Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images Europe)
For a lengthy period during the seventies and eighties Real Madrid were unable to get beyond the semi-finals stage of the European Cup and history weighed heavily upon the club for those decades. The era of Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas and Paco Gento brought unequalled success to the club and the failure to match those achievements were a frustration to the club’s supporters as well.
As the that great group of players broke up the closest Real Madrid came to the tournament in the Sixties was when the final was hosted at the Santiago Bernabeu in 1969 when Inter Milan played and Ajax.
Although the Italians won the game that night 4-1 it was the Dutch team that would go on to become the power force in European football in the ensuing winning three finals in a row between 1970 and 1973. The names on every one's lips after that night were Cruijff, Neeskens, Hulshoff and who went on to form the team reached the World Cup Finals in 1974 and 1978.
For Real Madrid the Seventies were a failure in Europe but the 1980's brought some hope just as Vicente Del Bosque was passing the peak of his career with club reaching the European Cup Final in Paris in 1981. In some ways that night in Parc des Princes was the renaissance of Real as won the league in 1979 and 1980 with the team still benefiting from Del Bosque's skill and deft touch. However his on field influence was waning and he played in only five of the European Cup - watching the final from the bench in Paris.
Something he was to become more accustomed as his managerial career developed.
Although Del Bosque played eighteen times for his country he was an enigmatic figure on the field of play and despite his skill he was often criticised for a lack of effort and physical commitment. However, his vision and pinpoint passing made him stand out and his well thought out and soft spoken media interviews earned him the nickname 'El Profesor” – along with his politeness.
Never a man for polemics.
In an era when Madrid were merely spectators on the European scene it seems Del Bosque learned more than most from those defeats and in 1982/83 he was still part of the squad that travelled to Gothenburg to play Aberdeen in the Cup Winners Cup Final – losing, yet again to a British team, managed on this occasion by Sir Alex Ferguson.
That season proved Del Bosque's last as a player after which he went into management with Real Madrid Youth side, Castilla FC, from where he saw the club's fortunes continued to fail in Europe - apart from victories in the UEFA Cup two seasons in a row in 1985 and 1986. In the early nineties Real Madrid would not dominate the tournament either in the newly redesigned format of the Champions League.
But in 1998 that all changed when Real Madrid reached the final in Amsterdam against Juventus and winning by one goal to nil after a 32-year year gap under manager Jupp Heynckes – member of the 1974 Wolrd Cup squad. Having failed to win La Liga for the club Heynckes lost his job and soon followed by Guus Hiddink and John Toshack – who both failed to better the German’s achievement in eighteen months.
So the club then called on someone form in house as their caretaker manager, Del Bosque, who had stood already in on two previous occasions in 1994 and 1996.
Two years later the club were back in Paris to play Valencia in the Champions League Final in May 2000 with Vicente Del Bosque at the helm winning by 3 goals to nil. It was followed by another two years later, in the clubs’ centenary season, when Del Bosque ensured his place in the history books as Real Madrid claimed their ninth European Cup Title at Hampden Park through the brilliance of Raul and Zinedine Zidane.
Del Bosque followed that with another La Liga win in 2003 and was rewarded by not having his contract renewed by the Club President, Florentino Perez, who was desperately searching for a Galactico style manager to guide the new group of star players he had assembled – having just added David Beckham in May 2003.
As is his want, Del Bosque walked away quietly with a CV that recorded his four years in charge of Madrid - still unmatched by those who have come after him - two La Liga titles (2001 and 2003), Spanish Super Cup (2001), a UEFA Super Cup (2002) and a Toyota Intercontinental Cup (2002).
The following year after Spain's disastrous EURO 2004 campaign with losses to Portugal, a draw with the eventual winners, Greece, and a win against Russia, Del Bosque was offered the National Coach position - but turned it down.
Instead he opted for the fury and passion of Beskitas in Turkey where he barely lasted a season returning after failing to deliver a league title to their fanatical supporters And after a period of year or more as a pundit Del Bosque was offered the National job when Luis Aragones himself decided to move to Turkey after the historic EURO 2008 victory.
To say he is a contrast to Aragones is an understatement but El Profesor continued his predecessors work with no criticism masterfully improving the Tika-Taka epitomises Spain's possession game - adding a few new players along the way. For a devout Real Madrid man he has seen no merit in tinkering with the Barcelona components in the team just working to provide an environment for these players to continue believing in themselves.
For the man that Florentino Perez thought was not Galatico enough for Real, Del Bosque has already taken Spain beyond the imaginable and into a new footballing Universe. With the nation frantic at the prospect of victory he contemplates going the next step and winning the title.
As the all around him battle to hold their nerve there will be one calm and collected Spaniard on Sunday evening studying matters from the bench at Soccer City, looking on as his team go about their business in the biggest match of their careers. There will be little shouting, no screaming or Capello like antics from the sideline, no matter what happens.
Should Spain win Vicente del Bosque González will delight in the achievement and remain as unobtrusive, as quiet and as soft spoken as ever.
Welcome to the world of a Real Galactico!
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First published July 10th 2010