The first person to call to offer Joaquin Caparros a "job" was a Miguel Malbo, who asked him if he wanted to be the goalkeeping coach for a team of 14- and 15-year-olds. The next person to call to offer him a job looks likely to be Angel Maria Villar, the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF). And this time, it may just be the biggest job of all.
Caparros was barely 19 when that first suggestion reached him, a talented but not-quite-talented-enough footballer trying to make his way through the youth system to the first team at Real Madrid; he is 60 now, and aspires to be the new coach of the Spanish national team. His chances are good, too; there has been no formal contact yet nor a definitive decision made, but at the RFEF's Las Rozas HQ, they believe that Caparros is the man Villar favours.
Malbo saw something in Caparros back then and Villar sees something in him now. He has the experience, that's for sure. How many other managers can say that they've had a club owner pull out a gun in the dressing room, as Caparros can of his mercifully and necessarily brief spell in Switzerland? How many can lay claim to career that started 35 years ago and took him from Cuenca to Caceres, a 700-kilometre round trip daily, and from there to every level of Spanish football: from regional to Tercera, to Segunda B, Segunda and finally Primera? Now he hopes the next progression will take him to the World Cup.
Vicente Del Bosque officially leaves at the end of this month, having won the World Cup and the European Championship, but things have changed: Del Bosque was also in charge for the last two tournaments at which Spain were knocked out in the group stage and the last 16, respectively. Villar tried to discourage him from departing, even though he knew that the decision had been made months ago and that most thought it was about time he went, however grateful they were for the good days. And Spain's good days had been the best. No other national team has won three major international titles in a row.
For Caparros, coaching is part of the reason for that success, for the development of a generation of special players. It is the reason, too, why there may be more. Studious, prepared, vocational coaches helping to form players that not only play the game but understand it, too. Caparros admits to listening in on young kids talking tactics in a way that would have been "unthinkable" when he was coming through; to overhear one tell his mother exactly what it was he had to eat for dinner that night and when if he was to prepare correctly.
And that runs throughout the system and can be seen at professional level, not just in youth development. They may not all be the same but there's a model there, a mentality.
Javi Gracia has just gone to Russia, Unai Emery to Paris, Pep Guardiola to Manchester City. Marcelino Garcia has taken Villarreal back to the Champions League, where Ernesto Valverde took Athletic Club Bilbao. Luis Enrique has won five major titles in two years at Barcelona.
None of them will be Spain manager, not least because of the club roles they currently have. When Luis Enrique said it would be an honour to coach Spain, insisting that it is of course a job he wants, he didn't mean now. And some were surprised that he meant it at all. It is hard to imagine Emery surviving without the daily contact with his players that international management denies, and he is not the only one. Paco Jemez was talked about but he has just joined Granada from Rayo Vallecano, with whom he was relegated.
The Spain job appears to be the wrong job for them. Or at least at the wrong time. "Anyone would like to be Spain coach," Caparros said. Just not them, not now. So, instead, the names that have been talked about are Jose Antonio Camacho, Michel and him.
"Suena Michel," is a running joke in Spain every time a job becomes available. Roughly, it means his name is in the frame and it seems it always is, even if it's not a real possibility. This time, it would make some sense. In some ways he is a natural choice -- a determined defender of Spain's style, eloquent, at ease with the media, experienced in Spain and abroad -- even if, from some, that joke carries a dismissive sting.
"If Villar is thinking of Camacho it is because he watches games at the stadium not on the television," El Pais columnist Manuel Jabois wrote. Camacho, you see, commentates on Spanish TV, and not everyone is impressed. He has been Spain coach before, between 1998-2002 (he could be considered unlucky at Euro 2000 and robbed at the 2002 World Cup) and was the Chinese national coach from 2011 to 2013. But he hasn't coached anyone, anywhere, since.
And then there's Julen Lopetegui, the former Spain U21 coach and manager at Porto, who has too been considered too, but he has an offer from Wolverhampton Wanderers in England's second division.
All of which leaves Caparros as the favourite for a decision that must be made very soon. And Caparros has made no secret of his desire to manage Spain; in doing so, he has projected the idea that he is a good fit, too. He knows that there are still some who think he may not be. On Tuesday, he was a guest at a forum hosted by the Spanish news agency EFE. Although the event had been arranged in advance, and was presented as a way of introducing how a professional manager works, the context gave it a different feel.
This was not a sales pitch or a job interview exactly, but there was a hint of that, and with some justification. If Caparros is the favourite, he still has some convincing to do. Maybe not of Villar -- although some at the RFEF insist that the decision has not been made -- but of everyone else.
Caparros talked about methodology, offering a fascinating insight about what lies beneath, about the breadth of preparation, which goes well beyond just what happens on the field. He talked about the importance of youth development and the players he has helped to make the step up, among them Sergio Ramos, Jesus Navas and the late Antonio Puerta. And he talked about guiding a young Julio Baptista and a younger Dani Alves through their early days in Spain.
He talked about the role played by former members of his backroom staff who have ended up at Barcelona and Real Madrid, and about how a manager does not just sit about following TV games for the fun of it when he is out of work, as Caparros has been. Instead he works to return, watches "more than ever before" and spends his time constantly analysing every game, putting together videos and reports while his staff attend training sessions at "virtually every first-division club".
The message appeared to be: This is not just the coach you saw at Sevilla, Deportivo La Coruna or Athletic. If some resist Caparros because they see him as a break from Spain's footballing philosophy, the man who once (well, over a decade ago now) reportedly said that football was not about "stroking the ball" but being "effective", the man seen as a tough, aggressive coach who builds tough aggressive sides, he insisted otherwise.
He needed to.
At one point the audience was asked to write down questions to ask him. The moderator looked through them, put them down on the table without reading them out loud and noted: "They're nearly all about the style, and I think we have dealt with that." That was the doubt they all had: Is Caparros the man to continue Spain's style? He had the answer: Yes. It was one he offered up both implicitly and explicitly.
Caparros talked about his fondness for and work with Juan Carlos Valeron, a player who could not be further from that hardened image. He noted his pride at having coached six of the 23 members of Spain's World Cup-winning squad. And he of course talked about Sergio Ramos, the current Spain captain, albeit only briefly.
He talked constantly of the talent that Spain produces, highlighting questions of technique and tactical awareness more than the temperament for which he has usually (and rather facilely) been known, and spoke of the methodology, seriousness and attention to detail that Del Bosque is (equally facilely) assumed to lack. He talked about Spain being a "reference", a model to follow, and about Del Bosque having left a "legacy". And he even insisted that when it came to football, no one had played better at Euro 2016 than Spain.
Then he said it explicitly: "Coaches adapt to the players they have, absolutely." And: "Whoever the manager is, he can't go against our history." Whoever he is ... especially if he is me. He even offered a warning from history: Brazil had turned their back on their footballing legacy, one of talent and technical ability, and cited that as their undoing. To do likewise would be an "error". He would not be making that same mistake; he would respect the legacy he inherited. If he inherits it.
"I have coached more than 500 games in the first division, coached at every single level in Spanish football," he said. Stretching all the way back to the day Mr. Malbo called him. One day soon, Mr. Villar is expected to do the same.