Having dealt with more Spanish bank managers than I care to remember, Vincente Del Bosque always reminded me of one. It often felt as though a smile cost extra. He formerly steps down today, July 31st, as coach of the national football team. Much has changed during his eight years in charge.
But his replacement, Julen Lopetegui, is already at work. The former Porto manager has coached Spain at youth level and led the country to victory at the Under 19 Championship in Estonia four years ago, when the likes of David De Gea were in the side.
Since I moved to Spain in 2005, I have seen the fortunes of the national side change considerably. Likewise the interest of its supporters, writes Vernon Grant.
In those early, pre-Euro 2008 winning days I would walk to a local bar or two to watch Spain play friendlies and qualifiers. Not another soul in the all male bar was interested. They laughed at my requests to change the channel from bullfighting or a Steven Segal movie.
Between the summers of 2005 and 2008 I was the the only person in my area wanting to watch Spain play football. Hard to believe, I know. But true.
Euro 2008 changed all that.
Expectations were not high when a side managed by the old fashioned Francophile and racist, Luis Aragonés, left Spain for a tournament hosted in Austria and Switzerland. To the embarrassment of the fans it was left to Fernando Torres – so often the target of their derision – to secure victory in the final against West Germany.
Torres was a bit of a joke figure among Spanish football fans prior to that moment. The women loved him, of course. They always have. My former vet offered free service for life if I could get her a signed autograph. I never did, sadly.
Two years later Spain played beautiful football in a beautiful country and won the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
It was a fantastic achievement by Vincente Del Bosque. He had long been well connected. His friendship with the former King of Spain, Juan Carlos, goes back years and the former monarch bestowed upon Del Bosque the honorary title, Marquis of Salamanca.
King Juan Carlos loved to watch the Real Madrid side in which Del Bosque was a clever, talented midfielder with an eye for a game changing pass. As the two men grew older, they realised they had lots in common and their friendship was cemented.
Vincente Del Bosque was a loyal coach. He was accused of being too loyal to certain players, but he knew how to deal with superstars. He’s always told them to “Keep your ego under lock and key.”
Players at Real Madrid would not have dreamt of rebelling against him in the way they did with the much less likeable Fabio Capello. When the Italian was in charge, Real Madrid won La Liga because the players went to the bosses and told them they refused to play the Capello way.
Del Bosque worked with some of the biggest names ever to don the white shirt of Real Madrid, and success came calling. He may have a poker face and display little emotion on the touchline, but those who have got close to him, including Graham Hunter, say he has a big heart and a dry sense of humour almost as large. Below is one part of a 2014 interview Hunter under took with a man he respects enormously.
As for how Del Bosque has changed the style of football played by Spain, Graeme Souness told Hunter the following: “Del Bosque has been part of a change in the essence of Spanish football. In my day, Spanish football was full of stuff you hated – dirty tricks, kicks and shirt pulling. Cynical and horrible. Now it’s about quality, about control, technique. And it’s the most attractive stuff around.”
The only surprise there being that Souness didn’t like the rough stuff!
The fact that the last Spanish side Del Bosque was to manage did not make it to the final of Euro 2016 was not a surprise to supporters. A disappointment, for sure. But one that was expected.
Certain players have reached their best before date and it’s time to fully blood talented youngsters, including Paco Alcacer.
The new man in charge is sure to do that. He’s taught many of them good habits at a young age.
Spain will bounce back. That tip you can take to the bank!