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RIP Luis Aragones

 Posted by on February 1, 2014 at 5:30 pm  Spain, The Ball is Flat
Feb 012014
Legendary Spanish coach Luis Aragones passed away last night. It´s a sad day for anyone at all interested in Spanish football. You can wikipedia his accomplishments. He was one of the most accomplished strikers of his era. He was minutes away from a European Cup against Bayern Munich as a player in 1974. He coached Valencia, Atlético Madrid, Real Betis, Barcelona, Espanyol, Sevilla, Real Oviedo, Mallorca and Fenerbahçe, but that was just a preview to his greatest achievement.

El Sabio de Fortaleza, or the wise-man of Fortaleza in Madrid where he was born, was the one of the most important figures not only in Spain, but in world football over the last decade. It´s true. Before Euro 2008, Spain was a habitual under-achiever. Some of the greatest talents in world-football played for Spain: from Alfredo di Stefano or Amancio to Juanito, Santillana or Quini. Camacho, Goikoetxea, Butragueno or Michel to Hierro, Raul or Luis Enrique. Until Aragones took over the Spanish national team they were the first squad to be picked against the greats in world football, habitual losers, until 2008.

He was the first to establish a cohesive brand of football that brought Basques, Catalans and Castilians together under one umbrella of tiki-taka. He inherited players from all ethnicities: Castilian Casillas and his friend Xavi Hernandez from Catalunya, to a Manchego like Andres Iniesta or a Basque like Xabi Alonso, Aragones was the first Spanish coach to draw his player´s similarities as members of the Spanish national team while still acknowledging them as members of their own communities.

He coached all over Spain, was a respected member of the Spanish coaching fraternity, and was a prickly if admired tactician by the national media. He had his battles with journalists, was accused of insensitive (even racist remarks) regarding Thierry Henry amongst others, but none of these stuck permanently.

He put Spain on the map permanently as a world power. His legacy, the players that he trained and mentored like Sergio Ramos, David Villa, and Cesc Fabregas, won another European Cup in 2012 and sealed their place amongst the World Cup powers in South Africa 2010 under his successor Vicente del Bosque.

It was Aragones though who deserves all the credit. He brought the often differing styles of Spanish football under one blanket that many would disparagingly call ¨tiki-taka¨, but he would show that his players were the key. It was their heart and their spirit regardless of ethnicity or language or culture that was key to winning trophies. Spain is notorious for its splintered culture, supporters of Basque, Catalan or Castilian clubs wanting nothing to do with each other, but it was Luis Aragones who coached in practically every autonomous community who brought all of them together and at least for one Summer in 2008 brought unexpected glory to a country that desperately needed it. His legacy afterwards, of another Euro and a World Cup for the players he coached , is unprecedented.
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The Ball is Flat is a website and podcast devoted to the Beautiful Game. Football, Futbol, Fusball or whatever you call it, it is the game that divides and unites us. The Ball is Flat's mission is to cover European football with an eye open, the heart in motion, and the brain colored with the right amount of cheerful cynicism. Read more:

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