Why Spain Manager Vicente Del Bosque Has the Easiest Job in Football
Their recent haul of trophies on the international stage has seen Spain hailed as one of the greatest national teams of all time. A bold statement, for sure, but one that is not too far from reality.
A superb showing at Euro 2008 under Luis Aragones resulted in Spain's first international title since 1964 when they won the European Championships on their own turf, as they beat Germany 1-0 in the final thanks to a goal from Fernando Torres.
That was the moment when teams, pundits and players finally recognised Spain as a top footballing nation.
Since the final, Spaniards have dominated football at both the club and international level. Spain have since gone on to win the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, with Andres Iniesta's winner in extra time seeing off the challenge from Holland, and last summer in an emphatic 4-0 thumping of Italy at Euro 2012.
Many praise the players, and who can blame them?
The array of talent in each sector of the field is astounding; the fact that world-class midfielders such as Cesc Fabregas, Santi Cazorla and Juan Mata struggle to break into the first team tells only half the story. With Xavi, Iniesta and David Silva well integrated into the side, it's hard to stop a team brimming with such quality.
But there is one man who is all too often overlooked as the catalyst of Spain's recent success.
His name? Vicente Del Bosque.
The former Real Madrid coach, who took over from Aragones after Euro 2008, can take much of the credit for reshaping Spain as one of the most feared teams in the world. Although he inherited a title-winning side, the 62-year-old sought to replace the aging squad that Spain had after their Euro 2008 triumph. One of his most controversial decisions was leaving Raul out of the squad, who was then the nation's all-time top goalscorer.
It wasn't a simple process. Del Bosque had to ensure the injection of youth into the Spanish side wasn't rushed and sensibly engineered a more gradual approach. Step by step Del Bosque introduced new talent into the side, namely, the rising stars at Barcelona, Sergio Busquets and Pedro.
The pair had been fast-tracked from the Barcelona 'B' team and were making waves in La Liga with the senior side. Del Bosque called them up, they performed extremely well, and as a result, Spain never looked back.
In addition to this, the likes of Xavi and Iniesta pulled the strings in playmaker roles, and with Xabi Alonso sitting deep, the creativity in the side enabled them to play with the same 'tiki-taka' style they had used under Aragones at Euro 2008.
Del Bosque recognised that playing at both club and international level, as opposed to having midfielders from several different clubs, gave the squad a better understanding of how their teammates played. Moreover, the ability to find the passes and thread them through to Fernando Torres and David Villa up front meant that Spain were a class above their opponents.
The ex-Besiktas coach did replicate Aragones' methods in that he partnered Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique together in central defence, taking into account the understanding they had together at Barcelona and creating a sense of discipline and organisation in defense.
However, to balance maintaining what the team are doing well and attempting to resolve the problems that they have is more complex than it may appear. The intelligence of Del Bosque, however, meant that this was just like any other task he had as manager.
The responsibility Del Bosque has at the moment to somehow lead Spain to a record fourth consecutive international title is huge. And while it may seem that the team could run itself, the dilemma that Del Bosque has is one all managers want to have: Who does he drop?
With Mata, Cazorla and Silva all performing at an admirable level for their clubs at present, it's up to the coach to decide whether they should play or sit on the bench. The dilemma he faces is that he could play all three, but if they fail to perform, should they then be dropped? Alternatively, he could ignore their pleas to play for their country but then risk alienating them in the future.
In spite of all these decisions, could he really justify dropping the likes of Xavi and Iniesta?
To some managers, it may appear that Del Bosque has the easiest job in football. And in some ways, they are not wrong. The quality of the side could manage itself and probably go on to win in Brazil in 18 months time.
Yet, credit must go to Vicente Del Bosque. It's difficult to replicate success, but it's a testament to his ability as a manager that he managed to emulate the success of his predecessor.
And that's why he was named the FIFA World Coach of the Year.
Because he is simply the best of his kind.
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