Radomir Antic has died after a long illness, aged 71. The Yugoslav footballer and manager whose late goal rescued Luton Town from relegation in May 1983, famously sending his manager David Pleat skipping and leaping across the pitch at Maine Road, had pancreatitis.
Antic, the son of Bosnian partisans, had a 17-year playing career which took him from Sloboda Uzice to Partizan Belgrade, Fenerbahce and Real Zaragoza before finishing at Kenilworth Road in 1984, where he had spent four years.
There were four minutes left when a shot from the edge of the area kept Luton up at the expense of Manchester City, described by John Motson in the BBC’s commentary as “an amazing act of escapology”. Antic was a league title winner in Yugoslavia in 1976 but, for all his achievements, that moment was the one that he always appeared most fond of, often replaying footage and defining it as the most important goal of his career.
In 1988 Antic was named coach at Zaragoza and he became the only man to take charge of Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid and Barcelona. He also coached at Celta de Vigo and Real Oviedo, twice, before becoming the Serbia manager and ending his career in China.
He was famously sacked as manager of Real Madrid despite the team being seven points clear at top of the league 19 games into the 1991-92 season, a decision more to do with politics than play. He stabilised a Barcelona side in crisis after arriving in January 2003 but did not continue beyond the end of the season, with Joan Laporta’s election as president ushering in a new era at the Camp Nou.
It was at Atlético where Antic had the greatest impact, leading the team to a league and cup double in 1996, with the current manager, Diego Simeone, as captain.
Atlético’s flag was at half mast on Monday night. The club’s majority shareholder, Miguel-Ángel Gil Marín, whose late father, Jesús Gil, was president during Antic’s spells at the club, said in a statement that a “piece of our heart” had gone with him.
“A great person and the architect of our golden era has left us,” said the club’s president, Enrique Cerezo. Fernando Torres described Antic as “a champion and red-and-white legend [who will] always be in the hearts of all Atlético fans”.