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Published on July 22nd, 2018 | by Peter Coates

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Don’t try for me Argentina – the mission to find the next manager for Messi

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Sacking Jorge Sampaoli was the easy part for Argentina’s bosses. Replacing him will be harder with a wish-list that includes Pep Guardiola 

It’s a familiar scenario for Argentina. Failure at a major tournament, a messy break-up with a coach and then the difficult process of finding a successor but with the AFA seemingly unable to learn from past mistakes, here we are again.

Whether there is an argument to suggest Jorge Sampaoli is better suited to the long-term rebuild rather than the emergency short-term job he undertook, it is now irrelevant but there is no doubting that the World Cup was a disaster.

From the conservative squad selection, the lack of a settled starting eleven or system, the questionable substitutions, even more questionable tactics and the reported tension behind the scenes, it was hard to imagine a scenario in which Sampaoli remained in charge.

However much the 58-year-old may have wanted otherwise, the AFA were always going to find a way to separate and after lengthy discussions agreement was eventually reached for a figure of around $2 million.

For the hard-up AFA it’s fortunately far less than his termination clause but still enough to not leave much in the coffers to hire a successor.

Regardless, a list is being drawn up from the ludicrously ambitious to the depressingly underwhelming and as usual the AFA are work their way down.

At the top of that list and able to be dismissed immediately by anyone who isn’t under the influence of some pretty powerful substances is Pep Guardiola. World class coach or not the Spaniard’s appointment in itself would cause some controversy given he isn’t from Argentina but Guardiola would never walk away from Manchester City (and the substantial riches that come with that) to work for the calamitous AFA.

Supposing then that the next coach will definitely be Argentinian then there are two prime candidates but both share many of those difficulties with Pep.

Since looking for a replacement for Alejandro Sabella in 2014, one man has been at the front of the queue. Diego Simeone played over 100 times for Argentina as a player and has carried that same passion and desire into his managerial career.

The embodiment of the attitude that Argentinian supporters love, El Cholo would be first choice for a majority but wouldn’t guarantee success, hasn’t shown any real desire to coach Argentina at this stage in his career and would come at a cost.

Likewise, Mauricio Pochettino and while Atlético Madrid and Tottenham respectively may draw plaudits for their football in Europe, dragging away either manager would prove almost impossible for the AFA without either one of the coaches, forcing through such a move.

So as the AFA seek more financially viable options, free agents are an attractive proposition. Two former Argentina coaches, José Pékerman and Alejandro Sabella have been mooted as possibilities in a reshuffle that would see them act as director of football.

And a front-runner as coach would be Ricardo Gareca, who made it clear that he was available while he weighs up whether to remain as Peru manager. The historic run to the World Cup means that the Blanquirroja are desperate for Gareca to stay but a chance to take charge of Argentina would likely prove too good to turn down.

Gareca’s availability is a definite plus for the AFA as most other options in South America are currently attached.

Marcelo Gallardo publicly stands by River Plate and isn’t a great fan of the pro-Boca AFA set-up, Matías Almeyda is available but has seen his achievements in Mexico go largely unnoticed in the somewhat insular Argentinian outlook and then the likes of Jorge Almirón, Ariel Holan or Guillermo Barros Schelotto would struggle to excite and galvanise the nation.

It’s worth noting that unless the AFA resolve a great number of other issues then the next manager makes little difference. Sampaoli was supposed to be the one but the same issues plagued his year in charge and until the entire organisation and process is improved, Argentina will continue to underachieve.

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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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