Unsurprisingly, the tributes are pouring in for Luis Aragónes. Here, I’ve translated pieces written by Fernando Torres, Iker Casillas and Xavi Hernández, plus interviews with Álvaro Arbeloa and Pepe Reina, as well as a sampling of messages via Twitter from Luis’ players. There’s also a piece written by Luis himself, where he reflects on the Eurocopa. DEP Míster (y tal).
Luis Aragónes. 1938-2014.
Fernando Torres: “Win, win and win!”
From El Mundo.
When you’re a kid and you begin to play football, you’re full of hopes and dreams that you believe you’ll achieve because you think you can. From the age of 10, I’ve seen teammates, some who were better than me, get left behind. And this is nothing more than a learning process that speeds up when you become a professional at the age of 17 and you begin to see that the football you knew has nothing to do with professional football.
That’s when Luis appeared in my life. He’s my football professor, the one who put a stop to my ambitions until I was prepared, the one who gave me advice and who explained to me which teammates were the ones who genuinely liked me and which were the ones who had ulterior motives, as well as how the media functioned at this level. He reinforced the values that I had learned during my entire life, those of the football from before. As he told me almost daily, “Niño! You don’t know anything about anything.” With the passing of time, I realized that he did this because he was fond of me. To be frank, I never saw him like this with any other player. He was preparing me so that I could get to where I wanted to be, and he was doing so with affection he always had for me. He believed in me.
During our second period together, he did with the national team what he did with me previously. He took our heads out of the clouds and he told us, “get rid of those egos, you’re not better than anyone until you’re a team.” This process was full of rough patches, of enemies on the road that we left behind because we were convinced that we needed to get by them to achieve our goal. And by the time we finally understood it, his speech about how we could be the champions of Europe was no longer just a motivating speech, but rather a real objective. He made us believe that in football is the first step towards the most difficult dreams. And this was when we were at our lowest point, when the results weren’t what we wanted and the doubts from the outside were bigger than ever. But we lived in a bubble that Luis created especially for us and only for us. This strategy had a happy ending and he will be known as the man who changed Spanish football, the one that made us dream, believe, fight and win. Before each game, we would shout, “Win, win and win!”
He’s no longer with us now, but those of us who knew him have already won. Those of us who learned from him will win again, and those of us reading about his passing will thank him because we will win again, and probably always win. You will never be gone, because you left us an indelible legacy.
Thank you, viejo. Rest in peace.
Iker Casillas: “When he convinced us that we were the best.”
From El Mundo.
“Nene, do you believe you’re sufficiently prepared to be the captain?” “I think so, míster, I think so,” I answered. And then I thought long and hard about it. Luis Aragonés had given me a mission and a responsibility that would mark my career as a footballer. That special character was and will always be our Abuelo, the beloved Abuelo of the national team. That was what all of the players who started and ended one of the most fascinating adventures in the history of contemporary football under his tutelage called him.
Only a few hours have passed since his death, but I can still see him gesturing at the front of the dining room during our concentraciones. And I still hear him giving his pre-game chats, the way he convinced us and transmitted desire. And I still see him as I did from the goal, winking at me. Or not. I believe the fact that he left us without practically any warning was his last stroke of genius: yesterday we weren’t prepared and we are now suddenly remembering all the moments from a career that will always be defined by the 2008 Eurocopa, those days in which all Spaniards were proud thanks to a football team.
He was the first one and the one who was most convinced of us and our potential. He was the one who managed to convince us in a way that made us believe we were invincible during that tournament that paved the way to the future. “Look at me. We did not come here to lose. We have received blows from all sides but here we are. And if we’re here, it’s to win. You all are a fantastic team and people need to know that. And the truth is for those who win.”
I look back and I get a lump in my throat thinking about all those marvelous moments, those private moments inside the locker room. El Abuelo has gone and I’m left with the tranquility of not having a single question left to ask him. That’s because Luis was transparent, and he said everything he had to say to us. He did it in his way, but he told us. And all that we had to ask him we did. He didn’t flee from contact with the players, he understood the players very well.
It’s clear that Luis changed the destiny of Spanish football, but I believe his legacy was much more profound: he changed all of us, each one of us. With him by my side, I opened the door of the plane that brought us back from Austria, with the Eurocopa in our arms, and with him I held up that wonderful trophy to show it off proudly to our fans, to all of you. As the captain of Real Madrid and of the national team, I once again stand up to thank him for making us stronger, for convincing us.
