by. Ultimately his professionalism and hunger to succeed would eventually drive him to shun Europe's answer to 'Sin City' and focus on his budding footballing career.
"Originally Amoros was utilised as a striker, due to his ball-striking ability and dynamism, but he was soon converted to full back but not before being put through his paces across a variety of positions."
Whilst some youngsters couldn't deal with the stresses of being put out of position, Manu thrived when being asked to learn a new role and credited it for developing his comfort in playing across the pitch in his professional career. Positionally he learnt the difference between being out wide where the game was in front of him versus being in midfield where he was having to receive the ball with players on his back. Playing in midfield also taught him the value of being a ball-winner and being aggressive in the press, whereas initially when deployed at full-back he had initially been 'reactive' and 'passive' rather than taking his game to the opponent.
AS Monaco's first taste of silverware came in the early 60s, under the charismatic manager Lucien Leduc. After his departure, the club would slide back into mediocrity until the late-70s, where they suddenly sprang back into life, by first getting promoted and then in their debut season back in Ligue 1, defeating the likes of Platini's Nancy on their way to winning the 1977/78 Ligue 1 title. Amoros was making his way through the youth set up during this period but by the time he would go on to debut in the first team, Monaco were once again in decline.
Debuting in 1980, Amoros made 18 appearances and initially played at left back forging an excellent relationship with left winger Bruno Bellone. in his debut season, Monaco finished 4th. In the opening stages of the following season, Monaco initially struggled before embarking on a sustained run of victories and reaching the halfway point three points ahead of reigning champions, Platini's Saint-Étienne. Meanwhile in the UEFA Cup, Monaco exited in the first round, at the hands of Dundee Utd. At the turn of the year, Monaco won a title decider which put them in the driving seat for the rest of the season where they would remain - Amoros' first league title.
Amoros soon debuted in the French team with his first cap being earned in a friendly match against Italy, aged 20 years old. He was subsequently called up for the 1982 World Cup squad but was not selected for the first game, the infamous 3-1 defeat to England where Bryan Robson scored the fastest goal in World Cup History. With France's World Cup hopes hanging by a thread, Michel Hidalgo decided to gamble on the youngster and started him in the crucial 4-1 win over Kuwait. Manu played well, getting involved with the build up for the third goal but in truth played within himself, with a restrained display on the right flank.
Despite another solid display in the draw against Czechoslovakia, Amoros was surprisingly dropped for the first game of the second group stage against Austria. He was back for the decisive group game against a strong Northern Ireland side featuring Norman Whiteside. Amoros was found wanting for the first Irish goal after being ran ragged near the touchline by the powerful yet agile Whiteside who skipped past him to put in a dangerous cross for Armstrong to slot home. Despite this harrowing experience on the big stage, Amoros held his nerve and was key in France ultimately coming back in a scintillating 4-1 win. Hidalgo had seen enough.
The Semi Final would go down as one of the greatest football matches of all time and the heir apparent to the 1970 World Classic between Germany and Italy. During the early stages Germany were dominating proceedings with their dynamic dictator Paul Breitner calling the shots in central midfield. In the 17th minute, Breitner scythed through the French 'magic' square, before deftly playing the ball into the path of Klaus Fischer who overran it, allowing Jean-Luc Ettori to seemingly smother his effort...
Unfortunately for the French defence the ball had bounced back out from Ettori's grasp and towards the edge of the penalty area. Amoros was slow to respond and could only look on as Pierre Littbarski, the winger he was tasked to mark, drilled it through a myriad of French bodies into the net. The French weren't behind for long were soon awarded a penalty, which was duly converted by Platini. At 1-1, the game became a war of attrition, with Amoros tightening up his game and repeatedly shutting down the effervescent Littbarski with an array of blistering tackles.
After the half time interval, Amoros triggered a series of events which would cascade into the avalanche of fury that would ensure the game would be brutally carved into the annals of the game. The lustrously locked Didier Six flicked on Amoros' cross ineffectually, too far from Platini, too close to the goalkeeper who didn't hold back from nearly wiping out the Frenchman. Moments later, the wounded Platini wedged an inch-perfect diagonal ball into the space between the ill-positioned German centre backs and the on-rushing German goalkeeper, for the recent substitute Patrick Battiston to run onto...
