Del Bosque: Spain’s modest maestro
© AFP

Vicente del Bosque took over as Spain coach after Luis Aragones had crowned his four-year tenure with victory at UEFA EURO 2008. Inheriting a talented and cohesive unit that had won the country’s second continental title with some captivating football, Del Bosque oversaw a gradual transition, carefully maintaining the tactics and style that had served the team so well, while introducing fresh blood.

The transition proved so seamless that La Roja did not drop a single point in qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. The only blemish in their preparations for the tournament came in a shock 2-0 semi-final defeat to USA at the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009, a result they would more than make up for 12 months later.

As a player Del Bosque won five Spanish league titles and four Spanish cups with Real Madrid, and was capped 18 times by his country, forming part of the Spain squad that contested the 1980 European Championships in Italy. His coaching career began with a six-year spell with Real Madrid’s reserve teams, during which time he occasionally stepped up as a caretaker first-team coach before being handed the reins on a permanent basis a few months into the 1999/2000 season.

With the unobtrusive Del Bosque at the helm, Los Blancos would enjoy one of the most productive periods in their illustrious history, winning two UEFA Champions Leagues, two Spanish championships and one Intercontinental Cup among other trophies. After leaving the Bernabeu, the quiet man of Spanish football then had a short stint with Turkish club Besiktas. Upon returning home in 2005, he occupied himself with media work before succeeding Aragones.

Highlights in 2010
Exerting a light touch on the tiller, Del Bosque has championed the selfsame brand of possession football that made Spain the kings of Europe in 2008 and has also seen fit to strengthen the side with a sprinkling of carefully selected new faces. When a flawless qualification campaign (ten wins in ten games, with 28 goals scored and only five conceded) was followed by defeat to Switzerland in their opening game at South Africa 2010, Del Bosque kept calm despite fears that old Spanish failings would come back to haunt them.

Retaining the confidence of his squad, he calmly engineered Spain’s recovery in the group phase and subsequent advance to the latter stages of the competition. Along the way, he showed no little courage. His decision to name the relatively untried Pedro in the side that took to the field against Germany proved to be just one of several masterstrokes, and his tactical nous was a significant factor in Spain’s progress to their first FIFA World Cup Final. More emotional and animated than usual as Spain eked out a narrow win over the Netherlands, the 60-year-old was his customary calm self in the celebrations that followed, content to let his players soak up the adulation.

He showed his class and magnanimity once more when he collected the Prince of Asturias Award for Sporting Achievement on behalf of La Roja in October, taking to the stage with Aragones as a mark of gratitude for his predecessor’s contribution to Spain’s continuing success.

2010 in words
“Players need to have a certain amount of freedom. That’s what being a coach is all about. It’s about marrying the organisation and structure of a team with the individual talent of the players. You can’t restrict or inhibit inspiration, and coaches aren’t just there to organise. It’s also their job to help technically gifted players improve their game.”
On the role of the coach.

“We are proud of all the players: the ones on the pitch and the ones who’ve been on the bench. They’ve worked for the last 50 days without any problem at all, and this is a team that’s thought about other values apart from winning. The momentum that’s taken us to this title can be traced back to June 2008 when we won the European Championship. The World Cup has just been a continuation of the work people did then and all we’ve done here is try to preserve the excellent legacy we received.”
On Spain’s triumph at South Africa 2010.