Should Spain break the mould and go for Del Bosque?

March 13, 2008

Del Bosque lifts the European CupSpain’s likely performance at Euro 2008 remains an enigma but one thing that can be guaranteed is that Luis Aragones will step down as coach at the end of the tournament.

The grand old man of Spanish football has made it clear that he will be going at the end of June, a month before his 70th birthday, and after four turbulent years at the helm there will many who will be heaving a sigh of relief.

The atmosphere in Spanish football is tense enough without having a figure like Aragones as its most high-profile international representative. From the moment he took charge after the last European Championship, he has never been far away from controversy. From his derogatory comments about Thierry Henry, to his intermittent threats to quit, his decision to exclude Raul or his tendency to fly off the handle during news conferences, Aragones has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Brusque, outspoken and at times inadvertently comic, Aragones comes from the same mould as two recent predecessors Jose Antonio Camacho and Javier Clemente. But the word is that after his departure, the Federation will appoint former Real Madrid coach Vicente del Bosque.

While Aragones resembles a bad-tempered, somewhat eccentric grandfather, Del Bosque is like a kindly uncle, a model of diplomacy, politeness and sportsmanship.

The moustachioed 57-year-old also oversaw his former club during their most successful period since the late 1950s. In a little over three years, he steered his team to two Champions Leagues, two league titles, the World Club Cup, the European Super Cup and the Spanish Super Cup.

Florentino Perez’s decision to discard Del Bosque the day after the team won the league title in 2003 and a week after they signed David Beckham is widely seen as one of the prime reasons for the galactico meltdown that followed. Whereas Del Bosque managed to control a dressing room packed full of the biggest egos in the game with disarming ease, a string of successors were driven to distraction by the challenge. And the club did not win another trophy until Fabio Capello arrived on the scene four years later.

Del Bosque does, of course, have his critics. Perez said his methods were too old-fashioned and hinted that his dry, deadpan delivery and stoical Castilian image did not fit into his plans to develop the club’s global image. His only subsequent coaching job at Besiktas ended in failure and he has displayed little enthusiasm to renew his career at a club.

On the other hand you will never hear a bad word said against Del Bosque by any of his former players or colleagues and he is widely respected in the game. The Spanish Federation’s sporting director Fernando Hierro, who was purged from Real at the same time as Del Bosque, is reported to be the driving force behind the decision to appoint him.

Could Del Bosque’s safe pair of hands be just what Spain now needs?

PHOTO: Del Bosque parades the European Cup back in Madrid after Real’s final victory over Bayer Leverkusen in 2002. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

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