Even though Battiston reached the ball with time to spare, lobbing it over Schumacher - the German callously followed through with a heinous shoulder charge. The Frenchman was sent airborne, unconscious on landing and instantaneously lost two teeth, suffering three broken ribs and permanent spinal damage. Much to the chagrin of the French, the referee didn't even produce a card. Whilst Battiston’s bewildered compatriots gathered around to survey the wreckage, immediately calling for a stretcher - Schumacher barely flinched, oblivious to the commotion, his icy reaction as inhumane as the preceding assault.
Les Bleus came closest to winning in normal time when Amoros drove forward in the last minute and from 35 yards out let fly a missile of a shot which stung the underside of the bar... and bounced out. The game then bled into extra time where Marius Tresor reacted to a deflected free kick to put France ahead for the first time. They struck again at the 98 minute mark to make it 3-1. Despite the seemingly unassailable lead, France continued to pour forward which enabled Rummenigge to cut France's lead against the run of play. Three minutes into the second extra time period, Fischer scored with a bicycle kick and the teams were level once more. 3–3.
"The French, drunk with justice and gorging on retribution, were in no mood to halt their vigilante crusade but just as the Viper snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by relentlessly taunting the fatally wounded Mountain, the gate was left open for Die Manneschaft to mount a devastating counter. Never had a team thrown away their chance to compete in a World Cup final in such spectacular fashion."
Amoros volunteered to take a penalty, aged 20 and knowing full well that a miss could send his country out. Composing himself, he casually jogged to the ball and gave the keeper the eyes, curling it the opposite direction towards the middle rather than the corner of the goal. Both talismans, Platini and Rummenigge scored next to keep the scores level. Then came Maxime Bossis who watched the goalkeeper guess right. Finally Horst Hrubesch lumbered up, and shot low and hard for the winning penalty. Despite the trauma of the semi final, Amoros could console himself with the fact he was nominated best young player of the World Cup.
After the dramatic highs and lows of the 1982 World Cup, Amoros could be forgiven for taking it easy on the domestic scene but instead he went from strength to strength - scoring 6 goals during the 1982/1983 season and following it up with a career high of 8 goals during the 1983/84 season. Individually Amoros was doing well but his team mates struggled to live up to their billing as reigning French champions and flopped in the first round of the European cup going out to CSKA Moscow. This shock sent their season into a tailspin and they only managed to finish a lowly 6th. The following season they signed Genghini, the talismanic French midfielder who shone at the World Cup and he helped drive Monaco to within agonising proximity to their 2nd title in 3 seasons, falling short on goal difference.
Such was the standing of young Amoros at this stage of his career, he was awarded the captaincy of the French national side ahead of the likes of Platini going into the European Championships on home soil. With Amoros and co at the peak of their powers, France were rightfully seen as the favourites to lift the trophy. The opening match paired together two teams that many experts predicted would contest the final just 15 days later at the same Parc des Princes stadium. Dogged Denmark had devised a plan to shackle Michel Platini but it was their own talisman who came unstuck after a bruising 50-50 challenge with French defender Yvon Le Roux left Allan Simonsen, the European Footballer of the Year in 1977, with a broken shin. The traumatised Danes were unable to hold on as Platini finally escaped their clutches to strike the eventual winner.
“I saw this red card as an injustice: it tackles me, then holds my foot. I gesture to give him a whim, but I don't put it on. It is a gesture of youth but which is also due to my warm blood of Spanish. Suspended for a good part of the competition, I had to invest myself in another way for the group,
As tensions rose and France tried to hold on to victory, Amoros embarked on a wonderful run before reacting to a slightly overzealous challenge from the United-bound Jesper Olsen. After narrowly failing to throw the ball at Olsen's face, Amoros followed up this initial act of aggression by proceeding to unforgivably headbutt the Dane between the eyes. Not surprisingly Amoros was subsequently suspended for three matches and even though he was available for the final, he was duly punished by the Hidalgo.. being brought on as a late sub, his captain status utterly redundant. The worst punishment of all was watching his team mates win an historic first international trophy knowing that he had only played a bit part role.
