Everybody in the Spain camp has been talking about the 'punto de inflexión' which defeating Italy at UEFA EURO 2008 represented.
But besides simply beating a thorny rival what happened four years ago was much more far reaching, much more of a culture change than just having a successful 90 minutes. Xavi is the best witness. He's often told me, in interviews, that for Luis Aragonés to put faith in the small, technical, creative players like David Silva, Iniesta, Cazorla and so on was a massive leap forward.
Aragones, himself, was one of the guys who represented the 'Furia Roja'. That nickname for the Spain team represented a philosophy. It meant that Spain would be healthily aggressive, that they would play long ball football if it was required and that would put a premium on a great deal of physical effort.
Furia was the word to represent that idea. Aragones was a big, powerful, burly striker who earned one of his own nicknames, Big Boots, because of how hard he could strike the ball. You'd also do well to stay out of his way if you were a defensive rival.
I well remember a trip to Juventus with the late Tommy Burns who was then Celtic FC manager when we sat down, together, to interview Marcello Lippi. He was planning what would become his successful attempt to win the 1996 UEFA Champions league.
He told us that as a sweeper for Sampdoria he was specifically ordered never to cross the halfway line. Defence was paramount, he'd be fined if he tried to play football. "So when I became a coach I put all my frustration into play, I decided to attack and to make my teams entertaining."
Aragones did the equivalent. Quite contrary to his own playing style he wanted the talented little guys to dominate the ball, to pass teams into a tizzy and to make the world fall in love with Spanish football.
He succeeded, in spades, and Vicente del Bosque, irrespective of the debate over 'doble pivote' (twin holding players in the midfield) Spain remain a lovely side to watch when they are on form. Four years ago Aragones came up with an idea: Trust the talented little guys – we all owe him for that.
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