Vincente Del Bosque was an old school manager of Spain, writes Vernon Grant. He always reminded me of an ex colleague of mine, Gordon. When he smiled, he looked like your favourite Uncle. The one who arrived at Christmas laden down with presents. Although his time in charge of Spain ended in a disappointing fashion, there are plenty of good memories that still bring a smile to his face. And mine.
I have been fortunate to live in the country at the same time as Spain winning back to back European Championships and a World Cup. Happy days!
The man from Salamanca says his best memories are from the time he played for Real Madrid. He played 445 games for them, principally in midfield, scoring 30 goals in sixteen years. Following a couple of short spells as caretaker manager, Del Bosque was appointed as the official manager of Real Madrid in 1999 following the sacking of former Liverpool striker, John Toshack.
Del Bosque had four seasons in charge of Real Madrid during which time they twice won the Champions League and the La Liga title, along with various cup finals. It was the most successful period of time at Real Madrid since the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Amazingly, one day after he led the club to their 29th La Liga success and only a week after David Beckham signed for the club, Real Madrid did not renew his contract. In the four years after he was removed from office, Real Madrid employed seven managers and won nothing. They next won La Liga in 2007.
Vincente Del Bosque became manager of the Spanish national team in 2008. He won his first ten games in charge. Spain beat Holland in the final of the 2010 World Cup and two years later won the European Championships, beating Italy 4-0 in the final.
For so long Spain had been looked upon as serial underachievers on the world stage. So how did he turn things around?
Del Bosque says:- “I concentrated on three things. Choosing the best without looking at the name on the shirt. No favouritism on a personal level or towards a club. Secondly, to give the best nutrition possible for training. Thirdly, compete. We chose the best, trained them well and they competed.
“I value greatly the personal behaviour that sports people should have. It is not just about playing well but also the correct social behaviour.”
Prior to Spain winning the European Championships in 2008, I recall going into a local bar and asking to watch a friendly game the team were playing. The bar owner and a handful of male customers were watching a bullfight. The bar owner laughed at why this Englishman would want to watch what he called “a bunch of useless losers.”
All that changed in the years that followed. When I lived in Granada, it seemed as though the entire population of the city came out to celebrate subsequent World Cup and European Championship success.
The days were numbered for Del Bosque when, in 2014, Spain suffered their heaviest defeat since 1963, thumped 5-1 by Holland. Spain failed to advance from the group stage of the competition, their worst ever performance at a World Cup.
Vincente Del Bosque reflected on the ups and downs of life as a football manager:- “I think that when you win you shouldn’t think you are the best. You should also play down defeats a little because otherwise it is impossible.”
Del Bosque later resigned as manager and retired from the game in 2016 at the age of 65.
“I have had the opportunity to dedicate my whole life to football. I have been fortunate. I wouldn’t have changed anything that has happened.”
I will be offering match analysis and betting tips to members of VG Tips before and throughout the World Cup 2018 that begins in Russia on June 14th. Do you fancy Spain to win this year? They are best price 13/2.