Del Bosque on verge of coaching history
If Spain retain the European Championship title in Kiev on Sunday in beating Italy then Vicente Del Bosque will make history as the only coach ever to lift the Euro, the World Cup and the Champions League.
That would be some going for the 61-year-old, who would additionally preside over the first team ever to lift three successive major crowns.
Del Bosque was not around in 2008, when Luis Aragones steered La Roja to glory against Germany.
But he has taken up the baton and ensured the orchestra have played on to the tune of success — even if they only crept through their semi-final against Portugal by a whisker via the lottery of penalties.
Del Bosque will put two feathers in an already well-decorated coaching hat if the Spanish can repeat their win of four years ago.
He would uniquely be able to claim both club and international success while also joining the late German Helmut Schoen, to date the only man to coach a national team both to the Euros and the World Cup.
Schoen managed the feat at the 1972 Euros and the 1974 World Cup - the latter on home territory — whereas Del Bosque would have pulled off his triumphs away from home.
Yet even before the Spaniard took the helm of a team which prior to 2008 had been among the international game’s biggest underachievers he had carved his name in the annals of the touchline greats.
He won two league crowns with Real Madrid but also delivered Champions League titles in 2000 and 2002.
Real, of course, rarely take their finger off the trigger when it comes to the managerial merry-go-round and they couldn’t even kick the habit with Del Bosque, who was promptly fired in 2003 despite a La Liga success which would prove their last for four years as successors came and went.
Responsibility for his surprise demise was that of then chairman, construction magnate Florentino Perez, and sporting director Jorge Valdano.
Del Bosque will have noted with wry satisfaction that in the four years Real could not lift even the domestic crown the club chopped and changed with seven more managers until Fabio Capello landed the 2007 title and then parted ways in any case.
But he would have his revenge as his Spain side knocked out the Portugal of Bernabeu successor Carlos Queiroz in the last 16 of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Queiroz, needless to relate, survived a mere matter of months at Real in 2003 as the club realised it had thrown out the man with the midas touch.
Ten years after his sacking, Real have still to add to their Champions League tally of nine crowns.
The moustachioed man from Salamanca — who was also a dependable defensive midfielder for Real — has not forgotten his treatment either.
Last year, Perez, by now back as chairman at Real, elected to confer a special club Order on several illustrious supporters, including Rafa Nadal and Placido Domingo, as well as Del Bosque - but he elected not to accept, commenting pointedly that “I do not have to say sorry to anyone for anything.”
Del Bosque added: “Each of us has our own story. I don’t wish to remember what happened but there is that familiar pain which is the toughest thing of all. If they tell someone he is useless or not good enough, well. Let’s just leave it at that.” And so he moved on. Onwards, and upwards.
Now, if Spain can play to their many strengths on Sunday and win, he will have the full set of top honours, with Schoen never having won in Europe at club level and former Juventus and Italy handler Marcello Lippi never having landed the European Championship.
As such, he would cock yet another snook at Perez and Real.