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It's the warm, wonderful smile that's the most disarming aspect of Espanyol boss Javier Aguirre, along with a neat, grey box-like haircut that has changed little over the years. It's a charming grin that lends the impression that you are dealing with a cheery, avuncular figure and a true gent of the game.
In many ways, it's an entirely true impression. Away from the blood, sweat and spit of football, the Mexican is a charmer, always open and honest. His post-match press conferences are revealing, contemplative affairs, with Aguirre bringing up the positives and negatives of his team's performance that everyone else in the room would have missed.
Stick the coach in a dressing room, training ground or technical area (even falling out of it) and Aguirre can be an absolute sod to anyone and anything that gets in the way of his teams from winning. But this is the ruthless, win-at-all-costs streak hardwired into the Mexican's DNA that sees clubs call on Aguirre again and again to save their skins.
Espanyol are the latest outfit to bring in the former Mexico international coach. At the end of the November, the club parted company with Mauricio Pochettino after four years in charge, with the Argentinean running out of energy to deal with endless boardroom battles at the club, dispirited fans and the sight of Espanyol's best players being sold every summer to make ends meet at a club in financial trouble.
When Aguirre took over, Espanyol were bottom of la Primera with just nine points from 13 matches. Like all the teams in the Spanish top flight this season, Espanyol had footballers with talent and were by no means a poor outfit. Aguirre's job was to turn a few frowns upside down and win back a normally supportive crowd in Cornella.
The latest Perico boss has some form in getting the best out of average squads. Aguirre first found fame in la Liga as coach of Osasuna when leading the Pamplona side to the Champions League places in 2006, before moving on to Atlético Madrid. The Mexican again steered his team into the Champions League in a two-and-half-season spell at this most unstable of clubs. The manager admitted afterwards that he had needed to visit a "neurologist, a cardiologist, a dentist and a nutritionist" after his time at the Vicente Calderón, with only Diego Simeone appearing able to survive without the assistance of constant therapy.
A second spell managing his national side followed which included the 2010 World Cup, before Aguirre was recalled to la Liga to take over Zaragoza midway through the 2010-11 campaign. The former midfielder first saved the club's bacon from relegation but was then fired a year later with Zaragoza back in the relegation zone.
Throughout his managerial career, Aguirre has been known for a certain spikiness and willingness to do whatever's necessary to get a win. The coach has quite the potty mouth that has been used on his own players from the technical area such as José Antonio Reyes during his spell at Atlético Madrid and the Villarreal team doctor who Aguirre claimed he thought was the kit-man as a way of excusing a string of invective. Aguirre has even got involved in the action on the pitch, having seen red during his time as Mexico manager for a red card tackle on an opposition player during a CONCACAF Gold Cup clash against Panama.
Aguirre's mission was to restore a bit of self-esteem to the Espanyol footballers and stop a dreadful run that had seen five defeats from six. Espanyol produced three draws under the new coach and throughout this run, the new boss never failed to praise his footballers at any opportunity. "We've grown as a team and the attitude of the players is irreproachable," said Aguirre after a 2-2 against Sevilla. That result was followed by a hugely morale-boosting draw at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Espanyol's greatest strength, though, is their Cornellà home - a tight, compact ground that's the proverbial 12th man if the crowd is on side. "We knew that making ourselves strong (in Cornella) was fundamental to surviving and we are managing this," admitted Espanyol forward Stuani after a corking 3-2 victory against Levante on Saturday night, a fourth straight home win in a row that lifts Espanyol into 14th, five points from the relegation zone.
In the nine league games under Aguirre, just the single match has been lost, a 4-0 defeat at the Camp Nou. This has been achieved with a tighter, more compact and defensive-focused Espanyol with visiting Levante manager Juan Ignacio Martínez noting that "they risk a lot less under Aguirre". Even the side themselves admit that Espanyol may not always be the most attractive to watch under the Mexican. "Our football isn't the prettiest, but it works," says veteran full-back Joan Capdevila. "At the end, you don't remember if we had a great match or not, just whether we picked up more points."
Picking up points is Aguirre's only objective at the club. Espanyol's finances are in bad shape, the squad is running out of talent to sell off and the team can ill-afford a drop into Segunda where the TV money drops from being poor in la Primera to almost non-existent in Spain's second tier.
That looked a certainly before Aguirre took over. But by using his renowned motivational skills, bucketloads of enthusiasm and a fearsome temper, Aguirre looks like pulling off another survival battle in a league that's an infinitely duller place without him.
Round 22 Results
Valladolid 2-2 Athletic Bilbao
Osasuna 1-0 Celta Vigo
Getafe 3-1 Deportivo
Espanyol 3-2 Levante
Granada 1-0 Real Madrid
Málaga 1-1 Zaragoza
Sevilla 2-1 Rayo Vallecano
Valencia 1-1 Barcelona
Atlético Madrid 1-0 Betis
Real Sociedad 3-0 Mallorca
Tim Stannard - follow him on Twitter