FIFA World Coach of the Year for men's football for 2012 Vicente Del Bosque has denied that his acceptance speech - where he spoke about the importance of ethical personal conduct in football - was aimed at current Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho.
Euro 2012 winner Del Bosque, who received 34.31% of the votes ahead of Mourinho (20.49%) and former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola (12.91%), said from the podium that "we must look after football and to do what it is necessary to bring to the game the best ethical values and personal behaviour".
Given Mourinho's regular rows with opponents, referees, journalists and his own players, many in Spain saw this as a dig by the former Madrid coach at the current Bernabeu boss, but afterwards the veteran coach told Spanish radio show El Larguero that his words were not directed at anyone in particular, he had just wanted to use the moment to transmit something more general about the sport.
"I just wanted to defend football, which is not always easy to do," Del Bosque said. "Those of us who have been in the sport so many years now realise we must protect it and look after it. I was speaking about football, what it means. It is our profession, it has been our lives, and we must take care of it a little.
"Often we protest for a penalty, a throw-in, or a debatable offside, which are not too important. We need to take care of the things which are important, for the health of the game.
"Sometimes people say that coach is a winner, but everyone wants to win. You must know how to behave in victory and in defeat, to look after what is our sport, football."
When asked directly about Mourinho, Del Bosque said "I am not going there" and he also neatly sidestepped a question about the Portuguese's recent decision to drop captain and talisman, Iker Casillas, from the Madrid team.
"With players my idea is not to talk to them about their club, not when the squad are together or when I visit," he said. "I do not want to know anything more than what I need to know. I am not interested in club matters."
Del Bosque was happier discussing the success of Spanish football at the event - with both winners and all six of the nominees for the main men's awards being based in Spain, and all eleven of the FIFA / FIFPro team of the year playing in La Liga.
"Atletico Madrid won the Europa League and Madrid and Barcelona were unlucky not to reach the Champions League final," he said. "There is now a hegemony for Spanish football. These are very happy years for our game. We cannot presume too much but that 11 players who play in Spanish football were chosen was magnificent."
The veteran coach also joked that, given four-time winner Lionel Messi's age and quality, another Ballon d'Or award might have to be created for everyone else.
"Four years in a row is very good, that is the truth," he said. "Maybe they will have to make another prize as he is so good."