Is it time to finally show Aragonés some love?

By FourFourTwo's guest columnist, Tim Stannard of La Liga Loca 

Spain manager, Luis Aragonés has been accused of being almost everything imaginable during his four year spell in charge of La Furia Roja - incompetent, racist, out of touch, rude, bewildered, and even gorilla-like. But he has rarely been described as being a very good coach.

Until now that is.  If Spain overcome Italy in their quarter-final clash on Sunday night, Aragonés will become the country’s most successful trainer of all time. However, considering Spain's trophy cabinet is even emptier than England’s, that’s not really saying a great deal. Should the Italians be sent weeping and wailing back to their pasta-paradise this weekend then Aragonés will chalk up victory number 37 at the helm of La Selección and move ahead of Javier Clemente in the success stakes. In his 51 match spell - Clemente needed 62 games to grab his 36 wins - loopy Luis has lost just 4 and drawn 11. Wednesday night’s second string victory over Greece was the team’s ninth in row, a feat not achieved since 1927.

Aragonés: One win from greatness, statistically at least

So is it high time to come over all Tim Westwood and pay big respect to Luis Aragonés? Part of the problem with the ‘we’re not worthy’ business towards the Spanish coach is that he genuinely seems to be an objectionable old sod - even leaving out the Thierry Henry affair.But wouldn’t anyone be more than a little cranky having to deal with the Spanish sports media day in, day out?In recent years, the mission of local football journalists has been to goad the prickly Aragonés into outrageous outbursts with what many would consider to be bullying tactics. In a recent radio interview the mischievous presenters prodded away at the trainer’s notoriously short temper until he ended up screaming ‘liars’ at his less than hospitable hosts. Even this week - a good time to allow him to focus on his job, one would have thought - a Spanish radio channel rang Aragonés up pretending to be an Italian station and got the national coach so riled that he ranted that his players would win 4-0. Aragonés is one of the most open and honest managers in the game and this has been his downfall in the media-mad world of international football. In a recent press conference, the coach seemed to have sent Sergio Ramos into an Andalusian funk having accused him of being over concerned with life outside of the game. “When you are one of the best players, you need to have more discipline both on and off the pitch,” said Aragonés when quizzed on his right-back’s poor tournament form.

Drumming some discipline into Ramos 

The Spanish coach then managed to insult Gennaro Gattuso by claiming that if the suspended midfielder is “vital to Italy then I am a priest,” citing the absence of Andrea Pirlo as more crucial to his opponents on Sunday night. Where Aragonés has displayed rare dignity is in his handling of the controversial - in the opinion of the Madrid press - refusal to call up either Raúl or Guti, a decision completely justified so far. Instead of reacting to the disgraceful goading of the likes of Marca, Aragonés has been constantly diplomatic over his failure to recall the former Spanish captain rather than citing the player’s petulant, sulking manner during the World Cup as the reason why he was reluctant to relive the experience in Austria. The response from both Marca and AS to Aragonés being proved quite right in his decision has been a deafening silence, while the Spanish coach has had every right to arrange to have the words “ I told you so” written in the Alpine sky, but has chosen not to.

Fighting his corner over Raul's exclusion from squad 

Aragonés cites inexperience as the reason for his biggest footballing failure against France in 2006. “We were still young then,” recalled the coach on Tuesday. “We know and understand what competition is all about now.” But if Spain fail to beat Italy in tournament football for the first time in 88 years this weekend, then Aragonés will be viewed in Spain as yet another incompetent coach who failed to make the most of some of the best footballers in the world. But should he win, then surely he will deserve to be treated with a little more respect than he has been up to now?

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