March 27, 2014
MADRID, Spain - Northwestern men's soccer head coach Tim Lenahan and and women's soccer assistant coach Dave Nikolic recently returned from Madrid, Spain where they spent one week with coaches of Real Madrid's youth system while attending games for the first team.
The trip came about because of the continued relationship between Coach Lenahan and Santiago Solari. Solari, who helped lead the "Galacticos" era Real Madrid to their last Champions League Championship in 2002, played for Lenahan in 1994 at Richard Stockton College in New Jersey. Solari's father had served as a coach for the Saudi Arabian Team at the '94 World Cup in the United States and they trained at Richard Stockton.
Solari played for Stockton for one season before moving on to win multiple championships at River Plate, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. He earned 11 caps with the national team of Argentina and remains the only former US college player in history to win a Champions League title. Now a youth coach in Real Madrid's system, this summer Solari will serve as a lead analyst in ESPN's coverage of the World Cup in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
"I want to thank both Santiago Solari and Santiago Sanchez, youth coaches at Real Madrid for their hospitality and openness in sharing the training routine and philosophy of Real Madrid." Lenahan said. "In many ways it was eye opening in how efficient they were in training and how they constantly reinforce the values of the club. We were even able to present some Northwestern specific tactical questions to them and get their input which was pretty special."
While on their trip, Lenahan and Nikolic were able to watch a Champions League game between Real Madrid and FC Shalke while observing numerous youth training sessions and matches, and toured the first team training area. In addition, both coaches had one-on-one conversations with Albert Celades, a former teammate of Solari's at Real Madrid, and now the Coach of the Spanish U-16 National Team.
To top off the trip, both coaches witnessed the epic "El Clasico" battle between Real Madrid and Barcelona live in front of more than 75,000 fans. The match, considered one of the best "El Clasico" games in history, went to Barcelona, 4-3 with Lionel Messi scoring a hat trick. This past summer, Northwestern alums and then-incoming freshman Brandon Medina stole the show in the Messi and Friends game at Soldier Field when Northwestern alum Matt Eliason scored an incredible bicycle that went on to get more than three million YouTube views.
"The opportunity provided at Real Madrid this week to us and Northwestern Soccer as a whole was unparalleled," Nikolic said. "From watching trainings to sitting down with the Madrid youth team coaches as they prepared for the week to watching their teams play was a unique experience. Because of this, my brain and body soaked in material that will benefit the `Cats immediately here in Evanston. Special thanks to Coach Santiago Solari for his warmth and willingness to open all the doors into Real Madrid for us and to his assistant, Santiago Sanchez for sharing some soccer secrets."
Be the first to know what's going on with the 'Cats -- Follow @NU_Sports on Twitter, become a fan of Northwestern Athletics on Facebook, subscribe to the NU Sports Express e-newsletter and sign up to receive promotional text alerts for the latest news, schedule updates and video and to interact with NU. For more information on following specific Northwestern teams online, visit our Social Media page!