CRAIG LEVEIN today offered a reality check to any supporter hoping Scotland – or any other country – can adopt the brand of football Spain used to win Euro 2012.
The national team boss has hailed Vicente del Bosque's side the best ever to play at inter- national level, surpassing even Pele's Brazil team which won the World Cup in 1970.
But Levein claimed the Spanish – who won Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup before completing an unprecedented treble in Kiev on Sunday – took almost a quarter of a century to reach this point.
Levein said: "Imitation is always the best form of flattery, and there are a lot of teams who are trying to play the way Spain are.
"But, as with all forms of something new, the people who invent it are always the best at it.
"Maybe in time, other teams can perform to a similar level. But, what they need to do is what Spain did – start way down at when Andres Iniesta was six years old.
"It's not just an overnight phenomenon. A lot of hard work has gone into the style of football and the type of players currently playing for Spain.
"They are now at their peak. But it was 22 or 23 years ago this all began.
"So, to catch up, it's not just a matter of all of a sudden deciding this is how we are going to play.
"This is ingrained in the Spanish players, and they have been working this way and perfecting this form of football for over 20 years.
"It's now just got to the point where you are seeing the best exponents of this type of football at their peak.
"So it's no surprise to me that Spain have won three major tournaments in a row."
Levein studied formations and systems on show at the Euro finals in the hope this can help Scotland qualify for the World Cup finals in Brazil in 2014.
But he already knows the Spanish will be the team everyone who gets there will have to beat.
Those who doubted if Del Bosque's side retained the motivation to stay on top of the world were answered at Euro 2012, and Levein said: "History tells you the best athletes are hungry for more success.
"The players Spain have got have proven they are the best.
"I'd say, without fear of contradiction, this is the best national football team there has ever been.
"People might say Brazil in 1970. But when they go back and talk about them, they talk about Brazil of a certain year.
"When you talk about Spain, you can talk about Spain of 2008 through 2010 through 2012.
"You're not talking about one particular tournament. You are talking about three – and this team might span a decade."