Even millionaire businessmen, whatever their success in the corridors of power and finance, can make mistakes. Surely the worst error of judgment Florentino Perez ever made in his two-stage command of Real Madrid was sacking Vicente Del Bosque.
As Spain, reigning world and European champions, take up their place three games away from a Euro repeat, so Del Bosque appears an unlikely figure in and around and behind it all.
How deceptive appearances can be.
Deceptive enough to have fooled his own president back in 2003 when Perez decided that Del Bosque did not have the charisma or the vision or the personal sparkle to make love to the media while simultaneously managing a troupe of Galacticos with more ego than Freud could have analysed.
What Perez overlooked in his presidential youth – he had been running the show for a mere three years at that point – was that Del Bosque knows football and knows footballers . . . and footballers know it, sense it, without even being able to put their finger (or foot) on the reason.
Also, crucially for Madrid, Del Bosque knew that club inside out, upside down and back to front. If ever there was a man fit to follow the loyalty steps of the likes of Luis Molowny and Miguel Munoz he was the man: Perez just looked at Del Bosque through the wrong end of the footballing telescope.
Bad luck for Real Madrid; good luck for Spain.
Del Bosque had been a thinking football man right back to his playing days when he was slim playmaker with a drooping ‘Viva Zapata’ moustache. He learned about football quality as a Madrid player and stayed on after retiring. He moved up through the coaching staff a step at a time until The Job was his.
Apparently ‘only’ an avuncular father figure, he steered Madrid to one Club World Cup, the European and Spanish Supercups, two Champions Leagues and two Spanish crowns, the last in 2003.
One day later Perez got it expensively wrong.
Del Bosque was always the wrong man for his next career step – Besiktas – but that meant he was free when Luis Aragones called it a day after Spain’s Euro 2008 triumph.
At least Del Bosque’s turbulently brief spell in Turkey served a purpose: it had created distance from his Madrid connections and thus allowed him to manage effectively a national team depending far more on the stars and style of Barcelona. In two years he went from managerial zero to World Cup-winning hero.
Del Bosque will not have been happy with the way in which Spain stumbled out of Group C at Euro 2012 along with Italy into the daylight of the quarter-finals. But then he knows that winning a tournament is all about starting slowly and building up to a winning climax at the final moment – as Spain did at the 2010 World Cup where they lost their opening game.
Fast starters always fade: just look at Russia, time and again.
So Spain and Italy – perhaps the two classiest teams on view in Poland and Ukraine – are in the last eight. As noted previously, after their mutual opening draw, they could meet again in the final.
Germany are the main threat. Otherwise the game could be looking yet again at a V-sign spelling out both Vicente and Victory.