Rodney Marsh, an England international in the early 1970s when he played for Manchester City, then an unsuccessful coach and finally a television and radio presenter, left several famous phrases for being funny.
Among them is: “All a coach has to do is keep 11 players happy.
The 11 reserves.
The 11 starters already are because they are starters.
A valid thought, of course, for those years in which there was a clear line between starters and substitutes.
Years of invariable alignments, that those of "when then", as Threshold would say, we still recite.
Every time two, three or four of us who haven't seen each other get together for a long time, it's easy for us to start exchanging memory alignments like philatelics who show other philatelics their collection of old stamps.
A joyful experience of childhood return.
I still remember how identified I felt with Iñaki Gabilondo when, at I don't know what meal, among several of us, we recognized ourselves as the only holders of two rare stamps that no one else had: the line-ups for Hungary and Germany in the 1954 final. I experienced the same scene years later with Antonio Escohotado.
That common knowledge brought us closer.
But nowadays, are there fixed lineups?
Could anyone safely recite the one from Spain in the last World Cup, or the one from Argentina, which came out champion?
And Simeone's Atleti?
No, the teams are no longer 11. The teams are now 16 or 18, and although there are some who play almost everything, the others play a lot and feel part of the triumphs with every right.
The changes, which have been growing in an almost geometric progression, opened that safe that was the old lineup so that players can now get in and out on the fly every week, even in every game.
Then the competitive intensity (the schedule has been loaded with about 20 more games in this time) led to rotations,
also recommended by medical studies that detected how the risk of injury increases after a certain number of minutes per month.
Adding some causes to others, it is common for games and games to pass, and the coach does not repeat the lineup.
Sometimes it coincides with one from weeks ago, purely by chance.
Gone are the 11 starters that come to light in those fair line-ups to which those of us who were already going to football in the sixties surrendered.
Just like the 11 ignored substitutes are over.
Now there is an osmosis between two groups that we could define with that vague "probable" and "possible" of the matches that the old coaches programmed to decide the final team.
The "fish cart", before half the squad, now there are only a few cursed who do not enter the wheel not even by chance and they do not care because otherwise they would leave, like those four invisible Madrid headed by Hazard.
The rest is honorably used.
But there are games that score, games in which the coach has to sing openly who are the ones he most trusts: such a big night in Europe, the final of whatever competition, national or international… And the Classic.
This is a match of superior rank because of the symbolic charge it represents and because the 22 who start in parallel lines, captains in front with the pennant, will be aware that the scene is being televised to the whole world.
They will be seen concentrated and happy, aware that they are part of the game on a day that, regardless of the final result and their own performance in the match, will mark their hierarchy in the squad to which they belong.
The others will go to the bank, more or less disappointed, depending on their expectations.
Changes, rotations, variable alignments, faded, irrecitable... Other times and other customs.
But football sometimes protests from the depths of time and demands respect for its old laws, as is the case: if only from time to time, there are still 11 starters and 11 substitutes, as in the Rodney Marsh years.
Something like those old canvases that, folded again, insist on showing their original folds.
You can follow EL PAÍS Deportes on
, or sign up here to receive
our weekly newsletter
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits
I'm already a subscriber