Vincente del Bosque
2014 FIFA World Cup
Previous Clubs: Real Madrid Castilla; Real Madrid; Besiktas
Honours: UEFA Champions League: 2000, 2002; Spanish Primera Division: 2001, 2003; Spanish Supercup: 2001; UEFA Super Cup: 2002; Intercontinental Cup: 2002; FIFA World Cup: 2010; UEFA European Championship: 2012
Vicente del Bosque rarely smiles. Yet behind that modest, hangdog veneer is a master tactician who enjoys perhaps the most accomplished CV in football. As the only coach to have won the World Cup, European Championship and Champions League, del Bosque is strikingly placid. It is perhaps easier to envisage him in a remote Spanish village eating jamón and playing a peaceful game of cards than on the adrenaline-fuelled touchline. However, this is not a man to be misjudged and del Bosque has helped turn Spain's national team into arguably the greatest international football side of all time.
The son of a railway worker, del Bosque began his football career as a youngster in Real Madrid's ranks and went on to make over 300 appearances for Los Blancos as a defensive midfielder, winning five league titles and four domestic cups. The Salamanca-born coach also earned 18 international caps for Spain and was part of the 1982 World Cup squad that disappointingly exited at the group stage.
Having hung up his boots at his beloved Madrid in 1984, del Bosque was offered the chance to return and coach the youth team three years later. Just as he had done as a player, he progressed through the ranks and became the assistant coach for the first team between 1990-1999, deputising as interim coach for a couple of months in 1994 and two games in 1996.
As No. 2 at Real Madrid to the likes of Leo Beenhakker, Jorge Valdano, Fabio Capello, Jupp Heynckes and Guus Hiddink, Del Bosque was able to collate a diverse range of methods, tactics and philosophies before being handed the reins after John Toshack's departure in November 1999.
Often described as avuncular and trusting, del Bosque managed to earn the respect of a star-studded and ego-driven Bernabeu chanroom to guide Real to Champions League glory in his maiden season. Under his four-year stewardship, the Spanish capital outfit would go on to enjoy their most successful spell in the modern era, winning two league titles, another Champions League, the Spanish Supercopa, the UEFA Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup. You would have to return to the 1950s and 1960s, and the days of Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas, to find such a consistent and dominant Madrid side.
However, despite his impressive record, -- 104 in his 186 matches in charge -- del Bosque was frequently undermined by eccentric club president Florentino Perez, who embarked on a wild Galactico spending spree, often minimising del Bosque's control of the team selection and transfer policy.
Just one day after winning Real Madrid's 29th league title in the 2002-03 season, del Bosque was unceremoniously sacked by Perez, who cited the need for a coach with "more emphasis on tactics, strategy and physical preparation." It was a low blow from a club that was effectively part of del Bosque's DNA but the moustachioed diplomat accepted the matter without confrontation, gracious as always -- whether in victory or defeat, triumph or failure.
The decision to axe del Bosque proved ill-advised as Real Madrid have not appeared in a Champions League final since, while they have played second fiddle to Barcelona domestically over the past decade. Del Bosque's ability to maintain the harmony of the dressing room and ensure a cohesive unit on the pitch could not be replicated. Perez's band of talented, expensive individuals simply could not function without its conductor.
Moving to Turkey in 2004, del Bosque announced his intentions to turn Besiktas into a European superpower. However, it proved a disastrous spell for the Spaniard who was sacked after less than eight months when Besiktas failed to make it past the UEFA Cup group stages and fell 14 points off the pace in the Turkish title race.
Turning down a job with the Mexico national team after the 2006 World Cup, del Bosque eventually tried his hand at international management when he inherited Luis Aragones' 2008 European Championship-winning Spain side shortly after the tournament's conclusion. It proved a masterstroke by the Spanish Football Federation.
Setting a world record by winning his first 13 international games, del Bosque improved a well-oiled Spanish engine by promoting a more expansive attacking brand of possession football, while finding a good chemistry of young talent and experience and, more importantly perhaps, a successful blend of Real Madrid and Barcelona, whose domestic rivalry reached new heights during his tenure.
La Roja waltzed through their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, winning all ten of their matches, and although they stumbled to a 1-0 defeat to Switzerland in their opening game at the finals in South Africa, del Bosque's side conceded only one more goal en route to being crowned world champions.
They were worthy winners. The sturdy centre-backs, the overlapping full-backs, the creative industry of the midfield, the clinical incision of the attack and an overall cohesive and diligent understanding -- it was a tactical showpiece from del Bosque.
Football purists had a new hero and del Bosque's Spain have since been considered as perhaps the best international football side in the sport's history thanks to their their intricate tiki-taka philosophy.
Another flawless qualifying campaign followed and Spain reached the 2012 European Championship finals with consummate ease. Del Bosque demonstrated that he was not a one-trick pony by adopting an innovative 4-6-0 formation at the tournament, preferring a so-called false No. 9 at the expense of an out-and-out striker. It proved an inspired tactical decision as Spain remained solid in defence whilst dangerous in attack, highlighted by their resounding 4-0 win over Italy in the final. Del Bosque was the architect and it marked the first time that a European nation had won three consecutive major tournaments.
Spain, quite simply, are the nation that everyone wants to beat and La Roja enjoyed yet another unbeaten qualifying campaign as they booked their place at the 2014 World Cup. Although Brazil's impressive 3-0 dismantling of Spain in the 2013 Confederations Cup final has shown that the world and European champions are not invincible, with a man of del Bosque's genius at the helm, you would not rule them out from becoming the first nation to retain the world football's biggest prize.
Strengths: Media friendly, honest, disciplined and gracious both in victory and defeat, del Bosque possesses many admirable qualities. His man management skills are second to none whilst he has proved himself as a shrewd tactician at both international and club level.
Weaknesses: His Spain team were accused of being 'boring' with their pass-the-ball-to-death football at Euro 2012, while they can struggle if they go a goal behind and need to chase the game without a natural striker. His short spell at Besiktas suggests he is best suited to high-profile sides.
Career High: Vicente del Bosque guided Spain to a world record 29 consecutive competitive wins which began with a 2-0 win in the 2010 World Cup group stage match against Honduras and continued through Euro 2012, until Brazil's Confederations Cup final victory in June 2013.
Career Low: After an unsuccessful spell at Besiktas, where del Bosque lost the confidence of the board and the fans, his managerial credentials came under intense scrutiny.
Tactics: Adaptive. Del Bosque is a pragmatic coach who tweaks his formation to suit his players' strengths. He preferred a 4-4-2 in his Real Madrid days before switching to a 4-3-3 and later a 4-6-0 with Spain. He urges his team to keep hold of possession and press their opponents all over the pitch. Spain's midfielders are given a free role which often makes them difficult to mark for the opposing defence.
Quotes: "The key to his success is his intelligence. He's blessed with so much emotional intelligence: he's a man who's great at psychology, someone who sees everything so clearly and naturally. What's more, he's very adept at making decisions at crucial moments during games, as well as being a really great representative of Spanish football on the international stage." Former Spain and Real Madrid captain Fernando Hierro lavishes praise on del Bosque.
Trivia: Del Bosque was bestowed with a marquisate by Juan Carlos I after guiding Spain to their first ever World Cup title.
Words: Max Bentley