Competition
  • Champions League

Raúl, Xavi and Co. tasked with taking Aragonés' legacy forward

On Monday, the Spanish FA began its latest 'express' coaching course for elite ex-players at its headquarters on the outskirts of Madrid. I call it 'express' to differentiate it from those put on at regional level in Spain for students who didn't scale the same heights, and which last longer. It's open to footballers with at least eight years' playing experience in Primera División, or 10 international caps. And we have a select crop starting out on their badges this year, that's for sure. The 'Aragonés Generation', we could call it: after all, most were involved with La Roja when he was national boss. Some, such as Raúl, with less success than others, like Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Marcos Senna, Joan Capdevila and Víctor Valdés... Why focus on Don Luis? Well, his tenure proved a watershed for Spanish football.

Raúl (front row, second left) and Xabi Alonso (front row, far right) are among the former Spain stars taking their coaching badges at the Spanish FA's headquarters in Madrid.

Aragonés effect has established Spain as exporter-in-chief of coaches

More than once, I had heard César Luis Menotti say that Spain had to decide whether to be the bull or the bullfighter. Though his roots were anchored in a far-off, traditional footballing age, Aragonés chose to shift us away from being the former (i.e. employing a playing style defined by the idea of furia española) in favour of the latter (that is, skill and technique; tiki-taka). He made the revolutionary move of embracing ability and ingenuity on the ball over muscle and physique. He won us Euro 2008 playing that way, and on such foundations Pep Guardiola created his great Barça side (which, people tend to forget, came just after, not before). Vicente del Bosque then applied the same principles to lead us to glory in the World Cup and the next Euros. Since then, Spain has cemented itself as an exporter of coaches.

Aragonés: turned Spain from bull into bullfighter.

Spain's footballing brand being stamped on game worldwide

People are even being sent from Germany to see how things are done here. As we speak, the champions of the Premier League are managed by Guardiola, and the champions of Ligue 1 are managed by Unai Emery. But though that's certainly a very big deal, for me that isn't the chief take-home from this discussion. It's this: We have dozens and dozens of Spanish entrenadores whose services have been sought out in every corner of the globe and at all levels of the game, be it as head coaches (just look at Gregorio Manzano and Luis García in China, Manolo Jiménez in Greece, or Luis Milla in Indonesia...), or as assistants or heads of youth development. Our footballing brand is being stamped on the game worldwide. And now, as these recently-retired idols make their way to the classroom, textbook and jotter in hand, it falls to them to carry on the legacy left to them by their legendary teacher.