As a player, Solari scored several decisive goals for Real Madrid – including one in the Copa del Rey to settle a game which had gone into the early hours of the morning.
During his five years at the Bernabéu, Santiago Solari performed an auxiliary role within the team. He was the archetypal 12th man - never a regular starter but he showed everyone what a great left foot he posessed which he used to score some decisive goals. That confidently-taken chipped finish against Lazio in February 2001 for example, and a fine, glanced header against Porto a year later were vital away goals for Madrid on the road in Europe.
But perhaps the most memorable of all of his goals during his five years at the Bernabéu were his two strikes, stoppage-time winner included, in the Copa del Rey 3rd Round tie against Tenerife, Madrid’s opening game in the tournament, in November 2004. That match kicked off at such a ridiculous time – 21:30 hours local time, 22:30 hours on mainland Spain, it was always destined to go to extra-time... And it did. El Indiecito Solari cancelled out Cristo’s opener with a free-kick curled into the top corner with such power and precision, the only thing home keeper Marián Kelemen knew about it was when he had to retrieve the ball from the back of the net.
It ended 1-1 on the final whistle, shortly after midnight and seemed to be heading for penalties. But Solari came to the rescue again with another superb free-kick - a blistering strike which flew inside Kelemen’s left post when the game was 122 minutes old and the clock creeping towards 1 o’clock in the morning - sparing Madrid from what would have been the latest penalty shoot-out in Cup history.
Solari 'Gran Reserva'
Solari was the hero of the day as Diario AS' Tomás Roncero enthused in his column the following (in fact the same) day: “It’s the Solari Cup. He’s Argentinean – a ‘Gran Reserva’ who simply does not understand the meaning of a friendly match. He has football blood running right through his body - even to his eyebrows. Give him a new contract I say!”