Luis Aragones is number 40 in 90min’s Top 50 Great Managers of All Time series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next eight weeks. You can find Chris Deeley’s career overview on Luis Aragones here.
Luis Aragones’ long managerial career saw him flit around between a number of clubs in Spain – managing more games in the top flight than anybody else.
That, plus his astonishing Spain side from 2004-2008, means that the list of players who appeared under him is long. Like, hella long. Rory Delap throw-in, Jan Koller’s bedsheets long.
Narrowing it down to a starting XI is tricky, but strap in, here we go…
Goalkeeper and Defenders
Miguel Reina – One of Aragones’ early charges, who played both alongside and under him as the Spaniard went from Atleti’s player to their manager in barely a month. A key player in Aragones’ only La Liga title win in 1976/77, Reina also had a son – Pepe. You might’ve heard of him. In a delightful display of synchronicity, Pepe was given his Spain debut by his father’s old teammate and manager in 2005.
Carles Puyol – It’s tempting to give this spot to Jorge Otero, purely because he played for Aragones at three different clubs, but…well, have you seen Carles Puyol play football?
Sergio Ramos – Let’s put it this way – he was, and still is, Sergio Ramos. Brought into the national team by Aragones, he’s now Spain’s second most capped player of all time.
Patxi Ferreira – A player whose career might best be described as ‘basically decent’, Ferreira was a trusted ally of Aragones – the two linking up both in the Copa del Rey winning team of 1992 and in Valencia a few years later, coming within a hair of beating Atleti, their old side, to the title.
Toni Muñoz – The left-back may have been from Cordoba, but his blood ran the same Atleti red and white as Aragones’ at the end of his 16 years at the club. An invaluable part of the then-veteran manager’s third spell at the Calderon.
Andres Iniesta – Remember when Andres Iniesta was young, and unproven? He’d just turned 22 when he was called up by Aragones for his Spain squad at the 2006 World Cup. While La Roja fell out of that tournament in the round of 16, Iniesta justified every last ounce of faith his manager showed in him in the next two years.
Dominant performances in qualifying, a man of the match showing in the Euro 2008 semi-final and far more. Spain isn’t Spain without Euro 2008, and Euro 2008 doesn’t happen without Iniesta.
Xavi – What is there to say about Xavi that hasn’t been said a thousand times in a thousand profiles? He was a million miles from being a shill for Qatari football when he tiki’d and taka’d his way around Austria and Switzerland in 2008, setting the path – along with Iniesta – for one of the greatest national and club runs of all time.
Gaizka Mendieta – Mendieta’s international career was over by the time that Aragones took over La Roja, but the two paired up magnificently in Valencia for one beautiful season (and a bit of a season after that). Without a league title in 25 years, the young midfielder was a delight in the middle as the sleeping giants of Spanish football came within four points of winning the Primera Division.
Bernd Schuster – Der Blonde Engel, one of a vanishingly small number of players to have played for Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atleti (especially consecutively, as he did), playing under Aragones at both the former and the latter. Schuster was a different player on the two occasions he was managed by the Atleti stalwart, more of a playmaker in his later days at the Vicente Calderon than the goalscoring midfielder he was at Barcelona.
Hugo Sanchez – The greatest Mexican player of his generation – possibly ever – and Aragones’ best striker. Four seasons, Sanchez spent at the Calderon under the Spaniard; finishing as the club’s top scorer in every one. In his final season he finished as Spain’s Pichichi, fired Atleti to a Copa del Rey title and secured second place in La Liga.
Oh, he was quite good when he went to Real, too.
David Villa – Neither a popular or particularly glamorous pick, Villa was another player given his Spain debut under Aragones who went on to become one of the country’s greatest ever in his position. First picked for the national team while still at Real Zaragoza in 2005, by the end of 2006 he had displaced Raul in the Spain team.
The decision brought howls of fury from all over Spain – but Villa made his manager look like a genius, with 14 goals in 22 competitive games and the Euro 2008 title before Aragones stepped down.
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