Aragones, architect of Spain’s golden football era, dies

Aragones changed the mentality of a side that, while always talented, had been pegged as perennial underachievers

SPAIN'S COACH. Luis Aragones carries footballs during a training session, June 20, 2008. File photo by Javier Soriano

MADRID, Spain – One of the key figures in the creation of Spain’s historic World Cup and double European Championship-winning team, Luis Aragones, died on Saturday, February 1, at the age of 75.

Aragones was the Spain coach when La Seleccion ended a 44-year wait to win a major international tournament when they beat Germany to take the European Championship in 2008.

Despite a public clamor for him to stay on at the time, Aragones stood by his pre-tournament decision to step aside.

In his absence, Vicente del Bosque took over to lead the side to more glory at the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 before defending their European title in Poland and Ukraine two years later.

“Without doubt, he led the way in this extremely succesful era,” Del Bosque told the RFEF website.

“It is a sad day for our football. We have lost a key man in the history of modern sport.”

Aragones is credited with implementing the tiki-taka playing style of the Spanish side that has become world renowned.

However, he also changed the mentality of a side that, while always talented, had been pegged as perennial underachievers.

After a disappointing exit to France in the last 16 of the 2006 World Cup was followed by a shock defeat to Northern Ireland at the beginning of qualifying for the 2008 Euros, Aragones took the brave decision to drop Real Madrid’s all-time leading scorer Raul from the squad.

Released from under the shadow of a man who had been a national hero, Fernando Torres and David Villa led their country to glory in Austria and Switzerland as Villa finished as the competition’s top scorer, while Torres netted the winner against Germany in the final.

However, his time in charge of the national team was also blighted by an accusation of using racist language to describe French striker Thierry Henry in an attempt to motivate Henry’s then Arsenal teammate Jose Antonio Reyes.

Aragones protested his innocence, claiming his words had been misinterpreted, but he was fined 3,000 euros ($4,100, £2,500) by the RFEF for the incident.

At club level he will be most fondly remembered as a legendary player and manager at Atletico Madrid.

He won 3 La Liga titles and two Spanish Cups during 10 years as a player with Los Colchoneros, making 370 appearances and scoring 172 goals.

Indeed, he scored the opening goal in the 1974 European Cup final against Bayern Munich, but after a late equalizer in extra time, the Germans went on to win a replay 4-0 two days later.

It was at Atletico where Aragones also began his managerial career the next season, and he led Atleti to one of the most famous wins in their history as they beat Argentine side Independiente to win the Intercontinental Cup after Bayern refused to take part in the competition.

Aragones also guided Atletico to one La Liga and 3 Copa del Rey titles during 3 spells as coach with the club in total.

The “wise man of Hortaleza” managed 9 clubs in total, including a brief spell at Barcelona in the late 1980s.

His illustrious career was to end on an unfortunate note as he was sacked after just one season in charge of Fenerbahce in 2009.

However, his legacy remains intact in Spain as the man who took the first step on what has become a golden era of dominance.

As Iker Casillas, who Aragones made captain of the national team after the controversial dropping of Raul, said after his death: “His idea has, up to this day, brought us great results. We will always remember him.” –