Xavi Hernández: “Míster, we were never Japanese.”
From El País.
“You’re not Japanese, so you understand what I’m telling you.” That’s what he said to me one night. I still see him in the hotel room, and I know that I will miss him a lot, because I really loved Luis Aragonés. And I spoke a lot with Luis.
I knew that he wasn’t well, but I never thought his condition was so serious that he would leave us so soon, so quickly, in this way. Whenever I asked him, he would say, “I’m good, I’m good.” I spoke with him once in a while, because for me he was an absolute reference from the day I met him. I think he’s the coach that I’ve spent the most time talking about football with. He would come to my room and we would talk for hours, sometimes along the lines of “this is the key Xavi, knowing how we want to play,” of the importance of putting all the good players on the field, of the importance of not fearing anyone, any team, no matter how much more they ran than us. “You and I know that the ball runs more than them. And we pass better than they do,” he told us. My best memories of Luis are from his chats, of running into him in the hallways, of seeing him in the dining room, because you always learned something. And he was always right, always.
Luis was always straightforward, he would look at you in the training session, approach you and tell you, “you’re messing around, you came to train but I don’t see that. I don’t like cheeky bastards!” And then he would walk away. Luis never deceived you, he would say everything to your face. “You’re not playing because you were terrible this week.” “Are you tired or what?” “Today you were fantastic, you’ll be perfect this week.” “Do you think I was born yesterday, that I’m an idiot?” That was Luis.
The other day, I remembered an anecdote from the first time he called me up to play for the national team. He hadn’t selected me for his first call-up, and in September, he was waiting for me when I got there. “What were you thinking, that the son of a bitch wasn’t going to choose you, eh?” I was surprised and I told him, “no, no, I never thought anything like that, míster.” And he, in his pure Luis style, told me, “yes, yes, yes, you’re trying to fool me. Go up, we’ll talk later.” And we spoke that day, and many more.
Luis is fundamental in my career and in the history of La Roja. Without him, nothing would have been the same. Everything began with him, because he brought together the pequeños, Iniesta, Cazorla, Cesc, Silva, Villa… with Luis, we had a revolution, we exchanged “la furia” for the ball and we showed that we could win while playing well. If we hadn’t won the Eurocopa, we wouldn’t have won the World Cup, although the arrival of Del Bosque, another phenomenon, was of course fundamental.
Luis received a lot of criticism but he was the one who paved the way, who gave Spain the style it has today. We always saw eye to eye on that. It was Luis who saw what there was and decided to opt for the bajitos. “I’m going to use the good ones, because they’re so good that we can win the Eurocopa.” And we won it. He was intelligent and very brave.
On a personal level, Luis made me feel important when my self esteem was disastrous. He put me in charge of the team when I wasn’t even in charge in Barça. He told me, “here, you’re in charge” and “let them criticize me.” I decided to return the confidence he had in me on the field. I was chosen as the best player of the Eurocopa because of him, although he always denied that. With me, he had some unforgettable gestures. I wasn’t well in the run-up to Germany, but he waited for me. He came to see me in Barcelona, asking about my knee. Paredes (the fitness coach) then came up to La Mola while I was recovering… Luis called me every other day. “Work hard Xavi, I’m waiting for you.”
The word “football” in the dictionary has to be accompanied by a photo of Luis. Luis is football personified as a person.
Goodbye, míster. Thank you for everything. And remember, you and I were never Japanese.
Álvaro Arbeloa and Pepe Reina at El Larguero.
Arbeloa: I found out the news through Twitter; I didn’t know that Luis was so sick. People will remember him for what he did for the national team, but he did great work for many teams, and was an important figure in football. Luis was the one who debuted me with the national team, and allowed me to win the Eurocopa. He left an indelible mark on me, and all the players who worked with him. He was very, very special, singular. He will always be with us. [Tell us an anecdote.] There are some that I can’t tell (laughs). Some come to mind, but I can’t reveal them. All of the players had a lot of affection for Luis as a coach and as a person.
