“He has a very good brain in assessing what kind of footballers his players are, what kind of people we are, how we all work together. He is scrupulously fair-minded… his skill is in subtly weighing up how the team could tick.”
That is what Steve McManaman said about Vicente Del Bosque, under whom he won the 2000 Champions League against Valencia.
As manager of Los Blancos, now 62-year-old Del Bosque guided the club through its most successful period in modern football.
He was the softly spoken, modest man at the helm of the most audacious (and expensive) project ever undertaken in football- Florentino Perez’s ‘Galactico’ era.
Somehow, Del Bosque was able to corral the egos of superstars like Raul, Luis Figo, Ronaldo (original), David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane, to win 104 out of 186 games in charge during his third stint as manager of Spain’s most glittering club.
Overall, Del Bosque won eight trophies as manager of Madrid, including two La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues, before he was unceremoniously sacked.
But it was not as a club manager at Madrid or Besiktas (his only professional failure) where the quiet former midfielder scaled the greatest possible football heights.
Instead, it is as coach of arguably the greatest national team football has ever seen, Spain, that Del Bosque has shattered the record books and achieved what no manager in history before him has been capable of.
Using the diplomatic skills heralded by McManaman, Del Bosque has managed to unite Barcelona and Real Madrid’s fractious stars together, and along with a handful of talents from other teams, turn Spain’s golden era into the ultimate champions.
Until Del Bosque’s predecessor, Luis Aragones, led them to the 2008 European Championship, La Furia Roja were football’s greatest underachievers.
But when Fernando Torres scored against Germany to crown Spain European champions, the floodgates were unleashed.
It is true that Del Bosque has multiple superstars to work with in every position, but even so, the success he has achieved as Spain coach is simply unprecedented.
Winning major international tournaments is considered by many to be the most difficult feat in world football. That is why the World Cup is said to be the litmus test for four-time World Player of the Year and football phenomenon, Lionel Messi.
Brazil may have won the World Cup five times, Italy four and Germany three. Italy and the Selecao have even won it twice in a row. And in the year 2000, France’s own golden generation managed to hold the world and European titles simultaneously.
But until last year, after 140 glorious years of international football history, no team had ever won three major international trophies in a row.
If the best Brazilian, Italian and German teams could not do it, if Zizou could not inspire France to it, winning three global trophies in succession seemed fundamentally impossible.
But Del Bosque made Spain World Cup winners in South Africa in 2010. And then in 2012, led a team supposedly tired of winning to defend their European crown against Italy in one of the most one-sided continental finals seen.
He may not have the most trophies in his cabinet, or have made the tactical innovations that football thrives on today.
But until another manager guides a national team to their third successive major tournament victory, Vicente Del Bosque will deserve his place at the apex of his chosen career.
10- Munoz; 9- Clough; 8- Hitzfeld; 7- Guardiola; 6- Mourinho; 5- Paisely; 4- Michels; 3- Herrera; 2- Del Bosque