Going into the World Cup, Amoros remained haunted by the fact he was a mere footnote to the European Championship success. The French started the tournament slowly, barely managing a 1-0 victory against Canada before nearly coming unstuck against the Soviets. The Soviets nearly took the lead with an astonishing left footed hit from 30 yards by Rats before Platini intricately played a weighted ball over the Russian defence, for Luis Fernandez to collect and finish. The USSR tried to exploit the fact that France's diamond left the flanks vulnerable, but Amoros managed to defend a plethora of 2 v 1 situations and secure the victory for the French. In the final group game, France reminded everyone of their artistry by carving Hungary apart 3-0.
In the Round of 16, the reigning European Champions faced defending World Champions Italy. Amoros came alive as he nicked the ball off a pedestrian Italian attack and initiated the counterattack, making a run towards the left wing to open up the space for Platini who received a pass from Giresse and lifted the ball over the onrushing Galli. France then decided to school the Italians in the art of possession football, making the Azzuri look crude and outdated. Stopyla’s wonderfully crafted second goal was the result of a brilliant worked combination between the elegant Tigana and beguiling Rochetaeu. Now it was time for France take a look in the mirror and play fellow artists Brazil.
65,000 raucous spectators packed the Estadio Jalisco, salivating at the prospect of watching two of the greatest number 10’s the game has ever seen… yet the man of the match was none other than a full back – Manuel Amoros... who won the duel to decide the generations greatest multifunctional full back, comprehensively outperforming Leo Junior. The game would exceed the hype; being played at a breathless tempo with both sides taking turns in trying to dismantle the other with free flowing yet cleverly crafted, laser like precise bouts of possession play - tiki taka on acid...
Amoros started the game well with a powerful shot from just outside the box, drilling it narrowly past Carlos’ post. However he was soon caught out by an iconic passage of play by Brazil, who in taking offence to the ‘Brazilians of Europe’ moniker bestowed upon the French, delivered a riposte that could only be engineered by the true gods of Joga Bonito. A sharp turn by Muller, left Amoros struggling to put in an effective challenge and as he tamely lost his man - Muller and Leo Junior conjured up a series of rapid fire one touch passes leaving the French defence dazed. By the time Amoros had regathered his senses, Careca had expertly tucked away, what in any normal World Cup would have been arguably the goal of the tournament. 1-0 Brazil.
Eager to bring the game to level pegging, Amoros began interchanging from left to right back and then back to left in furious desperation for the ball and took it upon himself fight fires across the pitch. The South Americans didn’t quite know how to deal with him as he relentlessly drove forward with the ball. To top it all off, he was pinging wonderfully whipped balls off either foot, causing uncertainty and chaos in the Brazil backline. Just before half-time, Amoros played a clever left footed reverse pass wrong footing the Brazilian defence and enabled Rocheteau to combine with none other than Michel Platini to slide the ball into the back of the net. 1-1.
Midway through the second half the Brazilian coach Tele Santana decided it was time to introduce the legendary Zico. And after only five minutes the ageing Brazilian had executed a perfect through-ball to Branco splitting the French rear guard and inducing Joel Bats to give away a penalty. Unfathomably, one of the greatest set piece takers in the history of the game lost his neve and the match ended 1-1 and went into extra time.
In extra time Amoros’ long term compatriot and colleague from Monaco, Bruno Bellone found himself running towards the Brazil goal with just the keeper to beat. As he knocked the ball past the onrushing keeper, he found his path to the ball blocked by Carlos who had decided to channel his inner Schumacher and take Bellone out without any intent to win the ball. Bellone struggling to keep his balance ended up missing his chance to score what would have been a certain winner had it not been for the foul. Incredulously, the referee didn’t even call for a free kick and waved play on in Brazil’s favour. Thus, this extraordinary match would have to be decided by a nerve-wrecking penalty shootout.
