Copa del Rey final 2024
Athletic Club and Mallorca club captains and coaches posing next to the Copa del Rey trophy Via

SEATTLE - People say that life works in mysterious ways but, when it comes to soccer, that feeling is multiplied by a thousand. Javier Aguirre, a seasoned veteran of the sidelines, will play against Basque team Athletic Club Bilbao to decide this season's Copa del Rey champion.

Aguirre is no stranger to these type of games. Almost two decades ago, he helped Osasuna reach the Copa del Rey final but lost the game in extra time to Real Betis. "I am more appeased than last time around," said Aguirre during a press conference before the final. "I think that I have more knowledge and experience on the game now, that makes me feel more relaxed," he added.

The Mexican doesn't lie when he says he's been doing this for a long time now. Aguirre made his managerial debut in 1995 with Liga MX team Atlante and just seven years later, "El Vasco" ventured into Spanish soccer by taking over as Osasuna manager. Fast forward more than two decades, Aguirre's name is established as one of the best foreign managers in the history of LaLiga.

His 458 games managed at Spain's first division rank third among all foreign managers, only behind Diego Simeone's 470 and Manuel Pellegrini's 476. But even though Aguirre has spent most of his time in management in the Iberic Peninsula, he is yet to win a trophy in Europe.

In fact, no Mexican manager has ever won a major trophy at an European team. Despite a good amount of Mexican managers receiving opportunities all around the European continent, none has come close to matching Aguirre's legacy.

Central America has been proven to be a more fertile ground for Mexican managers to explore over the years. In history, there have been five managers from Mexico to win a major title at any of the Central American top divisions. Juan de Dios Castillo, José Treviño and Raúl Gutiérrez in Honduras, Roberto Hernández and Antonio Torres Servín in Guatemala have won at least one league title there.

The only other Mexican manager to win the top division or any title outside of Liga MX was Benjamín Mora, when he took Johor Darul Ta'zim to the Malaysian league title in 2021.

Other Mexican managers have also gone on to have successful careers in Central America and Europe. Carlos de los Cobos with El Salvador, Luis Fernando Tena with Guatemala and now Rafael Márquez with Barcelona's B team have had good results, but they haven't managed to win a trophy.

In front of a full house at the pre-game press conference, "El Vasco" confessed that he's promised his team one thing if they end up victorious at the Copa del Rey final. "I told them that if we are champions, I promise to go to the Sanctuari de Lluc," a monastery and pilgrimage site located in the northwest of the island of Majorca.

Mallorca seeks its second-ever major trophy in club history. The 2003 Copa del Rey title remains as the club's only major title while Athletic Club, the second-winningest team in Copa del Rey history, seeks its 24th title overall and first since 1984. The Basque outfit has lost a record six straight finals.

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