Aragones' rocky tenure as Spain coach nears the end

Spain's controversial coach will leave his post after this tournament having already considerably over-stayed his welcome, or courageously survived in the face of lonely adversity, depending on who you speak to.

His supporters point to the run of 15 games without defeat that followed his latest scrape with the sack. He turned around their qualifying campaign, taking them from the jaws of failure to qualify comfortably as group winners.

His detractors would rather dwell on the three times he should have walked and yet somehow survived.

He went into the last World Cup finals saying if he did not take Spain to the semi-finals he would resign. He could not even get them to the quarter-finals and yet somehow stayed in his job.

He then oversaw defeats to Northern Ireland and Sweden in the qualifying campaign and actually offered to resign after the first of those two reverses, saved this time by the incompetence of the Spanish FA who found it easier to ignore the polls suggesting up to 85 per cent of fans wanted rid of him, than dismiss him and begin the search for a replacement.

And aside from results on the pitch he might also have been clearing his desk in 2004 after he was caught on microphone motivating then Arsenal winger Jose Antonio Reyes by means of a racist slur directed at Reyes' then team-mate Thierry Henry. Again it appears to have been the incompetence of his employers that saved him.

This season his decision to drop the undroppable Raul has earned him even more enemies. In keeping with his somewhat clumsy style he dropped Raul when the player's form had actually improved having stuck by him during some of the striker's worst performances. But results since the decision to axe the capitan have been favourable and as the tournament approaches the so-called wise man of Hortaleza (his home town) has seen his credit rise.

The disagreements with journalists and fans that have marked his tenure will go with him right to the end of his contract which runs-out when Spain's involvement in Euro 2008 ends.

Only last week he exchanged words with a fan who shouted "Grandad" at him from the stands of one of Spain's open training sessions. Advising the spectator to show more respect unless he wanted a face-to-face meeting.

Grandad is also the term used affectionately by many of the players who have played under him. Samuel Eto'o who famously defended Aragones at the height of the race row refers to him as such. And current Spain midfielder Marcos Senna did likewise last week.

Aragones will be 70 years old 23 days after the Euro 2008 final. He will by then be Spain's former coach having either confirmed the "wise man" tag once and for all with a glorious bowing-out... or just confirmed the foolishness of those who, so many times, failed to fire him.

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