Brazil’s captain, Sócrates, had his shot spectacularly saved by Bats. Amoros curled his penalty with pace and power into the left hand corner of the keeper. Zico then made amends for his missed penalty in normal time. Shockingly, fellow set piece extraordinaire Michel Platini spanked his attempt over the bar levelling the shoot-out...sending the predominantly Brazilian crowd into raptures. It was then the turn of the defender Julio Cesar, whose hard shot hit the post before Luis Fernandez, the experienced Paris Saint-Germain midfielder made no mistake in scoring the winning penalty for France on a low shot to the right of Carlos.
In the semi final, France faced arch-rivals Germany... their conquerors in the 1982 World Cup. 4 years is a long time in football however and whilst the French team had pretty much the same engine room and half the 1982 side still intact, the German's only retained Schumacher, Forster, Briegel and Rummenigge. This would prove telling as France simply didn't have the same zip as they did in that sweltering night in Seville. In midfield, out had gone Brietner their dynamo-in-chief and in had come none other than Lothar Matthaus, still in his formative years but no less formidable on the big stage. Amoros was arguably the stand out defender in the first half, despite Brehme opening the scoreline with a well-struck indirect free-kick which proved too hot to handle for Joel Bats.
In the second half , as France began to get desperate, Amoros faded, not really having a huge impact in attack with a series of overhit crosses with his left foot as he tried to combine with his long term colleague Bellone. Brehme seemed to be getting to him, defending well and getting forward with aplomb from right-back, beating Amoros a few times with his surging runs on the counter. The Germans eventually scored another to knock out the French at the semi final stage once again. Aged 24, Amoros would never feature at the business end of an international tournament again as the French national team went into a transitional period, but he could take solace that he was voted the best right-back in the tournament by the international press (despite the fact he had arguably played most of it as left back).
After another disappointing domestic campaign, finishing 5th in Ligue 1 and an early exit in the Coupe de France, Monaco took a gamble on a young and untested manager, a certain gentleman called Arsene Wenger. The previous challenge of sustaining Nancy as a Ligue 1 club had proved too difficult for Wenger as he had inherited a squad of sub-standard quality and was given limited money to spend. Yet he had nevertheless relished the freedom to trial theories he read about during his playing career and by creating a lifestyle revolution off the pitch, he successfully caught the eye of President Campora of Monaco, who was keen to get him on board to shake things up at Monaco.
Despite Wenger's aloof nature, he built up a strong rapport with Amoros, getting the elder statesman of the side onboard with his vision for how he wanted the club to evolve. He appointed a dietician and regularly put the players through their paces in dynamic attack-focused training sessions which emphasised quick ball retention. There would be 45-minute tactical “lectures” before each game and a reliance upon a data collection program called Top Scorer, a precursor to the modern-day ProZone. Every player’s decision on the pitch was analysed: which in the late 1980s was something of an innovation.
"Monaco won the league in Wenger's debut season, six points ahead of runners-up Bordeaux."
Before joining Monaco, Wenger had identified several players to build his desired team. Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Glenn Hoddle and Patrick Battiston, out of contract at Bordeaux, were signed - Hoddle in particular proving to be the creative fulcrum of the side. Striker Mark Hateley left Milan to join Monaco. Amoros was liking what he was seeing and he felt re energised. Top of the table by week 5, Monaco didn't let slip and stayed top for the remainder of the season securing their fifth national title with two games in advance. In the French Cup the Monegasques were knocked out in the second round, losing 3-1 on aggregate to Nice.
The season after, Monaco were arguably more potent with the purchase of George Weah yet Monaco failed to retain the league and finished third behind moneybags Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain. The club did reach the final of the Coupe de France but lost 4–3 to Marseille. It would prove to be Amoros' final game for Monaco. Marseilles who were being bankrolled by Bernard Tapie were assembling a team of superstars... Forster, Deschamps, Francescoli and Tigana. The objective? to be the first French side to win the European Cup, Amoros was next on their list...with a heavy heart and aware this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to play for a club with genuine ambitions in Europe - Amoros bid farewell to the principality where he had learnt to play the game.
In his first season at Marseilles, Amoros was part of a side which had now won back to back titles, with Papin scoring 30 goals in the league alone. By this stage of his career, Amoros was no longer as influential in attack and his role was predominantly defensive. This meant his positioning was less suspect and allowed him to fine tune his defensive skills such as man-marking and timing of the tackle. In the European cup, Marseilles performed strongly, making it to the semi finals and going out on away goals against a revitalised Benfica side after a hard fought 2-1 home win, in which they had the lions share of possession was followed by a shock 1-0 loss away from home.
