End of an era
Phóenix semper pérvivet

Lozano, Juan Stats

His parents were born in Coria del Rio, close to Sevilla, but moved to Antwerp. Aged eleven, Lozano joined Beerschot, where he was loved by the public. Being an adventurer, he left Beerschot in 1980 for the Washington Diplomats, where Johan Cruijff played. The club went bankrupt soon, and Lozano returned home, to Belgium. Anderlecht manager Michel Verschueren brough the player to Brussels. He paid 400.000 dollar.

"Anderlecht is my club, more than Beerschot. Everyone has been very good to me. The direction board, the fans, ... Yes, they all loved me. I felt at home, drinking a coffee and having a chat with the fans. Having dinner with Omèr and Marie, the housekeepers. I always dreamed playing for Anderlecht. When we faced them with Beerschot, it was a nightmare for us. They always humiliated us and I though: I really want to play for that club! Not because they were famous, but because they had good players."

And so he did. Juan even became Anderlecht's best. A real star! But he also had a difficult personality. But even the most strict players like Tomislav Ivic didn't mind his nonchalance. Because Lozano always played well when it was necessary! Like in European games. "It was great. Arriving around 6pm with the bus. Walking though the small streets around the stadium. Seeing all the excited fans... Those games were fantastic! Totally different than several games in our domestic league. Our stadium was nice and cosy, unlike the one in Winterslag for example. That one was old and dark... I was never eager to play there, it was demotivating."

Trainer Raymond Goethals: "The European games... There we seperated the men from the boys! Rensenbrink and Lozano were our stars. They were allowed to fall asleep when we discussed tactics, because they always played good anyway." Lozano agreed with that opinion: "I was a skilled player, but I needed the good old football atmosphere to play well. The kind of atmmosphere a European game brought with it. I can't remember playing one bad European match." He played his best game in 1981, against Juventus. At least, that's chairman Vanden Stock's oppinion. "He may be right", explains Lozano. "Juventus was one of Europe's best teams. But I played many other good games. Against Sarajevo for example. And the one against Benfica too." When he says Benfica, he means the 2nd leg of the final of the UEFA Cup in 1983. Anderlecht had defeated the Portuguese side in Brussels (1-0) and Lozano scored the equaliser in Lisbon (1-1). That goal was good for winning the Cup.

We all remember Anderlecht's team of that year. Besides Lozano, the team consisted out of players such as Coeck, Olsen, Vercauteren, Vandenbergh... Lozano: "Every big club has good and bad years. In the 70s, Anderlecht had Rensenbrink and Mulder. Then we came. Right now, the club is having a bad time. Though it's true that today's football is different. But I never understood why so many players these days are complaining. In my days, I never knew how much money we were playing for. And that despite the fact Vercauteren always arranged the financial things very well (grins). The most important for me was loving the game. People always said that the atmosphere in Anderlecht was bad. But honestly, I never noticed that. I had a lot of fun playing for that team. I played football every day and each day was a good as the previous one. The only thing I hated was running laps. You could say that Anderlecht was my play ground."

Lozano wanted to have the Belgian nationality, but the state rejected it. That way, he never played for a national team. He also never won the Golden Shoe, Belgium most prestegious award. "Those two things still bother me. I have the idea that I failed. I didn't realise all my goals."

But he never thought about that during his carreer. "If I can't play for the national team, I have more time to go on a holiday", he reasoned. And two years later he returned to Spain. He was charmed by Real Madrid's money. The Spanish club paid 75 million francs for the player. At that time, it was one of the biggest amounts every paid in professional football. "I was young and I was about to show the world how good I was." But leaving Belgium for Real was the beginning of the end. Lozano broke his leg twice and got into trouble with trainer Amancio. Two years later, in 1985, he returned to Anderlecht. Atletico Madrid, Sporting Lissabon and Betis Sevilla were also interested, "but I realised there was no better club than Anderlecht", he declared. Paul Van Himst had succeeded Ivic as trainer in Brussels. Scifo, Arnesen and Vandereycken were the stars now. "It won't be easy", said manager Verschueren. "I'm not afraid", replied Lozano. And he immediately demonstrated his skills again.

