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The Ernst-Happel stadium saw Spanish players creating chance after chance with their short passes and attacking football. Russia were barely given a shot at the goal. This was followed by an impressive second half where Spain scored three goals and confirmed their spot in a major cup final after decades. Above all, the world had witnessed a superb display of Spanish football. The man behind the unique display of skill and teamwork was the great Luis Aragonés.

Aragonés was born and raised in the north-east of Madrid. He had spent the majority of his career playing for Atletico Madrid eventually becoming their coach after retirement. He also managed quite a number of Spanish teams including FC Barcelona. It would be a mistake not to mention his work of leading Athletico to promotion in the Primera Division and bringing them back to La Liga in 2002.

Iñaki Sáez resigned as a manager of the Spanish national team following a disastrous performance from his ageing team at the UEFA Euro 2004. There wasn’t a more educated and expected choice than Luis Aragonés. He was asked to take part in the 2006 world cup in Germany.

Shortly after his appointment, controversy followed as a result of an offensive comment on Thierry Henry, which was used to motivate his player Jose Antonio Reyes. The British media condemned him and asked the coach to step down which was not reinforced by the Spanish football federation.
Luis had the brilliant idea of a collective team approach playing short passes with a high tempo. He called out to the talented young players and nurtured them to become national icons. Xavi, Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, the lethal strike partnership of Torres and Villa and others were fitted in the system quite comfortably.

Eventually, Spain won all the group matches in Germany. The elimination of Spain followed in the round of 16 by the finalists, France. However, that was a glimpse of what would happen in Austria and Switzerland two years later.

La Roja started Euro 2008 with the demolition of Russia and a memorable night for the Valencia striker David Villa grabbing a Hat-trick. His last minute goal against Sweden guaranteed their place in the knockout stages. After the goalless draw against Italy in the quarter-final, the team relied on the iconic goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Casillas rarely disappointed and Fabregas scored from the spot to send his nation to the semi-finals.

The door for optimism was wide open and the self-confidence amongst the players was on a whole new level when they destroyed Russia in spectacular fashion in the semis. The final wasn’t any different. The combative and hard-working nature of Germany was no match against the flair, imagination and technique of Spain. Fernando Torres’s goal was enough to fire Aragones’s Spain to European glory after 44 years of underachievement.  Luis Aragonés had done his job and he was set to leave on a high.

Vicente Del Bosque, who had spent successful years with Real Madrid in the early 2000s, continued Aragones’s legacy to win their first ever world cup along with the Euro 2012 playing tantalising football.

On 1st February 2014, The Spanish football federation(RFEF) announced the death of the veteran manager Luis Aragonés at the age of 75. Different teams in Spain including Atletico expressed their sorrow. Soon after, Vicente Del Bosque gave his word,  ” We’ve woken up to a sad news. Luis has been the father of the successes for the National Team. We are in his hall and I think we will always carry him in our memory. “

José Luis Aragonés Suárez, a genius who designed and paved a new way for the national team deserves a better status amongst footballing luminaries.

Feature image via IMDb

More feature originals here

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