Robert Fernández in his Barça playing days / FCB ARCHIVE

[[DES_1]]The defeat to Steaua Bucharest in the 1986 European Cup Final was one of the toughest blows ever suffered by Barça. Everything was in their hands to win the trophy for the first time, but the game in Seville ended 0-0 and the Romanians won on penalties. It was a day Robert Fernández would never forget. He had been signed that season from Valencia, and was someone coach Terry Venables had been eyeing for some time, a strong and versatile midfielder with a fine shot and great heading ability.

As a youth player at Villarreal, he had worked under Josep Seguer, who had played in the famous Barça of the Five Cups, and he soon established himself as a first team regular with the Catalan giants. “I felt at home with Barcelona straight away” he says in an interview with Barça Magazine in April 2013. “I knew lots of the players from the international team and the manager put all his faith in me.”

He had just got over a serious injury at Valencia, but he was one of the shining lights in a team that went for two years without winning a major trophy and faced such turmoil as the ‘Hesperia Mutiny’ of April 1988, when practically the whole squad, supported by new manager Luis Aragonés, called for the board to resign over a conflict over tax payments on players’ image rights. As Robert remembers “it was a very nasty situation and not one that any player would want. There was a horrible atmosphere between the players and the directors, and it affected the squad. A lot of players departed undeservedly. 70% of them left and it was all very sad”.Under Cruyff we had to change our way of understanding the game ... But it was a hugely gratifying experience
Robert was one of the few players that new manager Johan Cruyff was interested in keeping on, and the midfielder turned down an offer from Venables to go to Tottenham, and another from Inter Milan. “Football changed under Johan” he says. “The approaches were different and that needed time. It was a slow and difficult assimilation process. We had to change our way of understanding the game, playing with three defenders, the goalkeeper using his feet, playing the ball out from the back, using players out wide – and we also had to win matches and titles. We had to stay very focused on our game but it was a hugely gratifying experience.”

Robert was a central part of the system, as evidenced by the Cup Winners Cup Final in Berne against Sampdoria (1989). After just four minutes, he knocked on a Lineker cross from the right and Salinas tucked the ball away. It was the start of a new era. “That game gave us the strength to truly believe in the boss’ ideas” says Robert. At home, rivals Real Madrid were at the height of the Quinta del Buitre era, and Robert has fond memories of the many clashes he had with Míchel, who he played alongside in the international team, and the day Barça finally got the better of the all-whites by beating them in the cup final 2-0 at Mestalla in 1990.

Mid-season farewell

The Dream Team was in the making, but Robert would play no part in the glory. After a tour of Japan, Barça then continued their preseason in Holland. And that was when the shocking news was revealed. Robert was tired of waiting for the promise of improved contractual terms to finally be met, and decided he was going home. It was a bitter decision that he still finds hard to talk about. “A player can only ask a club so many times for something and eventually the time comes when you’ve got to cut the cord” he says. “Some people manage to sort these things out but I couldn’t or didn’t know how to reach an agreement. The chance to go back to Valencia came up, and Barça were offered a magnificent deal and I decided to go. I wasn’t expecting it. We were away in Amsterdam but Valencia wanted to reach an arrangement quickly and paid the fee. I don’t think Barça thought I’d really go, but I am a man who keeps his word”.

Barça sold the player for three times the amount they had signed him for, but it was a move that surprised the football world. Not even Cruyff could work out how it had happened. “It wasn’t for sporting reasons” says Robert. “I always played.”

While the Dream Team amazed the world, Robert Fernández played for five years at Valencia, where he adapted to a new role as a defender. After that he returned to boyhood club Villarreal, and eventually injury forced him into retirement while playing for Cordoba at the age of 39 in 2001.

He stayed in football, working as technical secretary first for Valencia and later Atlético Madrid, and was manager at Cordoba, Oriola and Alzira. A resident of Rocafort (Valencia), there is little he enjoys more than long bike rides. He is a regular pundit in the media, plays indoor football with fellow veterans and also helps out as a coach for FCBEscola.

He has always stayed close to Barça and rarely does a week go by without him visiting the city for some reason or other. And now he’s finally back at the Camp Nou on a permanent basis as the club’s brand new technical secretary.

Robert Fernández i Pep Segura [CAT] por fcbarcelona

Robert Fernández: remembers his Barça days por


Name: Robert Fernández Bonillo
Date of birth: 5-7-1962
Place: Betxí (Castellon)
Seasons at Barça: 1986-90
Appearances: 247
Goals: 66
Titles: 1 Cup Winners Cup (88/89) and 2 Spanish Cups (87/88 and 89/90)

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