Madrid Derby Is Perfect Aragones Tribute as Cristiano Ronaldo Targets Record

Paul WilkesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2014

Spanish soccer coach Luis Aragones signs a contract with Fenerbahce during a ceremony at the Sukru Saracoglu stadium in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, July 5, 2008. Former Spain coach Luis Aragones signed a two-year contract with Turkish soccer club Fenerbahce. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Usta)
Ibrahim Usta/Associated Press

The news broke on Saturday of the sad news that Luis Aragones had unfortunately passed away. This was the man who stuck to his principles and delivered the European Championship to his national team against the odds.

It was a fitting tribute that his former side Atletico Madrid were top of the table at the end of the weekend, especially as they hadn't been there since 1996.

Barcelona had led the way for 59 consecutive match weeks; the timing of the events were extraordinary, and if it had been a film, it would have been accused of being far-fetched.

Aragones spent two years at Real Madrid, but he never featured for the first team, as he was shipped out on loan.

After spells at Real Oviedo and Real Betis, he returned to the city of Madrid, where he spent the next 10 years and the remainder of his playing career.

He took Atletico to the title in 1977 as manager and had four spells coaching the club.

In 2008, he simultaneously ended the serial underachievers era of Spain in Austria and started the period of dominance internationally.

This was the man who ended Real Madrid legend Raul's career at national level, amid a supporter and media backlash.

"(Aragones) was an amazing coach," said Raul this weekend after hearing of his passing, via Marca in English.

The two-legged derby in the semi-final of the Copa del Rey is the perfect way to send the great coach off into the heavens.

Madrid derbies are always highly charged and entertaining encounters, but now Atletico has overcome its psychological barrier and beaten their arch-rival, this has increased.

Watching the battles previously, you were always waiting for Los Rojiblancos to capitulate, and the result seemed like a foregone conclusion.

That's no longer the case, and you get the feeling that this is as evenly matched as it could possibly be.

"I would like this derby to serve as an homage to Luis Aragones" said Real Madrid President Florentino Perez at an event this week, via Football Espana.

"He marked a before and an after in the history of the national team."

"I would like to reiterate my wish that fair play dominates this derby and that we remember it as another celebration."

His counterpart, Atletico's Enrique Cerezo, concurred with those thoughts: "I hope that all the fans behave well, that there is a big crowd, and that they enjoy the semi-final tomorrow and next Tuesday."

"I would like to give my condolences to the family of Luis Aragones. Luis was a reference point. The wise man from Hortaleza," added Cerezo.

Real Madrid has conceded only one goal this calendar year, while Atleti have lost just once in the entire season in all competitions, and that was due to an own goal.

With the news that Cristiano Ronaldo will miss the next three league games, per Goal, there is added incentive for him to produce the goods in these occasions.

The Portuguese forward will be keen to make amends after his sending-off in Bilbao, and he will be fresh for the return leg at the Vicente Calderon next week with no La Liga commitment at the weekend.

Having turned 29 today, he will hoping to celebrate his birthday in style and equal the all-time top goals tally in Copa del Rey meetings between the two clubs, via Marca in English.

Ronaldo currently sits on three, and the man who holds the record of four has just recently departed us.

On top of his scoring achievements, Luis Aragones won three Copa del Reys as a manager for Atletico. This game is steeped in emotion whichever way you look at it.