Following the death early on Saturday of former Spain coach Luis Aragonés, the funeral home where he lay in repose was the setting for an emotional farewell to the so-called 'Wise Man of Hortaleza'.
Among those paying their last respects to the ex-Spanish international forward – who featured prominently as both player and coach for Club Atlético de Madrid through the decades – were several of his UEFA EURO 2008-winning side. FC Barcelona's Xavi Hernández, Carles Puyol, Cesc Fàbregas and Andrés Iniesta along with RC Deportivo La Coruña's Carlos Marchena all travelled to say a final goodbye to Aragonés at the chapel in Tres Cantos on the outskirts of Madrid on Sunday.
In an open letter published by Spanish daily newspaper El País, Xavi expressed the sentiments felt by many who had worked with the coach during his long career. "In the dictionary, the word 'football' should be accompanied by a photograph of Luis," it said. "Luis is the personification of football. So long, boss, and thanks for everything."
Also in attendance at Sunday's funeral mass were Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president and UEFA vice-president Ángel María Villar Llona as well as the presidents of Atlético, Real Madrid CF and Getafe CF, namely Enrique Cerezo, Florentino Pérez and Ángel Torres. Former players such as Emilio Butragueño, Lobo Carrasco, Rafael Gordillo and Fernando Hierro were among the mourners.
Not surprisingly, given Aragonés's ten-year playing stint with Atlético and subsequent four managerial spells at the Vicente Calderón, there was a large Atleti contingent at the requiem, including José Ufarte, Adelardo Rodríguez and Bernd Schuster. After the mass, Aragonés's wife, children, grandchildren and other family and close friends attended the 75-year-old's burial.
Later on Sunday, inside the Vicente Calderón – the stadium that was a second home to Aragonés – a fitting tribute was paid to the deceased in the build-up to Atlético's Liga match against Real Sociedad de Fútbol. Several Rojiblancos old boys carried a giant shirt bearing his name and No8 onto the field while the fans chanted in his honour.
A minute's silence was then observed as images of Aragonés in his playing and coaching days were shown on the giant screens at either end of the ground. Atlético would dedicate the ensuing 4-0 victory – which, appropriately, earned them outright leadership of the Liga for the first time in 18 years – to the great man himself.
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