When Spain lost their opening match of World Cup 2010, unleashing a hurricane of criticism which would have enveloped lesser managers; when the Clásico-war in 2011/12 threatened to ruin all he had built with La Roja, Del Bosque's equanimity, class, compassion and calm led him through the tests.

He was badly wounded when Madrid brutally dumped him in 2003 after 35 years of excellent service as player and coach, but he has yet to hit back in the media, yet to vent any of his pain and anger. That's not his way. The most pungent thing he has ever said in public is: "Had they not removed me like that I am certain my team was equipped to carry on winning."

When he was still in primary school, young Vicente discovered his father Fermín was a radical and committed fighter against the exploitation of working men and women. It transpired, to the great surprise of Del Bosque, that the stern and disciplined man who came to watch him striding through youth team games but who never commented on his boy's football development was also a genuine rebel. The Del Bosque home in Salamanca was a hiding place and distribution point for literature preaching democracy, workers' rights and the basic freedoms taken for granted around most of the rest of Europe.

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Del Bosque learned that during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), just over a decade before he was born, Fermín del Bosque had been denounced by a neighbour, arrested without trial and held in a prison camp for three years.

"You have to remember the reality of the situation - we were living in poverty, unable to voice any kind of protest. Today I have plenty of right-wing friends because there is much more tolerance now. My father was overly responsible, fair and straightforward, to a degree that I'd say was noble. He was a man of good ideas, but too radical on many issues. His generation had to suffer a lot, to live through a war, and then endure the cruel after-war. It was in the kitchen that, gradually, he told us about his experiences - things which had marked him. He was a righteous man."

The young Vicente Del Bosque was a footballer of fine technical skills, aerial ability and a knack of knowing when to hit the penalty box and either score or give an assist.

In an era of six European Cup victories in 13 years, it felt as though Madrid's next one was just around the corner - not, as it actually transpired, 30 agonising years away. In fact, Toñete [Antonio Martin, the scout who discovered him] was actually gifting Real Madrid the man who would coach them to two of their next three European Cup wins.

Toñete's recollection is that Fermín del Bosque, on finally handing his son over and heading back to Salamanca, had an expression on his face "as if his soul was broken". This man who had been imprisoned for his liberal beliefs, taken massive risks to advocate democracy and socialistic ideals, was handing his son to a club governed autocratically by a right-wing authority hate-figure [Santiago Bernabéu]. Young Del Bosque was going to work for a man who had opposed and taken up arms against everything that his father stood for.

It was a pivotal moment. For all his principles had cost him and the risks they still carried, Fermín del Bosque wanted his family to be tolerant and democratic and now he put those ideas into practice.

Forty-four years later, the deft negotiations to bring peace to feuding Barcelona and Madrid players which helped Vicente del Bosque's side make history at Euro 2012 did not simply come from the pages of a management manual. The values he was raised to hold made him the man for those times.

His playing career, however, was scarred by one major flaw: Madrid simply could not win La Séptima (the seventh title). After six European Cup victories in the 1950s and 1960s, there was first an assumption that Madrid would continue to lift the trophy, then anxiety about when it would happen again, and finally a deep obsession.

By season 1979/80, the European Cup was once again singing its siren song to Del Bosque and Madrid - the Santiago Bernabéu stadium was going to host the final.

Celtic threatened to end the dream in the quarter-finals, but the tie became a testimony to the fact that Del Bosque, now ageing, remained a wonderful footballer.

Celtic won the first leg 2-0 in front of one of those fevered Celtic Park audiences which make such nights gargantuan. In the Spanish capital, it was bedlam and the second leg was another in a series of Los Remontadas Históricas de Madrid - Real Madrid's historic fightbacks.

Black market ticket-touts were arrested the day before the game in possession of 700,000 pesetas from stolen and fake tickets; more than 100,000 fans crammed into the historic stadium.

Del Bosque's nice exchange of passes with Laurie Cunningham led to the crucial second Madrid goal, when Santillana headed down the Englishman's cross for Uli Stielike to score. Then, with four minutes left, Ángel crossed for Juanito to put the Scottish club out.

Billy McNeill was incensed by refereeing decisions he blamed for the defeat. Despite that ire, his admiration for one player was undimmed.

"Once again Del Bosque stood out. I admired his performance against us just as in the first leg. He is one of the best players I have ever seen."

Presidents, first-team coaches and superstar players came and went, but Del Bosque endured in various roles, always inculcating the right values, teaching 'the Real Madrid way', making sure that footballers grew up with intelligence, technique, judgment, honesty, bravery and a will to win.

Midway through season 1999/2000, John Toshack's Madrid lay eighth. A long, simmering tension between the manager and his president, Lorenzo Sanz, culminated in the Welshman's sacking.

It was a time for expediency and some pragmatism on the president's behalf. Presidential elections were around the corner and a wealthy, politically active industrialist by the name of Florentino Pérez was beginning to make belligerent campaigning noises. Sanz imagined it was more important to announce a star coach like Arsène Wenger or Fabio Capello in May or June, rather than try to persuade one to come midway through what appeared, to him, a doomed season. Instead, he promoted Del Bosque for the interim.

Iker Casillas, future Spain captain, was also promoted to become the permanent No.1 in place of Albano Bizzarri. Four days after the goalkeeper's 19th birthday, he started against Valencia as Del Bosque won the first of two Champions League titles as coach.

I was there, in 2000, in the ridiculously ornate Trianon Palace hotel in Versailles, a haunt for Generals Eisenhower and Patton, Marlene Dietrich and Queen Elizabeth II across the years, and witnessed Del Bosque's thinly contained anger that the press conference was hijacked by a grandstanding president.

