Saturday was a sad day for Atlético supporters. Luis Aragonés passed away.
The most prolific midfielder to have played for Atlético Madrid was a country-wide legend for having led the Spanish National Team out of decades of mediocrity into the golden age it presently finds itself in.
If you have ever been to the Vicente Calderón, you have seen the massive array of silverware on display.
About half of the trophy room in the museum can be credited to Luis Aragonés, either as a player or during his tenure as coach in different periods.
Luis Aragonés the player
He played in the golden ages of Atlético Madrid, a decade that spanned from the mid 1960s to mid 1970s. Luis still holds the record of being the most lethal midfielder in La Liga history (160 goals against 31 rivals, his scoring mark rises up to 172 goals if all competitions are included).
The end of his career as a player came when he was at the very peak one could reach: playing (and for minutes winning) the European Cup–the current Champions League’s ancestor.
Luis Aragonés scored a beautiful set piece goal just minutes from the end of the match. Rivals Bayern Munich would equalise in the very last play and, in those days, a replay was required that saw Atleti lose miserably by a score of 4-0. The cup that everyone wanted, the cup that we touched with the tip of our fingers is known as “La Casi” (the Almost One). [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcwTmfsbW58]
Luis Aragonés the coach
His tenure as Atlético coach could not have started better, as Bayern refused to play for the world title and Atleti became the only runner-up to have ever played (and won) the Intercontinental Cup. Atlético weren’t the only squad to benefit from Luis’s knowledge and winning attitude; rather, there were several of them. Above all else, Luis was a motivator.
Not a single player that has been under his orders has had anything but words of appreciation for him–so many having learned so much from him and having received that extra boost that sets winners apart from the rest.
His speeches are part of Rojiblanco legend. Once, while serving as the coach of the national team in a match at the Vicente Calderón, he stepped up to the linesman, who was stomping on the Atletico crest to complain for a miscalled play and began with: “Now, you listen up and don’t you dare step on that crest again!”
After giving a 15 minute in-depth tactical explanation on a blackboard at the Santiago Bernabéu minutes before playing the King’s Cup final against Real Madrid in 1992, he suddenly stopped, looked at his players pointing at the arrows and marks he had been scribbling on the blackboard and said: “Do you see this?! Tell me? Do you really see all this?! Well this is worth nothing. What really matters is that you are better and I am sick of losing here. What really matters is that there are 50,000 supporters out there that will die for you and we have to die for them, for the jersey we wear and for our honour. We have to go out there and say that there will only be one champion today, and the champions wears red and white stripes.”
When the match starts Sunday, the player that scored the first goal at the Calderón will no longer be among us, but his memory will outlive the stadium that saw him go from player to coach, to legend. We will always remember the man that showed us that no one ever remembers who the runner up was…so, you don’t play finals, you win them.
Honours with Atlético Madrid
As a Player
3 Ligas (1966, 1970 y 1973)
2 Cups (1965 y 1972)
As a Coach
1 Liga (1977)
3 Cups (1976, 1985 and 1992)
1 National Supercup (1985)
1 Segunda División Liga Trophy (2002)
1 Copa Intercontinental (1974)
1 Copa Ibérica (1991)