Luis Aragones, architect of Spain's soccer dominance, dies aged 75
He led the team to Euro 2008 triumph, their first major title for 44 years, kick-starting an unprecedented run of success for the nation
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 on 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" 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-travelled 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 a first major title in 44 years.
That was the culmination of his four-year reign as Spain coach, having taken over a team that had a reputation for coming up short in major tournaments.
While Aragones stepped down, the team went on to win a first World Cup two years later and then added an unprecedented third straight major title at Euro 2012 under his successor Vicente del Bosque.
Aragones' time in charge wasn't without controversy.
He made a racist slur about France striker Thierry Henry during a training session in October, 2004, and followed that remark with an outburst about England's colonial past.
Denying he was a racist, Aragones explained that his comment about Henry was an attempt to motivate forward Jose Antonio Reyes, and he received backing from several black players he had coached previously.
Spanish media often complained about his grouchy demeanour and regularly called for his dismissal in the two years before the team's triumph. There was uproar at the end of 2006 when he dropped the national team's all-time leading scorer and captain, Real Madrid's Raul Gonzalez. It was a master stroke.
The team embarked on a 22-game unbeaten run which culminated with the 2008 title, making Aragones the oldest coach to win a European Championship title. 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.
Nicknamed "The Sage of Hortaleza" in reference to the Madrid suburb of his birth, he 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 five occasions and 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 grandchildren.