But then terror struck, on April 11 of the year 1987: Waregem - Anderlecht. Defender Ivan Desloover made a brutal tackle. A double open leg fracture was the result. Lozano was 32 years old and about to win the Golden Shoe. But that injury shattered his dream. Though later that year he was elected as Best Professional Football Player of the Year. He wasn't able to pick up his well deserved trophy, because he was rehabilitating in Spain. For two years he fought, desperatly willing to make a come-back. Every Belgian football fan hoped to see him on the pitch once more... In May 1989, Anderlecht allowed Lozano to leave for free. "That was a real blow. I wondered: is that all I mean to Anderlecht? Verschueren told me Aalst was interested."

But Lozano isn't mad, not even bitter. "How can I be bitter after all football gave me?" Now, the only thing he has left, are his memories. Good memories, to his good friend Constant Vanden Stock, who died in 2008. "Constant was my second father. I was all alone in Belgium. My parents went back to Spain. He always gave me advise." But what about Georges Denil? "He represented the team. A man with a big heart. The players were his children. Now and then he gave us a bonus and he paid that from his own salary. But that's not the most important. I'll never forget how he was crying along side of me when we played against Madrid and I had to start on the bench. I also remember how the Anderlecht fans were singing my name during that game. That was wonderful." And Tomislav Ivic. "The first trainer who thought me something. He managed to bring order in the team, without giving fines. He also managed to keep all the players happy, even the ones on the bench. Very impressive! He was a charming bloke though. I remember how he unexpectatly showed up at Belgrado's airport to pick me up. I was playing for Real Madrid then and we disputed a European game there." And even manager Verschueren was one of his best friends. He brought Lozano to Anderlecht twice. The first time he picked him up in Washington after the deal was sealed. And he did that a second time when Lozano returned from Madrid. "You are coming back to us Juan", he said. Lozano grins: "A special guy. A business man, very stubborn."

Juan is now working to the European Union: "A cool job it is! Pär Frimann is working there too." Lozano is spending his days in Edegem now, close to Antwerp. "Everyone said I was crazy, and I never denied it. But I always paid attention. My parents were migrant workers, I've always known the value of money. When I was 20 years old, my team mates all drove a very expensive car, but I came on foot. I always realised that being a football player isn't supposed to last forever." These days, he isn't even following the Belgian league anymore. When his colleagues ask: "Seen Anderlecht?", the he has to deny. Since his last game in the 80s, he only attended a few games. He prefers hanging out with his friends. It are all new friends, no one from the early days, during his carreer. "That's who I am. I can't fight with people for a long time, but I'm also someone who doesn't want to live in the past. But now that my son Gianni is growing up and wants to play football, I realise it would have been better to stay in touch with several people. I never expected I would survive this easily without football. I don't know why, but I'm not interested in it anymore. I doubted when Anderlecht asked me to work for them. But they weren't able to pay my salary (laughs). I regret nothing, but I must admit that there were better ways to end my carreer (grins)."

So what remains? A happy feeling of course! "I played in the USA, for Anderlecht and for Real Madrid. I can't complain. I was never able to play for my country and I never won the Golden Shoe. But still, I can't complain. I'm proud to be one of 'Anderlecht's Gods'. I belong to that hall of fame and yes, I am very proud of that!" In conclusion we asked Lozano which players would be in Anderlecht's dream team: "Vandenbergh, Puis, Van Himst and Rensenbrink will form the offensive line. Jacky as goalkeeper, Van Binst and Oslen as defenders. And Haan, Coeck and Jurion on the midfield of course! Ooh, and Jan Mulder too! I also believe Gilles De Bilde is one of Anderlecht's biggest players. Just like Degryse."

One of all these players he would like to see again for one last time: "But that isn't possible... (becomes quiet) ... Yes, I'm talking about my friend Ludo Coeck. The two of us, we had good fun. Shooting some pool after the game ... actually, we did everything together."