Luis Aragones, the coach who led Spain to victory in UEFA EURO 2008, has died aged 75. The former player and manager, who last coached almost five years ago, passed away in Madrid, where he had been battling leukaemia.
"It is a sad day for Spanish football. We have lost an important figure in the modern history of the sport," current Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said when he heard the news. His words sum up the importance of Aragones to Spanish football.
FIFA president Joseph S. Blatter joined the tributes via Twitter: "Rest in peace Luis Aragones, who made history at Atletico Madrid and as coach of the Spanish side that won Euro 2008."
A life in football
Aragones was born in the Hortaleza district of Madrid in 1938 and began his playing career with Getafe. He had brief spells at Real Madrid, Recreativo Huelva, Hercules, Ubeda, Oviedo and Betis, before he joined Atletico Madrid in 1964. He spent ten years at Atletico, his last club as a player, winning three La Liga titles and two Spanish Cups and finishing as the league’s top scorer in the 1969/70 season. The centre forward also made 11 appearances for the Spanish national team.
He began coaching shortly after hanging up his boots, and his new career took him to a number of clubs: Betis, Barcelona, Espanyol, Sevilla, Valencia, Oviedo, Mallorca, Fenerbahce (his only job outside Spain) and, of course, his beloved Atletico Madrid. He had four different spells as Atletico coach, winning one Intercontinental Cup, one La Liga title, three Copa del Reys and one Spanish Super Cup.
His coaching knowledge earned him the nickname 'The Wise Man of Hortaleza', although his frankness and brusque manner meant controversy was never far away. Still, he always enjoyed the full backing of his players and was regarded with affection by the fans, who will remember him for such memorable phrases as: "And win, and win, and win, and win again, and win, and win, and win, and that’s football, gentlemen."
A turning point in Spanish football history
Luis Aragones took charge of the Spanish national team in 2004. His first major challenge was the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, where Spain were knocked out in the Round of 16 by a Zinedine Zidane-led France side that went on to finish runners-up in the tournament.
After failure in Germany, Aragones began a major overhaul of the Spanish squad. Although he was heavily criticised at times, it proved to be the beginning of one of the most brilliant periods in Spanish football history. Putting his trust in a generation of gifted midfielders, Aragones guided Spain to victory at EURO 2008, ending the country’s 44-year wait for a trophy. It was Aragones who introduced the current Spanish style based on possession that has brought such rich rewards.
Aragones quit after the triumph in Vienna, and was replaced by Vicente del Bosque. The current Spanish coach freely admits the debt he owes to his predecessor.
"Without doubt, he opened the doors to our current success. He had a wealth of experience as a coach and I would like to pay personal tribute to him."