Pepe: it’s a huge loss, he was instrumental in the careers of many footballers, including me. He was the father of the successes we had with the national team. He left us in the way he wanted to, without bothering anyone, without anyone knowing, in his own way. I found out via Twitter, and it was difficult because it took me entirely by surprise and I didn’t believe it. [What significance did he have in your career?] Well, he was significant not only for me, but also for my family. My father was his teammate, and then was coached by him, and so the bond was very strong. He was the one who called me up for the national team for the first time. The last time I spoke with him was an act with the national team, I don’t remember the exact date, but I remember how affectionate he was during the Príncipe de Asturias awards. I have millions of anecdotes involving him. The best moment was during our return trip from winning the Eurocopa, when we were remembering all the things he said during his chats and training sessions, his phrases.
There was of course a lot more than these messages, but to save time I limited it to the 2008 Eurocopa team. But special mention has to go to Samuel Eto’o’s moving tribute.
Iker Casillas: RIP to one of the most influential persons in my career. Thanks for everything, Míster!
Xabi Alonso: one of the greatest has left us; it’s a very sad day. His personality marked many of us for life. RIP Don Luis Aragonés.
Sergio Ramos: A very sad day. El sabio Luis Aragonés has passed away. I will never forget your advice and teachings. RIP Míster!! Luis is the one to credit for who I am as a footballer and he showed us the path to glory. A big hug for his entire family.
David Villa: it’s a very sad day. One of the greatest has left us. Thank you for teaching me a big part of what I know. RIP Luis Aragonés.
Álvaro Arbeloa: how great you were, Luis. And how great is the void you leave behind. Rest in peace, abuelo.
Cesc Fàbregas: Rest in peace, míster. Thanks for everything! Today a person who has marked both my professional career and me as a person has left us.
Pepe Reina: what sad news… rest in peace míster. I’m proud to have been “one of yours” as you liked to say. We will never forget you! Thanks for everything!
Fernando Torres: RIP Luis Aragonés. Thank you míster, I will never be able to thank you enough for all that you did for me. In life you meet people who show you the way. I’m proud to have learned from you. We will never forget you, míster.
Rubén de la Red: thank you for these moments… everything began with you. Rest in peace, míster.
Andrés Iniesta: waking up to this news is very sad… Thank you so much for all that you taught us, for all that you gave us, for debuting me with the senior team! We will always remember you. Goodbye míster. RIP.
Fernando Navarro: RIP Luis Aragonés, thank you for making my dream come true, thank you for the unforgettable moments, thank you for everything.
Joan Capdevila: RIP Luis Aragonés. Thank you for everything that you gave us. You changed the history of the national team. We will always remember you. A hug for the family.
Andrés Palop: a great coach has left us, the one who showed us the way, a friend. Thank you for everything. RIP Luis Aragonés.
Carles Puyol: a sad day for football. Thank you for everything míster. A big hug to his family.
David Silva: thank you míster, for making me one of yours, I can never thank you enough for all that you did for me. You will always be with us, sabio. RIP.
Marcos Senna: the person who has been the most influential for me in my career, after my father, has left us. It’s a sad day for me and for all those who knew him. Luis Aragonés was a father, a brother, a friend, an idol, a football legend. Those of us who knew him and admired him are very sad today, but we are proud to have known you and to have worked with you. I want to send a kiss to his family from New York. RIP Luis!
Santi Cazorla: sad news about the passing of Luis Aragonés, thank you for giving me the opportunity and for your confidence in me, you will always be with us, sabio. RIP.
Juanito: it appears that heaven has made a last minute signing, RIP. Thanks for everything, míster.
Sergio García (in statement released by Espanyol): I send my condolences to the family. It’s sad news for all of Spanish football and a great loss for us. He was my coach with the national team and he taught me a lot. Thanks to him things have gone well for me.
Iker, Sergio, Álvaro Arbeloa, Xabi and David Villa, plus Vicente del Bosque and Toni Grande, went to the funeral home on Feb. 1 to pay their last respects.
The Liga teams who played on Saturday (Sevilla and Málaga, Getafe and Valladolid, Levante and Rayo Vallecano, Barcelona and Valencia (with Xavi on the verge of tears)) also paid tribute by observing a moment of silence before their games, and in some cases, wore black armbands or shirts. The second division teams (Ponfe, Murcia, Eibar, Las Palmas, Depor, Sabadell, Castilla, Hércules) did as well. Real Madrid held a moment of silence before its training session.
