Vicente del Bosque has called time on his glorious eight-year spell in charge of Spain, in the wake of his team’s unsuccessful UEFA European Championship title defence.
“I will continue my duties until my contract runs out on 31 July and then I’m leaving. My decision is irreversible,” the 65-year-old said, the holders having been knocked out of UEFA EURO 2016 by Italy in the round of 16.
Del Bosque will now take on a new position at the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), though the precise nature of his mission has yet to be confirmed. There is nonetheless little doubt he will bring genuine pedigree to the role, having led Spain to even greater heights after Luis Aragonés had ended their 44-year trophy drought by winning UEFA EURO 2008.
Del Bosque inherited a brilliant side but made changes to the line-up, including going against the grain to give Sergio Busquets a regular place alongside Xabi Alonso to form a double midfield pivot. On his major tournament debut, the former Real Madrid player and coach lifted the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Spain’s first global title.
If the Busquets move was widely questioned following Spain’s opening loss to Switzerland in South Africa, Del Bosque would be vindicated. His team kept five clean sheets in their next six games en route to hoisting the trophy in Johannesburg.
Two years later, Del Bosque guided Spain to another EURO triumph, their 4-0 victory against Italy in the final close to perfection. La Roja thus became the only side to win three consecutive major international tournaments, while Del Bosque became the second man after Helmut Schön to mastermind EURO and World Cup successes – as well as the first to have also lifted the UEFA Champions League, with Madrid in 1999/2000 and 2001/02.
Like in South Africa, Del Bosque endured plenty of media criticism during the 2012 finals, this time for shunning a traditional centre-forward and employing Cesc Fàbregas as a ‘false nine’. The final was the perfect riposte, prompting Italy coach Cesare Prandelli to remark: “They may not play with a recognised striker but they still cause a hell of a lot of problems.”
Del Bosque’s legacy
An unfettered belief in that attacking, possession-based brand of football will be Del Bosque’s ultimate legacy, despite disappointing showings at the 2014 World Cup and UEFA EURO 2016. “Vicente is a football man, he encourages the passing game and wants the ball to sing,” recalled Alonso.
In 114 matches at the helm, Del Bosque’s record reads 87 wins, ten draws and 17 defeats. The 70 players to whom he gave international debuts include David de Gea, Gerard Piqué, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets and Álvaro Morata: all seem to have many years left in them for Spain.
Del Bosque has ultimately decided his time has come and walks away as Spain’s most decorated head coach. Yet it is testimony to the man that he will be as fondly remembered for his generous character and personal touch as for the magnificent soccer and success he helped oversee.