Vicente Del Bosque: Spain's tower of strength

Vicente del Bosque holds his squad together and, says Pete Jenson, will not consider stitching up Italy

With 85 minutes on the clock in Spain's final group game of the 2010 World Cup, the coach Vicente del Bosque turned to his assistant Toni Grande and asked: "Why aren't they attacking us?" Chile were 2-1 down but were playing out the remaining minutes. "Because they know they are through" replied Grande.

With Switzerland drawing 0-0 against Honduras in the other group game Chile could afford to lose by a single goal and qualify. They knew it; Del Bosque's assistant knew it; the head coach was clueless – just as he was when first asked about a rigged 2-2 draw tonight that would see both Croatia and Spain through and Italy out.

The odds on a 2-2 draw tumbled to 9-4 at the first mention of its potential but the plan is too convoluted and devious for the honorable Del Bosque to even consider – the honest man of Spanish football, who has just signed a new contract keeping him in charge until 2014, has principles.

The Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez, found that out last year when he tried to give the World Cup winning coach who he had fired in 2003 the club's gold medal of honour. Del Bosque had graciously accepted almost 200 different awards – everything from the coveted Prince of Asturias to the Golden Turnip (awarded by the brotherhood of the friends of turnips no less) but this was one prize he would politely reject.

Perez sacked him weeks after he had won the league and just a season after he had won the Champions League, despite 80 percent of supporters wanting him to be kept on. Pinning a medal on his lapel was a desperately clumsy way of winning him back, but Del Bosque could not be bought.

"After 36 years on the firm, 11 of those as a player they did not treat me as you should an employee. But big companies are like that," he said. "Anyone who gets called useless and who is told they are not up to the job would feel hurt. I have my principles."

That show of integrity surprised no-one in Spain. Neither did the generosity of spirit shown when he auctioned the wristwatch he looked at nervously during the last 12 minutes of that World Cup final for €24,000 so the money could go to Madrid Down's Syndrome Foundation. The picture of his son Alvaro, who has Down's Syndrome, lifting the World Cup above his head after the tournament is one of the enduring images of the celebrations.

That inclination to always do the honourable thing and to do so without agenda or ulterior motive is what sets Del Bosque apart and it has helped him manage a squad full of superstars, forever divided down Real Madrid-Barcelona lines.

Midfielder Xavi Hernandez recently summed up the difficulty of being Spain coach when he said: "Combining the talents is not the problem; it's combining the egos," and Del Bosque has done that since taking over from Luis Aragones in 2008.

When David Silva's father complained last year: "What does my boy have to do to get picked?", he might have started a war with Aragones, but Del Bosque's response was more measured. "All players have egos," he said. "I know because I was a player." Silva has played 21 games since the World Cup finals and repaid his manager's faith with 10 goals in that time.

Del Bosque, a Spain midfielder capped 18 times but left out of the 1978 World Cup squad, has also managed squad selection brilliantly. He surprised people by leaving top Spanish La Liga scorer this season Roberto Soldado at home but two goals apiece from Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres have shown he knew goals would not be a problem. Both players have respected decisions to leave them out: the Chelsea man in the first game and the Barcelona midfielder in the second match.

With the help of a captain in both camps – Barcelona's Xavi and Real Madrid's Iker Casillas – Del Bosque has also slackened the wires pulled taught by the ill-tempered clasicos of the past two domestic seasons. But as the games get bigger, being left on the bench will become harder to take.

The fury expressed by Fabregas when he scored as a substitute against Ireland was maybe a sign of things to come but with Del Bosque players know that their club colours are never a factor. When he says he makes decisions "for the good of Spain" he means it.

He will have Spain's interest at heart again tonight and that is the other reason why stitching up Italy is not on the agenda. Spain feel that if their first game had gone on any longer they would have beaten Cesare Prandelli's team – there is nothing special to be gained by eliminating them. It would not be befitting the world champions and even less so their upstanding coach.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
i100(More than you think)
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit