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Published on September 10th, 2017 | by Peter Coates

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The next Cholo or Poch? Which Argentina coaches could be set for European tests

Some of the best managers in the world these days are Argentinean – and it looks like a trend that could continue for some time to come 

The likes of Diego Simeone, Mauricio Pochettino, Eduardo Berizzo and Mauricio Pellegrino have all received well earned praise over the last season or so in Europe. Argentina may have been an institutional mess in recent years with the youth sides suffering but the country continues to produce good coaches and there could be a few more former Argentina internationals-turned-managers ready for the leap in the not too distant future.

Marcelo Gallardo – current manager of River Plate

River Plate are grateful to still have one of South America’s best coaches when it had looked at the end of the last season that Marcelo Gallardo may opt to call it a day after a trophy-laden three years at the Monumental.

Persuaded to have another crack at the Copa Libertadores, El Muñeco remains with the club having already lifted the trophy in 2015, to go with the Copa Sudamericana, two Recopa Sudamericanas and a Copa Argentina.

A tricky attacking midfielder in his playing days, Gallardo was part of a successful River side in the 1990s before leaving for Monaco and lifting the Ligue 1 title. Retiring in Uruguay with Nacional, the 41-year-old remained with the club as manager and led them to the championship, proving to be an astute tactician.

Regardless of winning the Libertadores again, Gallardo’s time at River is counting down and he seems destined for a job in Europe.

Gabriel Heinze – currently unemployed

Don’t be fooled by Gabriel Heinze’s uncompromising style as a player or the fact that El Gringo is currently out of work as over the past year, the former Argentina defender has proved himself a coach of real promise.

Heinze guided Argentinos Juniors back into the top flight at the first time of asking as Los Bichos swept to the title playing a brand of exciting, possession football molded in the style of Marcelo Bielsa.

That success was far from a foregone conclusion after Heinze hung up his boots at Newell’s following a successful playing career in Europe with Real Madrid, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain among others. Particularly after an ill-fated first managerial job with Godoy Cruz – without the required badges, the 39-year-old was unable to take a place in the dugout and after only a few games, he was let go. Argentinos Juniors provided the perfect route back and after sealing promotion, Heinze resigned saying his job was complete.

Martín Palermo – current manager of Unión Española

Boca Juniors’ all-time leading scorer and the man that sealed a dramatic place in the 2010 World Cup for Diego Maradona’s Argentina has been in management since 2012, honing his craft with admittedly mixed results.

Godoy Cruz provided Martín Palermo with his first coaching opportunity after retiring at Boca Juniors in 2011 but with a struggling side under financial restrictions, El Titán didn’t last long in Mendoza. Arsenal next came calling but Palermo had similarly poor results at a club drifting towards relegation and so it has been in Chile with Unión Española, where the 43-year-old has been rebuilding his fledgling managerial career.

It is still relatively early days but La Furia Roja currently sit top of the Chilean league after making an unbeaten start and if Palermo can maintain this sort of form, don’t be surprised to see him in the hot seat back in Argentina at either Boca or Estudiantes.

Guillermo Barros Schelotto – current manager of Boca Juniors

There is a sense that the jury is still out on Guillermo Barros Schelotto but despite fending off early pressure in his Boca Juniors tenure, El Mellizo captured the Primera División title last season.

Given the resources available and the previous failures meaning Boca were without international cup commitments, the title was demanded and Barros Schelotto delivered. Deservedly bringing the trophy to La Bombonera is hardly the 44-year-old’s first achievement as his three-and-a-half year stint with Lanús saw El Granate lift the Copa Sudamericana and become regular Primera challengers.

This impressive spell with Lanús actually prompted a European move to Seria A club Palermo when Barros Schelotto’s contract expired but the lack of a certain UEFA coaching badge saw his stay in Sicily last a month. Given his ties to Boca as a player during their most successful period, taking over Rodolfo Arruabarrena was a logical step.

The big test for Barros Schelotto comes in the next 18 months as Boca defend their league title and aim for a record-equalling seventh Copa Libertadores – achieve this and Europe will come calling again.

Gabriel Milito – current manager of O’Higgins

Given Gabriel Milito’s playing career saw him work under Pep Guardiola at Barcelona there have been high expectations of El Mariscal since he began coaching within Independiente’s academy. Things haven’t quite worked out for Milito since then, but the 37-year-old now finds himself in Chile with O’Higgins, aiming to re-establish his reputation.

An outstanding defender Milito won titles at every club he played; beginning with boyhood club Independiente, then at Real Zaragoza and later at the Camp Nou. After retiring back with El Rojo, the former Argentina international took a coaching role at the club before resigning amid a problem with the hierarchy. Estudiantes provided a first managerial opportunity when Milito replaced Fernando Pellegrino in April 2015 but by the end of the year, it was all over in La Plata.

Replacing Pellegrino again, this time back in Avellaneda was supposed to be the perfect job for Milito but falling short of expectation and failing to guide Independiente back into the Copa Libertadores saw another resignation after just seven months.

Despite things not working out there is a feeling that a good coach lies underneath and if his potential could be released, O’Higgins could be the beneficiaries.

 

Matías Almeyda – current manager of Chivas

What Matías Almeyda has already achieved with Mexican giants Chivas is nothing short of astonishing and it’s now only a matter of time before a European club takes a chance on the talented 43-year-old.

A top class midfielder during the 1990s and early 2000s, being part of a superb River Plate side took Almeyda to Sevilla before almost a decade in Italy with Lazio, Parma, Inter and Brescia. Returning to River to finish his career, Los Millonarios made unwanted history with a first-ever relegation but El Pelado took over as manager and guided the club to an immediate return.

Perhaps a little harshly treated, Almeyda was relieved of his duties at the Monumental back in the Primera but soon repeated the promotion trick with Banfield before establishing El Taladro as an attractive, attacking Primera side. Having taken the club probably as far as he could, relegation threatened Chivas offered a new challenge and in his two years in Mexico, Almeyda has lifted two Copa MXs and a Liga MX title.

A defence of that title will prove difficult but there is no understating what Almeyda has achieved and Europe beckons.

 

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About the Author

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Peter is a British football writer living in Buenos Aires, who specialises on Argentine football. His passion for the game in South America took him to Argentina in 2011 and aside from starting his own site ‘Golazo Argentino’, he has covered the national side for The Independent and acts as WhoScored’s expert on the Primera División.



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