Barcelona and Spain goalkeeper considered one of world's best;
Born July 1, 1924; died July 30, 2013.
Antoni Ramallets, who has died aged 89, was considered one of the top three goalkeepers in the world during the 1950s along with Soviet-Russian Lev Yashin and Hungary's Gyula Grosics. He turned out 538 times for Barcelona between 1948 and 1961, winning six La Liga titles, five Spanish cups and two European Inter-Cities Fairs Cups, predecessor of the UEFA Cup and Europa League. He was also a five-time winner of the Ricardo Zamora trophy, awarded to the keeper with the lowest goals-to-games ratio during the La Liga season. Barcelona's current goalie, Victor Valdes, is the only other to have won the trophy five times.
Ramallets was capped 35 times for Spain, helping them to the semi-finals of the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, where they lost the third-place play-off game 3-1 to Sweden. Ramallets had been surprisingly dropped to the bench for that match after he let in six against Brazil in what was then a four-team final round. He nevertheless won the nickname el Gato de Maracana (the Cat of the Maracana stadium) in the Spanish press and he was named goalie of the tournament by the international press corps. It was Spain's greatest team, including Kubala, Kocsis, Suarez and Czibor, until the resurgence of La Roja in the 21st century.
In the group stages of the 1950 tournament, Ramallets kept a clean sheet as Spain won 1-0 against the England of Wright, Milburn, Mortensen, Matthews and Finney. It was the same group in which England famously lost 1-0 to the part-timers of the United States. Ramallets also played seven games for the unofficial Catalan "national" team during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco who had banned the speaking of non-Castilian languages such as Catalan and Basque.
Antoni Ramallets Simon was born in the Gracia district of Barcelona. After doing his national service at the San Fernando naval base at the other end of the country, in Cadiz, he played for two years with Mallorca while the Second World War was raging through much of Europe (Franco officially kept Spain neutral during the war, although he was more than sympathetic to Italy and Germany). Ramallets initially signed for Barcelona in 1946 but spent time on loan to Real Valladolid before returning to Barca and making his La Liga debut in a win against Sevilla on 28 November, 1948.
The worst moment of his career came in the 1961 European Cup final, captaining Barca against Benfica in the Wankdorf stadium in the Swiss capital, Berne. Trying to deal with a misplaced, looping back header from one of his defenders, he palmed the ball against the post, it rolled across the line and the Portuguese side went ahead, eventually winning 3-2. It went down, somewhat unfairly, as an own goal by the keeper.
He retired from playing soon afterwards and managed several Spanish team through the 1960s, including Valladolid, Zaragoza, Logrones and Hercules. In 1964, he won the Spanish Cup (at the time called the Copa del Generalisimo in honour of Franco) with Zaragoza and led them to winning that year's Inter-Cities Fairs Cup with a 2-1 win over Valencia, appropriately enough in the stadium where he had played so often - Barcelona's Camp Nou.
"Barcelona are in mourning," club president Sandro Rosell said after Ramallets' death. This is a very sad day. The legend Antoni Ramallets has left us, the great keeper of Barca that won five cups.
"He was admired by generations of Cules (Barcelona fans) and he's always been a leader to our players. People and athletes like Ramallets contributed to making this club great and they've reinforced the Blaugrana feeling (red and deep blue, the Barça colours)."
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