A sorry stalemate has developed in Argentina between a manager who won’t go, a federation that can’t sack him and a replacement they can’t pay
At least publicly Argentina manager Edgardo Bauza has received a vote of confidence from AFA president Claudio Tapia but in the background, matters appear far murkier with the wheels in motion for the departure of the national team manager.
Defeat to Bolivia has left Argentina’s World Cup qualification in the balance and only served to increase pressure on the already under-fire Bauza so when the AFA voted in a new president last week, the immediate future of the national team was the first order of business.
Tapia tentatively backed Bauza as he assumed power at the AFA saying that the current coach should be supported but this was in stark contrast to vice-president Daniel Angelici, who ominously told reporters, “Bauza was appointed by the normalization committee and so we are going to evaluate.”
That evaluation process appears to have been swift — if reports in the Argentine media are correct, Tapia’s reshuffled AFA have already made their decision and the die is cast for Bauza.
Many had speculated that the meeting held on Thursday between Bauza, Tapia and national team director Marcelo Tinelli would be the final act of what has already been a drawn out soap opera but the two-time Copa Libertadores winning coach survived and once more the AFA publically supported their man.
“He is the coach in charge of the national team team today,” Tapia said after their talks.
“There is a contract. We have to continue to work and continue to get to know one another. I leave the meeting with a good impression of Bauza, whom I didn’t know.”
Having only replaced Gerardo Martino last August after the second Copa America final defeat, Bauza’s record of winning only three of his eight matches in charge is perhaps reason for the lack of real enthusiasm behind Tapia’s support and why it is understood the AFA see no future under the 59-year-old.
Certainly Tapia hasn’t gone out of his way to dispel this rumour and his ‘anything can happen in football’ attitude will not have Bauza feeling any more secure ahead of another scheduled meeting next week.
The ‘absurd novel of the longest sacking in the world’ as Argentine newspaper Clarin put it, could be due to the AFA not wanting to pay $900,000 required to terminate Bauza’s contract and so the hope is that El Paton will resign and forego such payment.
Despite signing a new domestic television deal with Fox-Turner, the AFA aren’t flush and with Gerardo Martino’s former national team assistants attempting to sue for $3 million and the figure of Jorge Sampaoli looming as Bauza’s replacement, every penny is needed.
Sampaoli’s contract with Sevilla has a well-publicised $1.5 million buy-out clause and according to reports the Copa America winner is both the AFA’s firm number one and also keen to swap La Liga for the opportunity to manage Messi.
Switching coaches can be an expensive business and so a resignation would be the ideal way out for the AFA at least.
Tapia’s somewhat conflicting messages serve to undermine Bauza and between the Argentina coach being grilled on national television over his future and leaked messages from the AFA president saying, “I didn’t hire him. He [Bauza] is an idiot,” there appears some credence to the claims that Paton is being forced out.
Bauza arrived as the cheap and easy option, at a time when a number of more popular choices wanted nothing to do with the AFA and is certainly culpable for Argentina’s woeful performances since.
Few would miss Bauza after failing to make any progress, his inexplicable squad selections and Argentina’s precarious World Cup qualification but if indeed the 59-year-old is being squeezed, it would be difficult not to have some sympathy.
As ever it is the AFA that comes out of all this poorly and whether Bauza is fired or pushed, Argentine football suffers. A friendly against Brazil is next for La Albiceleste in June before qualifiers resume and at a time when firm leadership is needed, things are left to drift along in a state of limbo.
Bauza shows no inclination of walking, the AFA show no signs of paying and any potential deal for Jorge Sampaoli appears stacked with difficulties so the soap opera could run for