Not entirely surprisingly, Alejandro Sabella stepped down as Argentina coach yesterday after leading La Albiceleste to the World Cup Final just some weeks ago. Julio Grondona and AFA must now seek a new coach ahead of the Copa América in 2015 and the two prominent names at this point are, Gerardo Martino and José Pékerman.
To the annoyance of Sabella, his agent had let slip that the 59-year-old coach had the intention of leaving after the World Cup regardless of the result but following what was widely heralded as a successful campaign it was hoped that perhaps Sabella would reconsider.
After his initial meeting with Julio Grondona, Sabella had asked for a little more time to mull over his decision. Two weeks ago, he told reporters, “You have to fill the energy tank which sometimes gets empty. I have to think if I’m in condition to give 100%”
The decision is now that he is not prepared to stay on despite the backing of the players and most the country.
It is very difficult to view Sabella’s tenure as anything other than a success. A thoroughly dominant qualification, finding a system which brought the best out of Lionel Messi, while displaying a surprising level of defensive solidity, and which culminated in a World Cup Final.
Now Grondona and AFA have the task of replacing him and two names more than any others rise to the surface.
José Pékerman remains a popular choice in Argentina after his success with Argentina’s Under-20s between 1994 and 2001, winning three World Championships. His attractive possession based style led to him being named Argentina national team coach subsequently and he led the side in the World Cup in 2006.
Under Pékerman in Germany, Argentina played some of their best football but were eventually undone by the hosts in the Quarter Finals on penalties. A result which some held Pékerman responsible for given his substitution of Juan Román Riquelme with his side leading.
Most recently, Pékerman took Colombia to the Quarter Finals in Brazil but whether he would want another shot with Argentina or more importantly work with Julio Grondona again remains to be seen.
This perhaps leaves the door open for Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino who has been tipped to take over since leaving his post at Barcelona. His one season with Barca was a failure but his previous achievements should not be forgotten.
Martino revived Newell’s Old Boys and took them from near relegation candidates to league champions and almost Copa Libertadores winners as well as an impressive record internationally with Paraguay.
Under Martino, Paraguay reached the Quarter Finals of the World Cup in 2010 and were runners-up in the Copa America 2011. Knowing his limitations, Martino produced a defensively solid Paraguay side but showed far more attacking style with Newell’s. As a disciple of Bielsa, Martino has already shown the tactical astuteness to work at the top in his career.
With Grondona and the AFA to make a decision, one can never be too confident what will happen but with a friendly against World Champions, Germany in Düsseldorf on September 3rd, we should know soon enough.