Manolo Preciado, one of Spanish football's most beloved characters, tragically passed away on June 7, just a day after agreeing to take over as manager of the recently relegated Villarreal and a day before his planned unveiling at El Madrigal.
The following article is taken from the July 2011 issue of FourFourTwo, after Preciado had ended Jose Mourinho's nine-year unbeaten home record and led relative minnows Sporting Ã¢ÂÂ who would later let him go in January 2012 Ã¢ÂÂ to an impressive top-half finish.
An Iberian Ian Holloway with more hair and a better moustache, Manuel Preciado is adored in Spain, not just for his mixed metaphors Ã¢ÂÂ "Joaquin is about as dangerous as a monkey with a gun" Ã¢ÂÂ but also his strength of character. Asked how he got over his wife's death from cancer in 2002 and a fatal car accident involving his 15-year-old son two years later, the Sporting Gijon coach declared: "I could have shot myself or I could have moved on." He moved on.
A former Racing Santander player, and lifelong fan, he had a short-lived spell as coach of his beloved team in 2002, only for new president Dmitry Piterman to sack him almost immediately. "I moved into a dream home but a pigeon flew by and sh*t on my roof," he later thundered.
But this is no incompetent comedy character. After spells in charge of Levante, Murcia and back at Santander, he led Sporting to La Liga in 2008 and has kept them there, overcoming the league's smallest budget. His better players have stayed to play for Preciado and his surviving son travels with fans to every game. "This is a cheap team, but it's one with a pair of b*ll*cks, like General Esperanto's horse," he neighs.
In April came the Cantabrian's finest moment. Before a feisty 1-0 loss to Real Madrid last November  he called Jose Mourinho a "scumbag" after the Special One questioned Preciado's management style and intimated Sporting were for the drop. "Who the f**k does he think he is to say that?" 'Manolo' raged at the time. Five months later he ended Mourinho's nine-year unbeaten home record with a famous 1-0 win. "If you spit upwards, it comes down eventually," smiled Preciado.
"What he's doing with Sporting is equivalent to a big team winning the Champions League every year," believes the more prosaic Sergio Fernandez of sports daily Marca. As well as the Madrid win, Los Rojiblancos have drawn with Barcelona.
Tragically, Preciado lost his father to another traffic accident at the end of April. At Sporting's next game, 22 players were joined in the centre circle by the mourning 53-year-old as fans unfurled a banner reading: 'Your hurt is our suffering. Chin up, boss.' His response? To cameo in Spanish rocker Igor Paskual's music video Chica de Gama Alta [The Upmarket Girl], strumming a guitar in front of a mirror.
There's only one Manolo Preciado.
Words: Andy Murray.