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Adieu ‘Wise Man’

Madrid: Former coach Luis Aragones, the man who ended Spain’s 44-year wait for a major international trophy by winning the Euro 2008 and sparking a golden era for the team, has died at the age of 75.

He passed away on Saturday morning in the Centro de Madrid clinic in the Spanish capital after a battle with leukaemia, his family said in a statement. The RFEF, the country’s soccer federation, expressed its sorrow at the loss of the “Spain coach that started their glorious run of success in world football”.

Spain lifted the European Championship trophy in 1964, but for several decades after they were regarded as under-achievers. Aragones changed that perception with his victory in 2008, creating the platform for more triumphs under Vicente del Bosque at the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.

Aragones, known as the ‘Wise Man’, realised the need to get rid of ageing players like Raul and Michel Salgado, creating a new playing style based on the short-passing football, named the tiki-taka, that was bringing success at Barcelona. The often-eccentric coach was derided at the start by the media for dropping the established big names before results started to improve.

Aragones chose to stand down after Euro 2008. He then spent one season coaching Turkish side Fenerbahce before leaving the job in 2009.

“He was loved by everyone at the Spanish football federation. He was an example to follow in Spanish football from the day he started,” said RFEF president Angel Maria Villar.

“He was a very special person on a human and sporting level. We lived with him the start of an extraordinary spell for football and for Spanish society.”

Spain beat Germany 1-0 in the final in Vienna six years ago, Fernando Torres scoring the winner in the 33rd minute.

“Without doubt he paved the way for this latest period that has been so successful. He had a lot of experience as a coach and personally I had a special affection for him,” said Del Bosque. (Reuters)