Newell’s Old Boys confirmed yesterday that Américo Gallego would be returning to the Estadio Marcelo Bielsa as manager ten years after leading them to the Apertura title in 2004. After a number of perceived failures in their appointments since the departure of Gerardo Martino, Newell’s have returned to a familiar face to bring some balance but is this really a sign of progress?
Newell’s President, Guillermo Lorente confirmed that despite the contract not yet being signed, El Tolo would be returning. The 59-year-old played most of his career with Newell’s before returning to manage them for a year, resulting in 2004 Apertura glory and he told reporters: “I am already Newell’s coach, I return to my house.”
Following Gerardo Martino’s successful reign which led to the 2013 Final trophy, Newell’s opted to promote from within with the view of maintaining stability and a style of football that had been both attractive and effective. Both Alfredo Berti and Ricardo Lunari both stepped up from reserve level and have both fallen short of the expectations of the club and so Lorente has decided that a different approach is required. He explained: “I have deposited all my confidence in a man who is so happy to return to the club.This is the change that Newells needed.”
Perhaps appointing someone with some experience of working with first team players, and experienced veterans like Maxi Rodríguez or Ignacio Scocco is required. Perhaps someone who is familiar with the club and who the supporters can relate to is a safe move, as opposed to the gamble of asking an inexperienced youth coach to step up. However, is there not some middle ground here that Newell’s could look for when seeking someone to lead the side and hopefully mount another title challenge in 2015?
All too often in Argentine football, we see clubs return to old figureheads from their history in an effort to appease supporters and bring back some past glory. Boca tried it with Carlos Bianchi as did Racing with Mostaza Merlo and although River did the same with Ramón Díaz and won the 2014 Final, more often than not these regressions are a disaster.
This season’s Torneo Transición has in many ways been a breath of fresh air with many clubs finally taking a different path and appointing younger, more dynamic coaches. River have looked improved under Marcelo Gallardo, Boca revitalised under Rodolfo Arruabarrena, Racing on the verge of a first title since 2001 under Diego Cocca and Lanús and Independiente both playing some of the best football in recent years with Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Jorge Almirón in charge respectively.
All of these, with the exception of Schelotto, had some level of experience before taking these jobs, they had cut their teeth with other clubs and appear more in tune with modern coaching techniques. Gallardo, for example, brought with him a sports psychologist to work with the River squad and the case could be made that the mental toughness of the current squad is one of their strongest attributes.
Now, this may all turn out to look utterly redundant, if in 2015, Newell’s sweep all in front of them and those clubs that I just cited completely collapse, but to an outsider the appointment of Gallego is an uninspiring one.
The 59-year-old began his management career with River and had success at the Monumental, winning the Clausura in 2000, and following it with titles at Independiente, Newell’s and then also in México with Toluca. However, even at Toluca he was often criticised for his defensive approach and when he later took over with Tigres it was disastrous.
Since claiming that Apertura title with Toluca in 2005, Gallego’s career has slumped drastically.
Perhaps being back where his footballing career all began in Rosario will bring a renewed vigour to Gallego’s work. Time will tell but the immediate thought is that Newell’s have taken the much maligned route to appointments in Argentina, a one which rarely brings results and certainly fails to excite.