Widely regarded as the father of the generation who took Spain to the UEFA EURO 2008 title in Austria and Switzerland, Luis Aragonés has passed away at 75.
Known as 'El Sabio de Hortaleza', or 'The Wise Man of Hortaleza' – the name of the Madrid district in which Aragonés was born on 28 July 1938 – Aragonés grew into a legend of Spanish football, both as a player and a coach.
Above all remembered for Spain's triumph at UEFA EURO 2008, he began his playing days in 1957 as a striker with Club Getafe Deportivo. It was a career that would last until 1974 and one which took in spells at teams such as Real Oviedo, Real Betis Balompié and, in particular, Club Atlético de Madrid.
During his time with the Rojiblancos – where Aragonés stayed for ten years from 1964 to 1974 – he enjoyed his greatest victories as a player, winning the Liga title three times and the Copa del Rey twice. The forward also narrowly missed out on a European Champion Clubs' Cup winners' medal, when his extra-time goal against FC Bayern München in the 1974 showpiece was cancelled out by Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck's last-minute strike. Bayern went on to win the replay 4-0.
Aragonés's career as a coach also started at Atlético, a post he was offered after hanging up his boots and to which he would return several times. He initially held the Rojiblancos reins until 1980, winning the league title in 1976/77, the Copa del Rey in 1975/76 and the 1974 Intercontinental Cup. During his three subsequent spells at the Atlético helm, he added further Copa del Rey wins in 1985 and 1992, as well as leading the side to the Spanish Super Cup title in 1985.
In the 1981/82 season, Aragonés took over at Betis, another of the clubs he represented during his playing days, while in the 1987/88 campaign he lifted the Copa del Rey with FC Barcelona. During the 1990s, he managed RCD Espanyol (1990/91), Sevilla FC (1993-95), Valencia CF (1995-97), Betis again (1997/98) and Oviedo (1999/2000). His final spells in the Spanish club game came at RCD Mallorca (2000/01 and 2003/04) and his beloved Atlético, with whom he won promotion to the top division in 2001/02.
His myriad achievements on the club scene earned him the Spain post in 2004, and after leading the Roja to the last 16 at the 2006 FIFA World Cup – where they lost to France – he oversaw his greatest triumph at UEFA EURO 2008. El Sabio de Hortaleza brought strength and confidence to a team in Austria and Switzerland that enjoyed a perfect group stage, beat Italy on penalties in the quarter-finals and eased past Russia 3-0 in the semi-finals, producing a footballing exhibition in the second half.
Facing Germany in the Vienna final, Aragonés's side brought time to a standstill in the 33rd minute. Xavi Hernández found Fernando Torres with a through ball, and the striker waltzed past Philipp Lahm before beating goalkeeper Jens Lehmann to register the only goal of the match. Spain had won UEFA EURO 2008, and Luis Aragonés had laid the foundations for a generation that would go on to make history, adding the 2010 World Cup and UEFA EURO 2012 titles under Vicente del Bosque.
That glorious night at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion proved the perfect apex to a career filled with glory and memorable moments, and which ended with a short spell in charge of Fenerbahçe SK. Every weekend now, pitches bearing Aragonés's name host countless matches in the neighbourhood where he was born, Hortaleza in Madrid. The instigator of the most successful generation in Spain's history, he passes away with Spanish football still feeling the benefits of his breakthrough win.
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