Luis Aragones, the former Spain coach who shaped the team’s rise from perennial underachiever to global powerhouse, has died. The 75-year-old, who managed Spain to glory at Euro 2008, passed away early on Saturday morning. The former Real and Atletico Madrid player had been suffering from a serious illness.
Aragones will be remembered fondly by all Spaniards for leading the team to their first major trophy at an international tournament for 44 years, laying the foundations for the subsequent successes at the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.
After Spain lost to France in the second round of the 2006 World Cup, Aragones introduced the new style of tiki-taka football to the national team. It was to prove hugely successful, with Spain deserved winners of Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, Fernando Torres scoring the winning goal in the final against Germany.
Aragones, born in the Spanish capital, began his playing career at Getafe in 1957 before transferring to the Bernabeu. But it was at Atletico where he really made his name. He scored 172 goals in 372 games for the club – acquiring the nickname “Zapatones”, or “Big boots”, for his free-kick prowess – and won the La Liga title on three occasions. He scored in the 1974 European Cup final with Bayern Munich but Atletico lost the replay 4-0.
He went on to manage Atletico for six years, winning La Liga in 1977, and had a nomadic coaching career at many of Spain’s major clubs, returning to Atletico on three further occasions under owner Jesus Gil.
In 2004 he was involved in a serious controversy when he was filmed ‘motivating’ his player Jose Antonio Reyes by making offensive references to Thierry Henry: “Tell that ‘negro de mierda’ you are much better than him.” Aragones denied he was a racist.
The Spanish Football Federation issued a statement that “expressed its grief and shock at the death of Luis Aragones”. The statement added: “[He was a] former player and coach of several Spanish and global clubs and the Spain national team at the beginning of their glorious success on the worldwide stage.”
Atletico said in a statement: “One of the greatest Rojiblancas legends has left us.”
The club’s president Enrique Cerezo added: “Luis Aragones was a great player and coach, but above all a great person and a friend.
“On behalf of the whole club, I want to express our condolences to his family.”
Spanish internationals Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas were among the first to pay tribute. Torres said: ‘Thank you Mister, I will never be able to thank you sufficiently for all you did for me.’ while Fabregas added: ‘Rest in Peace, Mister. Thank you for everything!’
Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos and Barcelona’s midfield maestro Andres Iniesta were also quick to pay their respects.
Ramos tweeted: ‘ Luis has responsibility for what I am as a footballer and he taught us the path to glory. Big hug to all his family.’ while Iniesta said: ‘Thank you very much for everything that you taught us, for all that you gave us. We will remember you. For always Mister. RIP.’
BY JOSEPHINE OTIENO