Today, Vicente Del Bosque González  is the man; the epitome of success in football
coaching.  The legend. The man whose cv is coveted by all other managers,
with two UEFA Champions League titles, A World Cup, and a European
Championship. He has them all, all three of the most prestigious competitions
in football, an unprecedented achievement.

It has not always been this rosy. Throughout his career, he has been more often than not doubted, ridiculed, villified and undermined, often based more on his personality
rather than his concrete achievements . At Real Madrid for instance, he was
undermined and accused of being inept, and having the galacticos doing his work
for them. He was also accused of being too soft spoken,‘safe’and diplomatic, always
shying away from confrontations with his charges as well as media polemics. With
Spain, people have suggested that he inherited Luis Aragones’s dimunitive tiki
taka wizards (as well as enjoying a beneficial continuity of Barca’s philosophy
at the national level), therefore having very little to do.

There has always been an auror of pessimism anywhere he’s been, despite
always delivering. Maybe it is because he does not have the profile of ‘the
media’s favourite’ – because he never attracts controversy or looks like the
monolithic figure his that the high profile positions he has occupied is used
to. Maybe his efforts – like keeping a winning team in winning mode, or
achieving with a star studded side – have not been the sort of efforts that is
on the surface, easily seen and praised. Maybe his hardwork has always been
eclipsed by certain circumstances through no fault of his.

Due to all this perhaps, despite his stunning achievements, the calm,
unassuming Salamanca born manager of the Spanish National team – a team already
heralded as the greatest ever –  hardly ever receives the kind of media
spotlight that, say, Guardiola or Mourinho receive today.

But that is not, and has never been, a problem for the famously moustachioed
61 year old – in fact, he refers it that way, he loves the quiet away from the
media lens. And he could not care less about being criminally downplayed and
underrated. His immense success speaks for itself.

But how did it all begin for him? Well, his journey towards the pinnacle of
success began in 1999, with an unusual first season.  A first season that
captured his familiarity with the concept of the underdog, and of achieving
against the odds. A first season I’m sure, he’ll always look back on with

Humble Beginnings

During his playing days, he was a midfielder. His most notable period was
with the club dear to his heart – Real Madrid. He played in Madrid for 14
years, between 1970 and 1984, winning 5 La Ligas and 4 Copa Del Reys. After
that spell he worked diligently behind the scenes for almost 16 years, during
which he coached the Real Madrid B side, and at times handled the first team on
an interim bases during times that there were no substantive managers(11 matches in 1994 and 1 match in 1996)

The man, once described in a 2003 BBC article as being ”as cool as a cryogenically frozen cocumber”,  never rushed. He was patient, working hard and taking all his chances as
and when they came. He knew he would one day eventually end up in the manager’s
seat at the Bernabeu on a full-time bases. Managers came and left, and humble
Del Bosque was remained behind the scenes, learning, waiting.


And then it came. His time. His opportunity. On the 17th day of November
1999. The board at Real led by Lorenzo Sanz – after having problems with
manager John Toshack and his non performance – felt it was time to shake things
up on the technical bench, and finally time to give Del Bosque his chance. Real
Madrid had been managed by a staggering 7 managers in three years. The club
sought some sort of stability. There was a need to secure the services of an
astute trainer for the long term. Debts were also piling up. There was the need
for success. The board turned to modest Del Bosque , and he did not turn them down. He
officially assumed the most popular hot seat in football on the 18th day of
November, 1999.

It wasn’t exactly a high profile appointment. He wasn’t the most popular of
candidates. But the board felt they had to try something new. It was more like how Barcelona recruited Guardiola or Inter did Strammacioni – Fresh men with fresh ideas, with no past, only a future to build. He had not been a
manager at the top level for a full season before. Experience did not favour
him. It was basically a gamble. But Del Bosque had been working with the club
for almost all of his life. He knew the club well, he loved it. Above all, he
was hardworking.

Tough Task
He had a tough job to do. John Toshack had drawn and lost most of the league
games at to that point, and the team was sitting 8th on the table. There was
also the Champions league, and qualification to the next round from the second
group stage (Toshack had already qualified the team from the first group stage).
And there was the Copa Del Rey too. The task was ginormous, and the then 48
year old Del Bosque had been thrown in at the deep end. Even though he was a
faithful Madridista through and through, there was no way he was going to evade
the sack if he messed up. Politics at Real meant Lorenzo Sans was virtually
betting his presidential future on Del Bosque. It was more or less make or

He got to work in earnest, trying to juggle the demands of all three
competitions and their accompanying expectations. But he held his own, remained
focused, and sought to deliver.

The Rookie’s Success

Del Bosque finished the 1999/00 La Liga season in fifth place – a position
which would have been normally disastrous for a club like Real Madrid – but it
was not.

Why? They achieved a points tally of 62, only 7 points behind champions
Deportivo La Coruna, impressive, considering how bad they started the season.
Also, 5th position then, meant Champions League qualification – which in fact
they found out they wouldn’t need, because…..
……they went on to win the Champions League itself, beating fellow Spanish
club convincingly in the final, with a 3-0 win. This was after qualifying
narrowly from the second group phase(above third placed Dynamo Kyiv via head to
head), and subsequently flooring their quarter and semi final opponents.

It became their second triumph in four seasons. Interestingly, Del Bosque
also reached the semi final of the Copa Del Rey, only losing to eventual
winners Espanyol. The man who took over in
medes res
, amidst poor performances and instability, united the club,
raised their game, and went on to secure the biggest trophy in club football.
And this was all done in his first full season in his top level management
career. This was, also done at the biggest, most successful club in the history
of football, where the pressure is unimaginable.

A fairytale first chapter of a remarkable success story had been written.

Don Vicente went on to win 6 more trophies in his next three seasons at the
helm, including another European Cup in 2002 as well as two La Liga titles, in
what became the club’s second most successful era.

*This piece first appeared on on the 14th of September, 2012*