Steve Archibald lifts the lid on THAT huge move to Barcelona

‘Barca fans thinking I was Maradona’s replacement brought all sorts of nonsense for me’: Steve Archibald lifts the lid on THAT huge move from Tottenham, Nou Camp chaos and his present day power struggle

  • Steve Archibald had huge boots to fill when he joined Barcelona in 1984 
  • He signed as Diego Maradona left and ended up taking his iconic No 10 shirt 
  • Despite scoring his first goal in a Clasico win over Real Madrid pressure mounted
  • Archibald today finds himself embroiled in a renewable energy battle 

Over the last 12 months, Steve Archibald has fought tooth and nail to stop a Spanish energy giant taking the shirt off his back. For the only Scot ever signed to replace Diego Armando Maradona, power struggles in Barcelona are nothing new.

Sweet-talked into leaving Spurs by the barrow-boy sales pitch of Terry Venables in 1984, the promise of his favourite No 8 shirt sealed the deal.

The problems began when German midfielder Bernd Schuster made it crystal clear he wouldn’t be swapping his favourite jersey for the No 10 jersey vacated by Maradona any time soon.

Steve Archibald was plucked from English football by Barcelona and immediately given the unenviable task of having to take on Diego Maradona’s iconic No 10 shirt

‘I had always been a No 8,’ Archibald reflects now. ‘And, before I went, I said Terry I wanted the No 8 again.

‘But when I realised it was already Schuster’s shirt, I thought: “I wouldn’t like it if I was him”.

‘He was my main provider. If I took his number, I might not get too many passes if I pinched it.

‘So I took the No 10 instead. And that brought all sorts of nonsense on my head…’

By the summer of 1984, Barcelona players were no strangers to wearing crash helmets. The Copa del Rey final had sealed the fate of Maradona when he sparked a mass brawl in front of the watching King Juan Carlos by taking exception to an agricultural assault by the infamous ‘Butcher of Bilbao’ Andoni Goikoetxea.

rchibald (right) of Barcelona takes on Gatetano Scirea of Juventus in European action

As players swapped punches and kicks before the watching millions on TV, the crowd of 100,000 bombarded the pitch with missiles. When the casualty list ended up reaching 60, Maradona had to go, joining Napoli for a then world-record fee of £6.9million.

In his first power struggle with Barcelona president Josep Lluis Nunez, Venables threw a chunk of the transfer cash at new Tottenham chairman Irving Scholar — despite Archibald’s complete and utter indifference to the whole idea.

Like the crooner taking the mic after Sinatra, he was nudged on to the stage, a reluctant conscript.

‘I had never considered going to Spain,’ he tells Sportsmail now. ‘Not even on holiday. It was a place I never fancied.

‘I didn’t want to leave Spurs. Why would I?

‘I’d been there for four years, won the FA and UEFA Cups, scored bundles of goals and had an incredible relationship with Spurs fans.

‘I was comfortable, Ossie Ardiles was a very good friend of mine, it was all working and it was a good place to be.

‘But Terry was the new manager of Barcelona and wanted me over Hugo Sanchez, who the Barcelona president wanted to sign.

‘Terry was desperate to get the deal done and I really had no option because Spurs had accepted the offer.

Archibald was happy and thriving at Spurs and admits he didn’t even consider leaving

‘Straight away I get there and folk are asking me: “Are you the substitute for Maradona”? ‘And I’m thinking: “Nobody could be a substitute for Maradona, for crying out loud”.’

A man who started out combining part-time football with tarting up old cars, Archibald wasn’t afraid of a challenge. Yet, while doing justice to Maradona’s old shirt was far from the first hurdle he’d overcome, it was clearly the biggest.

‘It helped that my first goal was in a 3-0 win over Real Madrid in El Clasico in the Bernabeu,’ he says with casual understatement.

‘The newspapers really whipped it up as a game that was fixed so Madrid would get off to a flyer.

‘You can’t imagine what was going on. On the way into the stadium the bus was pelted with rocks and bottles and the windows smashed and you’re thinking: “Welcome to Madrid”.

‘I’d had a bit of bus banging as a wind-up when Aberdeen went to Celtic or Rangers, but nothing as violent as that.

‘The club hadn’t won the league in 11 years and when you look at Barcelona now you realise how unthinkable that was at the time.

‘But, you know, I won over the fans in that first season and it’s still there today. Scoring my first goal against Real Madrid made life a lot easier…’

A lingering love affair with Barcelona eventually drew him back to the Catalan capital to live. A footballer whose brains were always unusually close to his head, the former Aberdeen title winner helped to establish a football-themed renewable energy company, FC Energia.

Archibald tasted success with Spurs, seen here with the old UEFA Cup in 1984

‘I knew nothing about energy,’ he admits bluntly. ‘I knew how to put the light on and that was it.’