The season after Marseilles fought off a strong challenge from Monaco in the league - who in Amoros' absence continued to compete due to an influx of new talent being brought through under the watchful masterful eye of Arsene Wenger. With the likes of future world cup winners Emmanuel Petit and Youri Djorkaeff coming through, Monaco were able to overcome any lingering disappointment from the league campaign and upset Marseilles in the Coupe de France final through a last minute goal from substitute Gérald Passi.
In the European Cup, Marseilles reached the final, one step further than the year before, beating Milan in the quarter-finals (in a controversial victory, in which Milan refused to re-enter the pitch after floodlight failure was fixed).
In the Champions League final, they faced Red Star Belgrade, one of the most talented young sides in Europe and containing the likes of Jugovic, Prosinecki and Savicevic. Despite boasting such a talented side, Red Star manager Ljupko Petrović made the call to kill the game and play for penalties. In the Yugoslav First League, all games ending in draws went to penalties in order to decide the winner. As a result, all of the Red Star players were accustomed to taking penalties, and therefore dealt with the pressure far better than most.
During normal time, Amoros kept his wits about him, stationed at right back - as he often was at Marseilles - performing solidly in defence with an array of expertly-timed challenges - marking the mercurial set-piece specialist Siniša Mihajlović, who marauded up and down the left wing and featured a lethal left foot, out of the game. With the score disappointingly level at 0-0 after a turgid, uncharacteristically physical 120 minutes Petrovic's plan had come to fruition - it was time for penalties.
It is rare you see a full back trusted to take the first penalty in such a big encounter but Amoros had built up a reputation as a reliable penalty taker. Taking a long run up, Amoros' shot didn't match the ferocity of his run up and he tamely scuffed the ball straight into the keepers willing embrace. Unfortunately it ended up being the decisive penalty as Red Star won 5-3 on penalties.
The season after in 1991–1992, the experienced and classy Marseilles squad cruised to their third successive league title. In the Coupe de France, Marseilles reached the semi final where tragedy struck as 18 people were killed after a temporary stand collapsed. As for their ambitions to conquer Europe, the disappointment of the previous years had seemingly taken their toll with them failing to make the special group stage, being knocked in the second round by another eastern European foe - Sparta Prague. This was to prove to be Amoros' final season as a first team regular at Marseilles as in the following season, he only played 12 games.
The Danes had come to Sweden on a wildcard, replacing Yugoslavia who had been excluded from the tournament due to political upheaval. France. France played poorly throughout the tournament despite boasting a wave of new talent including Laurent Blanc and Eric Cantona. It came down to the final group stage game, after draws against Sweden and England. With England losing to Sweden in a dramatic encounter, France just required a draw against Denmark.
"Internationally, Amoros' reign of captain had come to a tragic end, once again at the hands of Denmark at Euro 1992.".
The game did not start well for France, going a goal down in the 8th minute with Amoros caught out of position and unable to defend the far post. France began to push for an equaliser and with 20 minutes to go, Papin found some space in the area and perfectly placed a finish in the bottom corner of Schmeichel's goal to seemingly put France through to the knockout stages. Only, France went and threw it away with some weak defending, conceding a second by failing to defend a driven cross and allowing Elstrup to tap in. 2-1. It proved to be the end of an era, with the last of the Euro 1984 contingent walking away from the French national team.
Marseilles sough to replace Amoros with a young French full back, Jocelyn Angloma. He, alongside the likes of Desailly established a robust athletic foundation upon which Marseilles finally captured the Champions League. Unfortunately the win was mired in controversy as Marseille's club president Bernard Tapie would later be found to have been involved in a match-fixing scandal. This eventually saw them relegated to Division 2 and banned from participation in European football. Meanwhile Amoros moved to Lyon, where he played another 3 seasons, almost winning the league for 6th time in the 1994/95 season as Lyon narrowly missed out on the title. He then retired after the 1995/96 season aged 34.
