Luis Aragonés - The Wise Man of Hortaleza

Atlético's tribute to Aragonés
Josê Luis Aragonés Suárez, the man who laid the foundations to Spain's international dominance, masterminded success with Atlético Madrid in 4 spells as manager and won the Pichichi Trophy for La Liga top goalscorer as a player. Aragonés, known as the Wise Man of Hortaleza passed away on 1st Feburary 2014 but his legacy shall continue to reverberate throughout football history.

Aragonés was born in Hortaleza, a district of Madrid and joined CD Getafe at 19 before moving onto Real Madrid. Failing to break into the first team he moved to first Real Oviedo before establishing himself at Real Betis as a goalscoring midfielder with a graceful touch. In 1964 he joined Atlético Madrid, the club he would play at for the next 11 years making 372 appearances scoring 172 goals. The Independent record how he earned the nickname 'Zapatones' or 'Big Boots' due to his free-kick prowess and in the 1969-70 season he shared the Pichichi Trophy with his Atleti teammate José Eulogio Gárate and Real Madrid's Amancio who all scored 16 goals. During his time at Vicente Calderón (earlier Estadio Metropolitano de Madrid) Aragonés would win La Liga 3 times (1966, 1970, 1973) and the Copa del Generalisimo (Copa del Rey renamed after then dictator General Franco) in 1965 and 1972.

Aragonés hung up his boots in 1974 after scoring in the European Cup final against Bayern Munich of which Atlético went on to lose the replay. Aragonés retired with 11 Spanish caps and 3 goals but he would go on to make his name across Europe as a manager venturing straight into coaching at the age of 36, at the helm of Atlético. Bayern Munich refused to take up their spot in the 1974 Intercontinental Cup as Atleti went on to beat Copa Libertadores winners Independiente. Los Rojiblancos would add a Copa del Generalisimo and Liga title to their names in 1976 and 1977 before Aragonés moved on to Real Betis, another former club.

Aragonés' Atlético 1977-1978
Aragonés only spent a season away from the Vincente Calderón and upon his return secured another Copa del Rey 2-1 over Athletic Bilbao thanks to a brace from Hugo Sanchez. Sanchez was also prolific in their Liga campaign with 19 goals enough to net himself the Pichichi Trophy; Atleti however, missed out on the double finishing 2nd behind Barcelona. Aragonés' Colchoneros did get the better of Barcelona October that year though as the club won its only ever Supercopa de España. Hugo Sanchez had already moved to cross-city rivals Real Madrid by this point dealing a blow to his former employers as he won the Pichichi trophy 4 out of the next 6 seasons in becoming a Real legend. For Argonés, Barcelona would steal him away in 1987 but not before he was left disappointed by a European Cup Winners' Cup defeat to Dynamo Kiev in 1986.

Aragonês in his third Atleti spell
At the Nou Camp, where he would spend one campaign, another Copa del Rey was added to Luis' personal trophy cabinet and after a short stint at fellow Catalan club Espanyol, a third spell at Atlético presented itself. This was under the right winged Jesús Gil, known for having a quick trigger finger (well worth giving December 2013's FourFourTwo a read for more on him). Aragonés would be given two more seasons at the Calderon where his sixth Copa del Rey, over Real Madrid at their Santiago Bernabéu, was not enough to save him from Gil's wrath who craved a Liga.

This began a nomadic period for Luis who coached five clubs over the next eight seasons, almost winning a Liga with Valencia in 95/96. It was to be in 2001/2002 though that the Wise Man of Hortaleza would turn superhero for Atleti who had fallen to the country's second tier. They were promoted as champions of the Segunda Division with a young Fernando Torres making 36 appearances. While Torres may not have torn the league up Aragonés would keep faith in him as he scored 13 goals in his first top flight season the next year.

The young Fernando Torres has a lot to thank Aragonés for
This would end his 30 year management affiliation with Atlético Madrid, 15 seasons and 6 trophies made him their most successful manager of all time but Mallorca awaited for a second time and it is something a certain Samuel Eto'o will be thankful for. In charge of him again Aragonés witnessed a season in which he would score 17 Liga goals earning him a move to Barcelona that summer. Aragonés himself, had caught the eye of the Spanish Football Federation and in 2004 he accepted his biggest role as coach of the national team.

Unafraid to make changes after his predecessor's failure at Euro 2004 he implemented the now famous system of Tiki-Taka. Obsessed by possession football and the fact his team were not physical enough Aragonés dropped some of the 'old guard' leading to an unbeaten World Cup 2006 qualification campaign (yet still needing to qualify via the Play Offs). The World Cup itself was fairly unremarkable for Spain, winning all their group games they fell to eventual runners up France, 3-1 in the Second Round.

His tenure had not started smoothly however when in 2004 he was accused of racial abuse towards Thierry Henry. The Guardian record how he referred to Henry's skin colour in a speech attempting to motivate José Reyes. Aragonés was fined £2,060 but had this overturned as he claimed he was no racist, something supported by black team member Marcos Senna who The Guardian quote as saying "He is not a racist... The guys adore Aragonés".

Success at Euro 2008 for Aragonés and Spain
 The major success of Luis Aragonés' career came in 2008 at the European Championships. Spain were 44 years without a tournament win but this was about to change. With the line being led by David Villa and Fernando Torres, both whom would make names for themselves, Spain scored 8 goals as they won all their group matches. They needed penalties to get past Italy in the Quarter Finals but dismantled Russia 3-0 in the Semis thanks to Xavi, Dani Güiza & David Silva. 

Spain had reached the final of a major tournament but top goalscorer David Villa (4) would miss out through injury. The BBC though believed they could still do it, "Veteran coach Luis Aragones now looks to have put together a side capable of ending the years of under-achievement, even making light of that injury to the influential Villa." Spain would meet Germany in the final with Torres sent out as lone striker as their usual 4-4-2 was adapted to a 4-1-4-1 to cover for Villa's injury and to combat Germany's 4-2-3-1. The change worked, Torres scored the winner in the 33rd minute and La Roja's Tiki-Taka won them Euro 2008 with 9 of their squad selected for 'Team of the Tournament'.

Aragonés would step away from Spain and took his first job outside of the country of his birth coaching Fenerbahçe in Turkey. He replaced Zico but would only spend a season at the club after finishing 4th. This would be Aragonés' last management job as he officially retired from the game in December 2013 but the impact he left on the Spanish national side would continue under Vincente Del Bosque as they dominated the World Cup in 2010 and followed it with another Euros victory in 2012.

When Aragonés passed away on February 1st tributes flooded in, The Guardian tell this humorous story of what happened before the Euro 2008 final, "Throughout the team talk, Aragonés refers to Michael Ballack as "Wallace". Eventually, one of the players speaks up: "Erm, Míster he's called Ballack." Aragonés claims to know that but barks: "I'll call him whatever I bloody feel like." In the tunnel soon after, the players are lined up. The jinx has been broken in the quarter-final against Italy, Spain winning on penalties, but they're nervous, tense, and the Germans look huge. Aragonés winks at them and turns to Ballack. "Good luck, Wallace," he says". Raúl also added a tribute in Marca saying he "will go down in history as an example to world football.

Luis Aragonés: an Atlético legend, one of Spain's greatest ever 'Misters' and a man whose impact would help change football history forever.

Gareth Thomas TFHB (Follow on twitter @GJ_Thomas, @TFHBTop250 and 'Like' our Facebook)


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