To Del Bosque's enormous embarrassment, Sanz chose to interrupt the pre-Champions League final press conference to announce that the manager would be "renewed as coach" and "would stay at Real Madrid in one capacity or another for the rest of his life".

Real Madrid romped it, over-running and out-thinking Valencia in a 3-0 win, the goals coming from Fernando Morientes, Steve McManaman and Raúl. A festival of Spanish noise, colour and flair in the French capital, a fiesta for Real Madrid and an eighth European Cup. Just as in the aftermath of the finals of the World Cup and Euro 2012, Del Bosque was quickly absent from the dressing room, foiling the plan of his players - later revealed by Fernando Redondo - to throw him into the Jacuzzi. This was the players' triumph and it was their moment to sing and drink and celebrate.

And this is how Del Bosque sowed the seeds for the treachery done to him three years later. When Florentino Pérez won a substantial majority in the presidential elections within a couple of months, the new man in charge of the club was unexpectedly stuck with someone who was already a club legend, who had just won their eighth European Cup and who was safe in a new contract. The two men had only one thing in common: their feelings for Real Madrid. Politically, philosophically, strategically and in sporting and human terms, they were poles apart.

The uncomfortable truth for [the new president Florentino] Pérez [who defeated Sanz] was that while the Salamancan kept winning trophies - two Spanish leagues, two Supercopas, the Intercontinental Cup and another Champions League - Del Bosque could not be sacked.

However, the division grew. There was brilliance to draw upon in the penultimate season - a 2-0 win at the Camp Nou in the Clásico Champions League semi-final of 2002 and then that awe-inspiring Zidane volley at Hampden to win Madrid their ninth European Cup - but it was also full of conflict. An El País magazine article detailing the republican, democratic and anti-Franco code by which Del Bosque's father had lived, plus the coach's own background as a union organiser were in opposition to the politics of Pérez; Fernando Hierro became a loud voice on behalf of the players, often in opposition to diktats from the president's office.

The five-minute lap of honour, Hierro's refusal to lead the players back out onto the pitch, Del Bosque's decision to allow his players freedom to make their own choices - these became reasons for the board to sack the best on-pitch leader and the most successful Madrid coach since the zenith of Puskás, Gento and Di Stefano.

The next evening his wife, Trini, drove Del Bosque to the Bernabéu, as she thought, for him to pick up some papers from his office and to meet with the president about renewing his contract which was to expire later that month.

Halfway there, the mobile phone rang. It was [Fernando] Hierro. He had been kicked out of the club. No new contract, as had been promised.

"Look out boss."

"I suspect I'm going the same way as you in a few minutes."

The coach hid his suspicion from his wife and she was as shocked as the rest of the Madridistas when he returned to the car having been told he was out, despite seven trophies in three-and-a-half seasons.

A couple of quiet years later his regular lunches and cups of coffee with his former captain, Hierro, transformed into lunches and cups of coffee with the newly-appointed football director of the Spanish federation. In the winter of 2007, Del Bosque received a phone call from Hierro, this time in the latter's professional capacity with the federation. Hierro was preparing for a future beyond Euro 2008 and beyond Luis Aragonés. Gradually it became clear that, win or lose, the federation and Aragonés were going to go their separate ways.

Between then and July 2008, when Del Bosque's succession was made formal, and shortly after mass celebrations across the country when Aragonés' squad won the European Championship, there was an arctic tension between the two men - one icon of Madridismo, one icon of Atlético Madrid. Aragonés often carped about lack of respect from the federation; his work was finishing with a replacement already agreed, whose identity was an open secret and who had been selected by one of his own former players.

There was a potential for conflict which was raised when, during the 2010 World Cup, Aragonés was repeatedly critical in his tone as an analyst as Spain needed some blue-collar effort to get through their group. After the tournament was won and Del Bosque came back with World Cup gold to match up against Aragonés' silverware, there was an opportunity for revenge.

Spain has a yearly award named after the Príncipe de Asturias, King Juan Carlos's son. It is somewhere between a Knighthood and a Nobel Prize. In 2010, the Spain football team won the Premio Príncipe De Asturias by a landslide margin. One Friday night in October they, plus a glittering gala of socialites, politicians, artists, scientists, writers and the royal family, gathered in Oviedo's elegant Teatro Campoamor. This is part of what the Spain coach said while addressing them.

"This squad which tonight receives the Príncipe de Asturias prize exhibits the values which soar over any particular trophy success and other material gains in professional football - these players are legitimate heirs to a tradition which honours us all.

"Their values, both timeless and decisive, are effort, talent, sacrifice, discipline, solidarity and modesty. These men who won the World Cup have been true to sportsmanship and honour. They reached the final defending those values - had it been any other way we could not have managed it.

"This team feels deep satisfaction at having attained this unique success and at having made millions of Spaniards proud. The humility and modesty of this group of athletes became as powerful a strength in their favour as the sweeping football they are capable of playing."

All that having been said, in front of an adoring audience and flanked by his World Cup-winning players, Del Bosque strode towards Prince Felipe, accepted the award and then suddenly detoured into the audience.

He knew where the man he wanted to find was seated. Calmly, with a big fraternal smile on his face, he reached out his hand and gracefully requested that Luis Aragonés, predecessor, critic, sometime rival, step out of the audience and stand, with the squad.

Evidently taken aback, and just as evidently thrilled and honoured, Aragonés accepted with grace. Somewhere, looking down, Fermín del Bosque - republican, defender of democracy, preacher of equal rights, believer in the brotherhood of man and father of young Vicente - would have been very proud. Indeed.