Post retirement Amoros began his coaching career in Division d'Honneur (the sixth division of the French football league system) with Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in 2000 but last half a season before continuing his coaching journey with the Tunisian outfit CS Sfax in 2002. Once again it was another brief stay of only 5 months before he agreed to work for Kuwait for 6 months as their assistant head coach in 2004. He took his first step into management with a short spell in charge of the Comoros team. This was followed by his most high profile role to date as coach of Benin on a two year contract. In June 2013, by mutual agreement with Anjorin Moucharafou, the president of the Beninese football federation, he terminated his contract citing interference from the president in respect of matters on the pitch.
Manu' Amoros was a full-back who was undoubtedly light years ahead of his time. An ambidextrous ball-striker who was able to play on both flanks with consummate ease and possessing a dynamic two-way game, he was France's fiery answer to Andreas Brehme. Both were rivals for the tag of best full-back of the eighties and whilst Amoros wasn't quite as prolific in front of goal, he too could leather it from distance and was considered a reliable penalty taker on the big stage.
Yet for someone of Manu's undeniably considerable talent, his trophy cabinet was threadbare to say the least. Twice a league winner but what should have been the scene of his crowning glory - the 1984 European Championships - ended up an albatross around his neck Young, in the form of his life and captaining the national team - if he hadn't been sent off and subsequently suspended for the majority of the competition, we would be talking about the undisputed best French full back of all time.
If there is some technical criticism which could be levelled at the Frenchman, it would be thus; he was a jack of all trades but a master of none. It would be an unduly harsh criticism but there is some truth to it. His defending in particular was not flawless. If caught high up the pitch during a rare French loss of possession, Amoros could be prone to missing the odd recovery tackle, 'reactively lunging' for the ball in contrast to the pre-emptive immaculate defensive skills of a Djalma or a Paulo. For your average world-class defender, he was an exceptional defender but if we are talking about his defensive skills in a more exalted context - he came short in this respect.
Technically, Amoros was a world class crosser of the ball with a particular penchant for maintaining the momentum of the attack with clever feints to pass back to a centre back only to then hit a reverse pass with the opposite foot to a midfielder - moving off again on the overlap before the opponent had even had time to register what had just happened. Compared to the modern day full back who is still usually very one-footed and in this era where possession is king, generally looks to pass back each time he faces being pressed near the touchline to avoid being caught on the ball - Amoros was ahead of his time and a breath of fresh air.
Amoros was also a risk-taking, rugged ball carrier who despite lacking top tier pace, had an explosive component to his dribbles, capable of surging past players and finding that yard of space to whip a ball in. Despite being so two-footed in terms of ball-striking, Amoros favoured dribbling predominantly with his right foot which illustrated that whilst he was to a large extent bipedal, he wasn't quite as ambidextrous as Brehme.
In conclusion, Amoros was one of the most gifted full backs the game has seen. In clutch situations, he generally rose to the occasion though he was ultimately found wanting on the two occasions where success was at his doorstep, This has undoubtedly hurt his reputation amongst the casual football fan, as most would cite Thuram or Lizarazu as the leading contenders for the best french full back of all time, but upon closer inspection - it isn't really a contest - he was head and shoulders, the best French full-back of all time.
The culmination of this football career, my children, my wife, my parents. I gave them that feeling of happiness they give you when you are a child or teenager yourself. The fact of being able to return to them this happiness and this pride as immigrants, this recognition ... Casually, your name is constantly quoted, newspapers are laudatory. It was a great pride for them too.
Patrick came to see me at the end of the match saying: " I wanted to make you participate in this final. Patrick is a very good person, very endearing, very emotional. It's true that he simulated this injury. Michel Hidalgo did not understand that he wanted to be replaced. This is the gesture of a team, a teammate who wanted to involve everyone in this big party. It proves that we all got along well and that we were friends. I played fifteen or twenty minutes. It was not a gift, but he knew I had the ability to hold my position and role without a problem.
I missed a shot on goal, it's like that, what do you want me to do? One could say that Pascal Olmeta did not stop either. (Laughs.) These are the hazards of football. Michel Platini missed one in 1986, just like Zico. You know, all the biggest players missed a penalty.