Luis Aragones, the former Spain coach who shaped the team's
rise from perennial underachiever to global powerhouse with a long-awaited
title at the 2008 European Championship, has died. He was 75.
The Spanish football federation announced the death early
Saturday, saying Aragones died at a Madrid
hospital. It did not disclose the cause of death.
Federation president Angel Maria Villar said Aragones would
be remembered as "very special" — both for his contributions to
Spanish football and as a person.
"With him we have lived the beginning of an
extraordinary phase in football as well as for Spanish society," Villar
said. "This has been a painful dawn for our football."
Aragones had a successful playing career as a sharpshooting
international forward who earned 11 caps for Spain, and then spent the rest of
his life as a much-traveled coach.
However, he will mostly be remembered for what happened on
June 29, 2008, when his team beat Germany
1-0 in Vienna
to claim its first major title in 44 years.
That was the culmination of his four-year reign as Spain
coach, having taken over a team that for the last 20 years had earned a
reputation for always coming up short in major tournaments.
But Aragones instilled a new sense of belief in his players,
even after losing to France
in the second round of the 2006 World Cup. He also made the team adopt the
quick-passing "tiki-taka" style of football made famous by Barcelona, and which his
players came close to perfecting at Euro 2008.
Led by Barcelona midfielders
Xavi Iniesta and Andres Iniesta — and the goalscoring of David Villa — Spain went undefeated through the tournament,
but needed a penalty shootout against Italy to advance from the
While Aragones stepped down after the tournament, the team
went on to win its first World Cup two years later and then added an
unprecedented third straight major title at Euro 2012 under his successor Vicente
Aragones' time in charge wasn't without controversy, though.
He made a racist slur about France
striker Thierry Henry — who is black — during a training session in October,
2004, and followed that remark with an outburst about England's colonial
past. His comments were believed to have prompted ugly racist chants directed
at England's black players
during a friendly against Spain
The Spanish Football Federation refused to bow to pressure
to fire Aragones, although it fined him €3,000, a punishment which many felt
was too lenient.
Denying he was a racist, Aragones explained that his comment
about Henry was an attempt to motivate forward Jose Antonio Reyes, and he
received important backing from several black players he had coached
In February, 2007, Aragones won a legal appeal against the
Spanish Committee for Sporting Discipline's ruling that his behavior could have
fostered "violent, racist or xenophobic acts."
Spanish media also often complained about his grouchy
demeanor and had regularly called for his dismissal during the two years before
the team's triumph. There was another uproar toward the end of 2006 when he
dropped the national team's all-time leading scorer and captain, Real Madrid's
Raul Gonzalez, arguing that he was past his prime.
It proved a masterstroke.
The team embarked on a 22-game unbeaten run which culminated
with the 2008 title, making Aragones the oldest coach to win a European
Despite the victory, the Spanish federation made no attempt
to persuade him to extend his contract and five days later he moved abroad for
the first time to take charge of Turkish club Fenerbahce, a couple of weeks
before his 70th birthday.
"I'm leaving because there wasn't more done for me to
stay," Aragones said at the time.
His playing career began 43 years earlier, when Aragones
joined Atletico Madrid.
He scored 123 times in 265 games for the team — the second highest in its
history — and helped the club win three Spanish league titles and two Copa del
Reys. It also reached the 1974 European Cup final, where it lost to Bayern
Munich in a replay.
Aragones, nicknamed "The Sage of Hortaleza" in
reference to the Madrid suburb of his birth, was then appointed as Atletico
coach and he responded by leading the team to the 1975 World Club Championship,
the 1976 Copa del Rey and the 1977 league title.
He coached Atletico on a total of five occasions and he had
two spells each at Mallorca and Real Betis. He
was also in charge of Barcelona, Espanyol, Sevilla, Valencia
and Oviedo in a
career total of 757 games, a Spanish league record.
Aragones is survived by his wife Pepa, five children and 11