Vicente Del Bosque
Date of birth: 23 December 1950 in Salamanca, Spain
Nickname: Bigoton [on account of his big moustache]
Career as a player: 1969-1971 Castilla, 1971-1972 Cordoba Club de Futbol, 1972-1973 Club Deportivo Castellon, 1973-1984 Real Madrid.
Honours as a player: five Spanish league championships and winner of four Copa del Rey titles. Played in the 1980 European Championship in Italy. Played 441 official club matches and scored 30 goals. 18 caps for Spain. Career as a coach: 1994: Real Madrid. 1996: Real Madrid. 1999-2003: Real Madrid. 2004-2005: Besiktas. Since July 2008: coach of the Spanish national team.
Honours as a coach: three Spanish league championships, two UEFA Champions League titles, two Spanish Super Cups, one Intercontinental Cup and one European Super Cup.
“Football is a sport made up of individual moments”
Under the leadership of coach Luis Aragones, Spain became European champions in June. Vicente del Bosque took over as coach right after EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, and he wants the
team for which he was once a player to keep on winning.
FM: You have said that it is a privilege to coach a national team that has just won the European title, particularly a team that achieved the win in the way Spain did.
Vicente del Bosque: It’s true. If you think about how things would be now if we hadn’t got past the quarter-finals, the siruation would obviously be a lor worse. You have to take a positive view of such a victory that managed to get everyone caught up in the excitement.
But in the short term there are certain risks to such a situation, such as the fact that widespread optimism, if not kept in check, can be more dangerous than it is advantageous, and that the possibility of beating the European champions is now a major incentive for Spain’s rivals.
Del Bosque: Indeed, those are two issues that need to be taken into account, but it’s good that we are respected for being the best, and I don’t think the players are going to get carried away by uncontrolled euphoria. Although it’s true that being a good winner can be very difficult.
You’re making your debut with Spain: you know about playing and training, but maybe coaching a national team is a different matter. How are you handling the transition? Del Bosque: Well … I spent 15
years at Real Madrid and had to apply selection criteria when signing players and young boys. Now, it’s true it might not be the same work as for a national team, where you’re not training every day, but it’s not that different. There are a lot of similarities in terms of the basics, because the aim is always to get the team in shape, to develop a style …
The European champions already have a defined style. Are you going to keep that?
Del Bosque: It’s not a good idea to make distinctions with the previous coach, especially because the team’s style is very clearly defined. Luis Aragones
played a 4-1-4-1 or a 4-1-3-2 formation in order to keep possession and also to counter-attack. Formation is one thing and tactics another. But the objective is always the same, and it all worked perfectly at EURO 2008.
But, of course, everyone has their own way of doing things.
Del Bosque: We will try to bring our own personal touch, reflecting our character, where we feel it’s necessary, but I want to underline the fact that this is a winning team that knows exactly what it’s doing and, what’s more, enjoys it and brings massive enjoyment to the fans.
Are you saying this because you mean it or because of people’s “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” attitude?
Del Bosque: I’m saying it because the Spanish team has to use the players who won the European title in the same way they played in that competition and because the tactical and line-up decisions that were made were always effective.
I believe the choice of players was 100% right and I doubt that the fans will disagree with my line-up either.
Will you favour short or long passes?
Del Bosque: Football is a sport made up of individual moments, and you have to know how to play in each of them. That means playing short passes when it suits, and playing long balls when necessary, the combination of which is beautiful, but always maintaining a balance. The most difficult skill is knowing exactly what to do at each moment.
But things aren’t always going to remain the same, and you yourself have said that football constantly changes.
Del Bosque: We need to be proud of the football we have, but this shouldn’t stop us from looking towards the future.
Are you concerned that the players might cling to a concept and avoid adopting others?
Del Bosque: No, not at all. It’s great for the players to be able to look back on the European championship and enjoy what they achieved, but I don’t think they are going to dwell on the past, simply because they can already be satisfied wit what they have achieved.
But nobody is ever satisfied with what they have …
Del Bosque: I’ve already said several times that we have to set ourselves the highest objectives, but that doesn’t mean we’re smug or don’t have our feet on the ground. We have a team that can continue to succeed.
Spain’s team for EURO 2008 had something special that set it apart from all the others: it responded perfectly to the demands, requests and advice of the person who formed the team, Luis Aragones. Are you and he the same? Del Bosque: No …
Aragones has a reputation for being energetic and having a strong character. I’m not saying you don’t have those qualities, but you seem milder, colder, probably.
Del Bosque: Both personality types can achieve the same results. We [Del Bosque is referring to himself and his team] have never fallen out with anybody or fined anybody and that has worked. I think the players respect their coaches for their character, but also for their knowledge and humanity. Groups gain from human contact, and, what’s more, I’ve never heard of any bad vibes among the team, and that’s how it should be. 1 think we have the right working atmosphere.
The victory in the European Championship achieved something else, not directly related to the game: a huge mass of supporters, including people who didn’t watch football regularly, now identify with the team colours and their country’s flag.
Del Bosque: That has also been fantastic; it was a sporting and patriotic display, which is always a good thing. That is another of the European Championship’s major achievements, because it seemed as though that level of popularity was reserved for clubs, but we’ve seen that the national team can arouse such feelings, too. So things have gone back to the way they should be.
But we are now living in a permanent state of euphoria, and it therefore seems likely that a lot of people will start expecting undisputed victories, and for Spain to beat everyone, because we’re the best, after all …
Del Bosque: That’s not a bad thing.
It’s only natural that people should be so excited about Spain, because the team showed how powerful such a win could be. The optimism is great, but the national team also know that it’s very difficult to be good winners.
It certainly seems as though the public’s perception of the players has changed. They now feel a lot closer to them. The victory was necessary in terms of bringing the players and the public closer together.
Del Bosque: Victories always attract people, but it’s certainly true that the fans really like the players. “This is because of the football they played, the way they celebrated their victories, and also because the supporters realised that they’re not the
distant millionaires you hear about in the media, but normal, approachable guys. It’s important that this sense of normality is maintained, because that’s what people can relate to. Their performances played a large part, but more than that, it’s down to the players’ behaviour, and in that sense it’s been an honour for all of us to have seen this team in action.
Don’t you think that all of this puts you in a very risky position? You’ll have to respond to all these expectations … and respond with wins.
Del Bosque: I think there are a lot of advantages to this situation. No matter what way I look at it, it’s positive. Even if Luis was still here, there’d be no guarantee that we’d win everything, and of course there is no such guarantee with me either. That’s why we’re in a favourable position that we have to manage correctly and take advantage of. This has been very good for the team, for the people, and for the atmosphere surrounding football. It has proven those who doubted that a veteran coach could win a title wrong. Yes, indeed, it’s been good for everyone.