Feb 2, 2014, 5:09 PM EDT
Former Spain men’s national team head coach Luis Aragonés — the man who forged the team that’s won their last three major competitions — passed away Saturday in Madrid. He was 75 years old.
Aragonés was head coach of La Roja when Spain claimed the European Championships in 2008, building a team that would eventually win the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. It was the high point of a 35-year managerial career that started with Atlético Mardid in 1974, ended with Fenerbahçe in 2009, and included spells at Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla, Espanyol and Real Betis.
Aragonés had been suffering with a form of leukaemia, with his physical state kept secret from the Spanish press. Earlier this week, however, that worsening condition forced Aragonés to be hospitalized. He died early Saturday morning.
One Sunday at the Vicente Calderón, Atlético fans unveiled a large banner (above) commemorating the man who played and coached a combined 25 seasons at the club.
Born in Madrid, Aragonés enjoyed an 18-year playing career starting in 1957, going on to make 372 Primera División appearances with Atlético. Upon retiring as the club’s all-time leading scorer, Aragonés became the Atleti head coach, embarking on a managerial career that could see him claim six major honors. In 1977, he won his only league title, leading Atlético to the top of La Liga.
His legacy, however, will be that of a man who returned Spain to prominence. In guiding La Roja to a European title in 2008, Aragonés saw his national team end a 44-year drought without a major honor.
Helping unite a team often divided along regional lines, Aragonés instilled the style that has persisted through the tenure of his successor. For that, current Spain head coach Vicente Del Bosque expressed his gratitude:
“Without a doubt he marked the road in this final successful phase,” Del Bosque said. “I felt a great deal of appreciation toward him.”
Chelsea striker Samuel Eto’o, who played for Aragonés at Mallorca, tweeted out his condolences.
“My heart is in profound pain on this day, as a great man has left us. More than a coach, Luis Aragonés was like a father to me. I keep wonderful memories of our relationship and of my experience at Mallorca. Dear papa, thank you for all you have tought us, you will be missed.”
Manchester City striker Álvaro Negredo also added his sentiments. From Twitter:
“Today and forever the football world will cry your loss but you will always be by our side. Rest In Peace Luis Aragones”
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