Claudio Ranieri was the one who put an end to the drought of titles that marked Valencia for a long time. It was in 1999 when the club raised another trophy (the Copa del Rey) after twenty years without doing so. The 1980 Recopa had been the club’s last great achievement. Years before, Luis Aragonés was very close to breaking the curse. He lacked very little to achieve it in 1995/1996 and avoid, incidentally, the historic Double of ‘his’ Atlético de Madrid.
Until the last day nothing was decided. Luis Aragonés led a team that was very close to win the League with a team of few names and yes many men. Since he landed in Valencia in the summer of 1995, his winning character and personality permeated every corner of Valencia. Lee Marvin, as he was known in the club for his resemblance With the mythical American actor, it takes just long enough to exercise unquestionable leadership.
In a stage of endless internal and institutional problems, Valencia begins to regain its greatness and self-esteem lost for years. And Luis Aragonés is the ‘culprit’ of that transformation. Soon the locker room starts to believe in their new leader at close quarters. With Zubizarreta and Mijatovic leading the team, Valencia completed a season that was close to ending the league title.
That season 1995/1996 was unforgettable for a Valencia that out of the box did not enter the pools to win the League. He put together a seamless team that lacked some individuality. “Yes, it would be incredible to win the League with this team ”, He responded to Zubizarreta’s reflection in the last talk of the season, when hours later, in Balaídos, the team played the title against Celta. The players were ready at the board and the goalkeeper voiced his opinion when he was alone with the coach. When Atlético sang the alirón, Luis withdrew to the side. “Let the champions speak, today is their day,” he would say to any journalist who approached him with a microphone in hand.
That trip that was the epilogue of the season was not especially tense for Luis Aragonés. The coach knew that it was impossible to win the title when Atlético, who hosted Albacete, had it in hand. “Here, feeding the lie”, he said to the one who approached him to ask about his feelings before the game. He was clear that ‘his’ Atleti was not going to fail.
A few weeks before he had already begun to have it clear. Atlético de Madrid visited Tenerife, a difficult match for the rojiblancos. Carlos Aguilera missed a great occasion, in the ranks of the chicharrero team, and Luis Aragonés took just enough time to say “that one is already signed by Atleti for next season.” That’s how it went…
The truth is that as that great season progressed, Luis began to believe that it was possible to win the League. Barcelona and Real Madrid failed, although Atlético de Radomir Antic did not yield. In the final stretch convinced his players that the feat was possible. Always pending any details, more than once he was heard sending the following message to a player to spread the word inside the locker room: “I of you would not go out tonight… ”. He didn’t want the slightest distraction, especially in the moonlight.
Still reverberates in the press room of the Sports City of Paterna that phrase of “Jesús Gil is scared”, hours before Valencia visited Vicente Calderón. Luis’s team won 2-3 on a fantastic team night and especially from Mijatovic. It was the night that Luis was clear that winning the title was feasible.
Lee Marvin, or ‘El Maño’ -for the Aragonese-, as he was also known at the club, he brought out the best in Mijatovic during that season. The Montenegrin was splendid, becoming a target for Real Madrid and Barcelona. It forbade him to wear himself out in defensive tasks so that he could unleash his talents. And the Balkan signed a stellar campaign. “Clink box, clink box …”. Thus he crushed the player daily to bring out his best scorer version when it was time to exercise the shot.
Dreamed Luis with joining him with Suker the following season, but the one that got it was Real Madrid. There began a few disagreements with Paco Roig, then president, which ended with the resignation of the coach in November 1996. Already when the 1995/96 season was ending the differences began, when the transfer policy of the club did not coincide at all with the likes of Luis.
The signing of Romario it was the episode that marked the end of Luis at Valencia. With Mijatovic and Suker dressed in white Madrid, the coach showed his total disagreement with the signing of the Brazilian. “More beautiful than good”, he used to say about footballers with the profile of the great attacker. That “look at my eyes” that he dedicated to the attacker in training ended up causing the Valencia coach to leave months later. His resignation was irrevocable.
In a team where everyone the players rowed in the same direction, marked by Aragonese, there was an element left over which was free. Luis tried to lead him to the right path, but the attacker was not up for the job and ended up leaving Valencia. When he saw in the media the reproduction of his talk with Romario was raised to report to some medium for violating her privacy, but ultimately did not.
Either He liked that Valencia signed Claudio López, an Argentine unknown for the Hortaleza coach. Over time, the ‘Piojo’ triumphed in Valencia, but Luis did not like that his guidelines were not taken into account in the Mestalla offices.
That 1995/96 season, Thiago and Rafinha Alcantara, los hijos de Mazinho, Then a Valencia player, the holidays appeared on the pitch where the team trained. The kids did wonders with a ball, but Luis twisted his face when he met the little ones in your working territory. He never had a bad gesture with them, but he did not like to see the children near his troop.
In his first season he was very attentive to any detail that could influence the team’s progress. One day, when the staff had been somewhat distant with the media for some time, he sent the following message to the group: “Respect for journalists. Do you know how much the kids earn? Come out and take care of them ”. Luis saw that winning the League was not a chimera and he wanted to have as many allies as possible. Including journalists …
Luis squeezed that squad to the extreme. He brought out the best in each player, many of them without the ‘glamor’ of the figures of Real Madrid or Barcelona, but that in the long run offered a superior performance. He brought out the best in everyone during the barely a year and a half that he led the team. Sometimes in public and many in private, he put total pressure on the footballer. And if one should qualify as “Decaffeinated Basque” in front of other people, he did it without shaking his voice.
Valencia was a square conquered by Luis Aragonés. In the city of Turia there are still anonymous people and others that were not always in the coach’s thoughts. No one can forget in the whole city that exciting season in which the league title was very close to landing in Valencia. At the cost of ‘stealing’ it from his beloved Atlético de Madrid.