Manolo Preciado: Football coach much loved in Spain

 

The death of Manuel "Manolo" Preciado, one of the most popular and colourful characters in Spanish football, has cast a pall of sorrow over the national side's participation in the European Championships.

His sunny personality and willingness to express a salty opinion earned him an affection which transcended the often tribal divisions which mark the sport in the country. News of his passing came the day after he had agreed to take over as coach of the second division side Villarreal, and it united Spain's football family in grief.

As a player, Preciado was a reliable defender who never quite reached the stellar heights of the Spanish game in 15 years as a professional. He began his league career with Racing Santander, and made more than 100 appearances for the club in the late 1970s and early 1980s. After leaving Santander in 1982 he played for a succession of lower league clubs including Linares, Mallorca and Alaves.

He was always destined to make a bigger impact as a coach, where his astute knowledge of the game and his skills as a communicator and a motivator proved invaluable. As a manager he made a speciality of fighting fires at troubled clubs and earning unlikely promotions for unfancied sides against the odds. After serving a lengthy apprenticeship as a coach at Racing Santander, Levante and Murcia, Preciado landed the role which really made his reputation in 2006.

He took over as coach of Sporting Gijon, a modest second division club who had enjoyed little success in their 101-year history, and in only his second season he took them into Spain'stop flight. It was a stage made for Preciado's outgoing style, and his charisma and highly quotable public pronouncements made him a huge public favourite. His leadership helped Gijon grab a slice of the attention usually monopolised by Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Preciado was not afraid to engage in verbal sparring bouts with more illustrious coaches from the bigger clubs. More than that, he thrived on it, and his vivid outbursts added a welcome daub of colour to the Spanish football scene. He embarked on a memorable and highly entertaining joust with Jose Mourinho after the Real Madrid coach accused him of gifting three points to Barça by fielding a weakened team at the Camp Nou. Preciado responded by branding Mourinho "a villain, and a very bad companion".

Preciado had the last word in that spat when his Gijon team went to Real Madrid's daunting Bernabeu stadium and won 1-0 to end Mourinho's record of never having lost a home game in nine years with Porto, Chelsea, Internazionale or Madrid. It was typical of Preciado's likable character that Mourinho became an admirer and friend, and his tribute was one of the earliest and most moving.

"Manolo was always an honourable opponent, who I got to know well," he said. "He had everything that I like in a person and in sportsmen: character, openness and the courage to fight against blows. We have been left by a football figure and above all by a very special person. My memory of him will be heartfelt and permanent."

Preciado was sacked by Sporting Gijon in January after a string of disappointing results which eventually ended in relegation. He had defied footballing gravity to keep them among the élite for so long, but 2011-12 turned out to be a season too far. For once, the protestations that club and manager were parting on amicable terms wasn't a gross distortion of the truth; Preciado had become a cherished adopted son of Gijon. A club statement said: "With deepest regret, Sporting Gijon wish to express their sorrow at this sad loss, for someone who formed an integral part of this club's history, and send their deepest condolences to his family in this time of grief. His name will be written in the annals of the club's history in golden letters."

Preciado's life away from football was scarred by tragedy. He lost his wife to cancer in 2002, while in 2004 his15-year-old son died in a road accident. Last year his father was also killed in a car crash. He bore these catastrophes with stoic bravery. "Life has dealt me several blows," he said. "It could have made me vulnerable and driven me to suicide, but I decided to look to the sky and believe." He died after suffering a heart attack.

Manuel Preciado Rebolledo, footballer and coach: born El Astillero, Cantabria 28 August 1957; married (wife deceased 2002; one son deceased); died Valencia 7 June 2012.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing, ambitious, en...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

Berlusconi's world of sleaze

The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

Could gaming arcades be revived?

The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

Heard the one about menstruation?

Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage