Men’s Soccer: Former player of coach Tim Lenahan named interim manager at Real Madrid


Daily file photo by Kaitlin Svabek

Tim Lenahan. Lenahan coached Santiago Solari for one season in the 1990s.

Ella Brockway, Reporter

Men’s Soccer

During Tim Lenahan’s 28-year career at the helm of Stockton University, Lafayette and Northwestern, he has watched numerous players go on to professional careers in leagues all around the world, from Major League Soccer to top divisions across Europe.

Another name was added to that list Monday afternoon, as one of Lenahan’s former players, Santiago Solari, was announced as the interim manager at one of the world’s biggest clubs, Real Madrid.

“We have a lot of former coaches and a couple players that are out there coaching at college and a couple in the pros, but this is really something special,” Lenahan told the Daily. “(I’m) really proud of him and this amazing opportunity.”

Solari played for one season under Lenahan at Stockton in 1994, and went on to a distinguished career as a midfielder in some of world soccer’s top leagues. In 2002, he became the first former U.S. college soccer player in history to appear in a UEFA Champions League Final, playing the full 90 minutes and helping Real Madrid to a 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen as Lenahan watched from the stands. After the match, Lenahan said, he and Solari went out to dinner and lifted the Champions League trophy together.

Lenahan and Solari have stayed in touch over the last 24 years. In 2013, a team of Wildcats players faced off against Solari and a squad of professionals in a charity match sponsored by Argentine superstar Lionel Messi at Soldier Field.

As Solari finished his playing career and eventually transitioned into his role as Real Madrid’s reserve team coach, their professional exchanges continued. Lenahan has visited Solari in Spain several times in the past few years, observing training sessions and even watching current NU freshman and Real Madrid academy product Jose del Valle play on his most recent visit.

While Lenahan and Solari both now stand on vastly different stages of the soccer world — Lenahan, in his 18th year as coach at NU, and Solari, now in charge of one of the world’s most popular sports brands with three consecutive Champions League titles to its name — the player-coach friendship that began in 1994 hasn’t changed.

“Here’s a guy who played for me for one year, 24 years ago,” Lenahan said. “What’s really been cool for me and how it helps me is (that) the relationship with your college coach doesn’t end whenever you stop playing.”

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