“I will be a Sporting fan for the rest of my life,” said an emotional Manolo Preciado after his time at the Asturian outfit was cut short at the end of January.
Tragically, that life ended less than six months later as the 54-year-old passed away following a heart attack in Valencia on Wednesday night.
Preciado had just agreed to take over as Coach of Villarreal. He had been full of life, still learning, still excited about his future in the game. And, as promised, still a Sporting fan.
In his last-ever interview, less than a month before his death, one of Spanish football's most charismatic Coaches revealed he had left the club on good terms after some issues regarding his contract situation were resolved. He also gave a glimpse of how football can take its toll on the heart.
“I watched the last few games at home,” he told Onda Cero in May. “And after 20 minutes I had thrown my wife out of the lounge, thrown the dogs out, thrown everybody out and stayed there on my own, standing in front of the television. It's worse than being on the bench.”
Sporting were ultimately relegated as former Spain Coach Javier Clemente was unable to inspire a comeback. And as the Asturian club went down, the fans chanted the name of their former boss. The special affinity remained.
After his dismissal, Preciado took time out to visit former foe Jose Mourinho in Madrid.
“I would have preferred not to have gone, because it would have been a symptom of having been working, but when you have the chance to go and visit colleagues and learn, you have to take advantage,” he explained.
“You have to acquire knowledge. He who thinks he knows everything is very mistaken.”
The bad blood between the two trainers following a much-publicised spat the previous season was replaced by a friendship and mutual admiration.
“I am not a person to keep grudges – what happened happened but that's in the past. Our relationship today is frankly excellent,” Preciado added.
So much so, in fact, that Mourinho wrote an open letter on Thursday to pass his condolences to the former Sporting Coach's loved ones.
Preciado was also an admirer of outgoing Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, who left Camp Nou recently following four fantastic seasons at the Catalan club.
“I applaud his decision because that is the one he wanted to take,” the Cantabrian revealed. “He is someone who has taught us so much. He will be back soon.”
Manolo Preciado, sadly, will not.