That, at least, has long been the facile conclusion drawn. Even when he has been successful -- and he has been extraordinarily successful -- Del Bosque's secret has always been his "niceness." He had what the Spanish describe as a "left hand." a softly, softly approach. As compliments go it could hardly be more backhanded. He just let the players get on with it. Forget tactical nous, inspiration, preparation or insight, he and his success were merely products of his players. His refusal to cultivate cheerleaders, his appearance, his unremarkableness, his distaste for the spotlight and lack of ego only served to reinforce the impression.
When Real Madrid released him in 2003, the president
Yet even while they defended Del Bosque -- and not as many defended him then as like to claim now -- they suspected Perez might be right. Del Bosque had not built a team, he had just kind of stood there while it played. It was the easiest job in the world: who wouldn't win with
They liked him, which undoubtedly helped, but they weren't sure he was actually all that good a coach. When he was given the Spain job, it was a popular choice but not overwhelmingly so, and many wondered what he had done to deserve it. Being a nice man didn't quite seem enough somehow; had he really proven that much? Madrid's players, rather than their coach, had won the league and European Cup twice each. In Turkey, meanwhile, they said he had failed at the helm of Besiktas.
At the start of the World Cup, following defeat against Switzerland, the former Real Madrid coach
Not true. Slowly, sensibly, Del Bosque has imposed his vision on Spain. After the Final, typically, he praised the players and fled the spotlight. He also insisted that they are a superb collection of people. "There has not," he said, "been a single unpleasant moment." In saying so, he revealed his personality, his deep sense of solidarity, but he also gave ammunition to the theory. There it was again, Del Bosque's only skill: group dynamics.
The impression, though, is false.
This is the greatest generation of players in Spain's history and they are indeed a surprisingly nice group of people. But the World Cup proved that there is more to Del Bosque than just being nice, that the accusation of tactical naivety is a myth.
It is something he should not have had to prove. Few seemed willing to recall the unexpected tactical innovations that took Madrid to its eighth European Cup for example -- the three center-back system,
Since taking over, Del Bosque sought to give Spain greater variety and solidity. He has been particularly keen to give greater width and physical presence to compliment Spain's technical mastery. A Plan B, you might say. But without ruining Plan A.
His squad list was bold. The inclusion of
Many thought he simply was not good enough -- in the interests of fairness, this columnist was not convinced -- but he was the tournament's revelation. All over Spain critics attacked Del Bosque's decision to play two deep midfielders, but he stuck to his guns, kept faith in his tactical convictions. Who knows, playing just one might have worked. What we do know is that playing two DID work. Now Spain, Del Bosque's Spain, playing with a slightly different model to Aragones' team, are World Champions.
Del Bosque's defense of
Navas came on against Switzerland and almost got the breakthrough, delivering more crosses than any player at the World Cup. Against Portugal the surprise introduction of Llorente -- most were screaming out for
And then there was the World Cup final, in which the introduction of Cesc, high and through the middle, and Torres, drifting left, liberated
Another cliche has been undone. Nice guys do not always come last. Spain are World Cup winners for the first time ever. Vicente del Bosque is a good man. He is also a good manager.