On Sunday, Carles Puyol, Xavi, Cesc, Andrés Iniesta, Carlos Marchena, Fernando Hierro and Miguel Reina (he hugs Xavi in the video below), plus many of the RFEF/national team staff (María José Claramunt, Antonio Limones, Silvia, Paloma, Pedro Cortés, Ochoto, etc.), were among those who attended Luis’ funeral.
Teams that played on Sunday also held a minute of silence for Luis: Elche and Almería, Betis and Espanyol, Atlético and Real Sociedad (Atleti also had additional tributes prepared, and David Villa dedicated his goal to Luis), and Athletic and Real Madrid (those at San Mamés that booed and whistled during the minute are shameless), and several of the teams also wore black armbands. Second division teams that paid tribute included Zaragoza and Barcelona B, Tenerife and Mirandés, Alavés and Córdoba, Numancia and Gerona, Jaen and Lugo, and Recre and Alcorcón.
Aragonés, in first person.
Luis Aragonés wrote this piece for the book “EFE’75” in celebration of EFE’s 75th anniversary.
I have good memories of my time with the national team, which I had the honor to coach between 2004 and 2008. There was a point of inflection in 2008. That’s when many stereotypes of La Roja were broken. While it’s true that we played good football in the 2006 World Cup, we were eliminated in the round of 16 against France due to a bout of bad luck.
That’s when I began to remake the team. I brought in young players and I made changes bit by bit that I believed were needed. There were some things that weren’t beneficial to the team and so I got down to work. Everyone accepted the changes very well, both the young players and the veterans. The group decided that the important thing was the team, that there couldn’t be any egos, that they had to give it their all for the team.
That’s how the transformation of Spain began, the change from “la manida furia” to the “juego de toque.” The one who has the ball is the one in control of the game and it’s clear that we had men who could imprint a style on the team that had nothing to do with its previous style. We also worked on the psychological aspect, of convincing the team that we could and we were going to be champions of Europe in 2008. Since 1964, Spain had not won anything and there was a need to change the mentality.
With this idea in mind, we played the qualifiers and then traveled to Neustift on June 5, 2008. We received an emotional welcome from the town. We set up our headquarters there with the sole idea of winning the Eurocopa. We were convinced that we could do so. That’s why we overcame all the obstacles until we found ourselves in the quarterfinals against Italy. That’s when our bad luck ended. We advanced after the penalty round and there was no one who could stop us. We faced Russia in the semifinals, a great team that we had a lot of respect for, but we played our best game of the tournament and won 3-0. In the final, we defeated Germany with Fernando Torres’ historic goal.
It’s true that Spain, throughout its history, has had magnificent teams and has played great games in the World Cups in the U.S. and South Korea, for example, but it was during the 2008 Eurocopa, both in the qualifiers as well as the tournament, when the big change occurred. It was during that time that an interesting style of play, one that still exists, was developed. We had to have possession of the ball and aim for the goal as quickly as possible. During this tournament, the players had to become convinced psychologically that they could be champions, and to achieve that, the first one that had to be sure of it was the coach. Since the time that I took over, the mental aspect has been fundamental. I didn’t have problems, because I had a great generation of players who accepted what we had to do and the changes we had to introduce.
We had the certainty that we could achieve success, and on the way, the stimulation of the players was constant. I had to prepare them psychologically for what was to come. Spanish football changed, in terms of results and style, and the fortune of the penalties against Italy was not needed for that.
My successor Vicente del Bosque knew how to be intelligent and he didn’t change anything. When things work well, there’s no need to change them, and the national team has an extraordinary present and future. Achieving the Eurocopa, World Cup and Eurocopa successively is something that no one else besides Spain has achieved. Everything began in Austria in 2008, but the road continues. I hope the glory continues as well.
Many media outlets have also published compilations of their favorite Luis Aragonés phrases and sayings (here’s one). I have to say, the one about his Japanese chicken sexer friend is my favorite, and probably one of the best out of the best.
And according to these media outlets, the RFEF will use the friendly between Spain and Italy on March 5 to pay tribute to Luis Aragonés. As luck would have it, that day was already chosen as the one that Spain would debut its completely black kits, which will be worn during the World Cup, and the Vicente Calderón was chosen as the venue.