A business partner offered knowledge of the sector and a joint venture with Nexus Energy.

‘Unfortunately he wasn’t quite as expert as he made out. He was also spending all our money and I said: “You have to stop this”.

‘He said: “But we can go to Portugal instead”.

‘And I said: “No, the definition of madness is doing something that doesn’t work here and going somewhere else hoping it works there”.

‘So I removed him from the company and Nexus and I became 50/50 partners.

‘I took over the day-to-day as CEO and president and it went fantastically well — even through the Covid period.’

Archibald’s desire to provide a more tangible thankyou to frontline workers than nightly applause on the streets led to the offer of cheap power to Covid carers at cost price during the pandemic.

The move established FC Energia as one of the rare few corporate winners during lockdown. So much so that Nexus Energy have now lodged a hostile bid to raise new capital and issue new shares.

‘Basically what they meant is: “Let’s get you out”,’ says an indignant Archibald.

It’s something he could do without at a stage of life where he could simply buy a place on the Costa Brava and intersperse walks on the beach with polishing the medals he won with Aberdeen, Spurs and Barcelona.

A regular fixture in the Scotland ranks Archibald (second from left) played from 1980 to 1986

But the former Scotland striker has always been a slightly awkward Glaswegian with an underdog’s mentality. Giving bigger, wealthier opponents a bloody nose has become a way of life.

The lawsuit will play out over the next six months and he admits: ‘It’s financially, emotionally and physically draining.’

‘It’s a horrible thing, but it’s important to show strength of mentality. I have to keep going.

‘It’s not only for myself I am fighting. What you have here are big guys coming in and trying to slap a little guy around because they want to. I did all the work, built it all up and now they want to say: “We’ll take over now because we are bigger than you”.

‘This is like Clyde playing Rangers at Ibrox. I have to go out and do my best and refuse to accept defeat and just try to win.’

A streak of entrepreneurial ambition first shone through as a 22-year-old at Clyde, the obvious place for a Rutherglen boy to learn his trade. Or two, as it turned out.

‘I did a mechanic apprenticeship when I was 16 for a sales and service dealership for Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Jaguar over in Crossmyloof.

‘By 20, when my apprenticeship was up I was looking at the people bring in their Rollers and Jaguars and thought: “Hmmm, I would quite like to be him”.’ Going into business with his friend Gerry Nicol, the pair opened up a petrol station and garage in Glasgow’s Castlemilk Road.

‘I was playing for Clyde, working in the garage at 8am then training before doing homers in the dark.

‘We were fixing cars, getting old cars at market, doing them up, selling them on. We were doing it for six months. And then the offer came to join Aberdeen.’

When the call came from Billy McNeill, he took all of ten seconds to accept. McNeill’s untimely return to Celtic then blew an aggressive gust of wind through the corridors of Pittodrie.

‘Alex Ferguson came in and there was a different drive and demand. I started to get stronger, physically and mentally,’ says Archibald.

Despite winning the Scottish Premier League in 1980, he never hid his desire to move to England. Venables first tried to sign him for Crystal Palace before Aberdeen team-mate Ian Scanlon banged the drum hard for Spurs during daily trips to training. A £1m fee paid off a chunk of Aberdeen’s South Stand.

‘I’d be saying: “Palace look good with Terry Venables in charge”. And Scan would say every time: “Naw, you’re going to Spurs, trust me on this”.’

After Barcelona came a return to Scotland with Hibs where he claimed 19 goals in his first season, scoring the winner in a first Tynecastle win over Hearts for ten years. 

Invited back to Easter Road as a guest for the home game against Dundee on December 14, he will perform a Q&A for fans in Edinburgh the next evening. A similar event is planned for Aberdeen.

Terry Venables – formerly Barcelone boss – pictured with a youthful Archibald in January 1985

Some of his tales have already found their way into a planned autobiography. A playing career of 22 years, 12 clubs (East Stirling, Clyde, Aberdeen, Tottenham, Barcelona, Hibernian, Espanyol, St Mirren, Clyde (again), Reading, Ayr United, Fulham and East Fife) delivered a haul of over 150 goals. 

He went on to manage East Fife and Airdrie — including trying to buy the latter — recommended a young Robert Lewandowski to some unconvinced clubs in the UK and did the deal to take Mikel Arteta to Rangers. At 65, he has tales coming out of his ears.

‘Funny enough, I just started writing again the other day,’ he reflects. ‘Being a professional footballer seems a dream lifestyle and it is. But there are lots of hurdles you have to get over. And I’m still trying to overcome them now.’

For tickets to see Steve Archibald Live at Easter Road on December 15 and An Audience with Steve Archibald in Aberdeen at the Tivoli Theatre on March 16, visit www. headlineevents.online/events.




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