by Daniel Fraiz-Martinez
You wouldn’t have to search for long or hard to find an article about Jorge Sampaoli. Be it online or in the printed press, the media is (and has been for a while) awash with them.
On the other hand, and taking the omniscient Juan Manuel Lilillo aside, information on his trusted lieutenants, the men behind the magician, are far less forthcoming.
With the overall group looking set to potentially suffer modifications should departure from Sevilla to manage Argentina formalise, it begs the question – who will make up the new look Team Sampaoli?
Jorge Desio – Fitness Coach
Affectionately known as Sampaoli’s Mini-Me owing to the physical similarities between the two, the pair first met at the renowned Renato Cesarini Club in Argentina. A highly regarded institution domestically, the academy proudly includes amongst its more illustrious alumni current Argentina vice-captain Javier Mascherano, and recent central defender teammate Martín Demichelis.
Jorge Desio first joined the backroom setup over a decade ago, when a then largely unheralded Sampaoli was in charge at Coronel Bolognesi in Peru, and ever since then the duo have been inseparable.
The longest serving member of the staff he played an integral role in adventures throughout Peru, Ecuador, Chile and now Spain as well.
Whilst theoretically Desio’s role is that of what in Argentina is known as ‘El Profe’, he offers far more consul than would be presumed of an ordinary fitness coach. Indeed by many inside the camp he’s also seen as a key sounding board and advisor for ‘Don Sampa’ in times of doubt.
Martin Tocalli – Goalkeeping Coach
Son of the famed (2007) former Argentina under-20 boss Hugo Tocalli, curiously enough Martin and his father briefly worked somewhat in conjunction within Sampaoli’s Chile infrastructure, in which Tocalli senior formed part of a relatively unsuccessful spell in charge of the Chile youth set up.
Much like almost all of Sampaoli’s trusted lieutenants, Tocalli Jr’s role can be viewed as more polyfunctional than that of simply a rigid goalkeeping coach role. In particular at Sevilla with the club already having Javier García on the books, Tocalli’s unofficial role as the nexus between the players and the backroom has reportedly become even more pronounced.
Having begun his coaching career after a premature retirement, that saw him play briefly with Argentina’s newly appointed youth football coordinator, Juan Sebastián Verón in the nations under-17 side in 1991, Tocalli initially linked up with Sampaoli in 2012, after being given his big break in a coaching sense by another historic figure in his homeland: Ramón Díaz, during a brief spell in charge of “El Ciclón”, San Lorenzo de Almagro.
Should the move be signed off, with Argentina, it’s expected Tocalli would reprise a sole position in charge of the goalkeepers, in contrast to the current shared responsibilities in the South of Spain.
In theory that would mean he would take over from where Gustavo Campagnuolo left off but could also expand his workload to cover the goalkeeping process/structure for the various youth categories of the national team also.
Matías Manna – Technical Staff Assistant/Performance Analyst
Arguably the most celebrated member of the behind the scenes staff, as well as one of the key additions behind Sampaoli’s ideological shift in recent times. So much so in fact that a move to join Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City was heavily touted before Manna finally confirmed his arrival in Spain with the rest of the team.
Matías Manna initially rose to footballing prominence as the journalist who created the Blog (and subsequent acclaimed book) ‘Paradigma Guardiola’, back when the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager was still only in his playing days. It would be precisely his predilection for the Guardiola style, and following admiration for his managerial methodology that would underpin Manna’s subsequent body of work.
Even when starting out, his insightful articles and analysis would not go unnoticed for too long, and as a result in 2007 he would join Marcelo Bielsa as part of a 15+ strong team of analysts/scouts when in charge of the Chilean national team.
Subsequent to the World Cup in South Africa, and El Loco’s departure at the helm of La Roja, his fellow native of Rosario would return to both men’s hometown, to put to use his recently completed postgraduate degree in Digital Interactive Communication, by developing what many now refer to as one of Sampaoli’s Secret Weapon’s in his extensive armoury: a football software baptised by the designer(s) as Sandball.
The Sandball program was initially developed with the primary intention of breaking the conventional coaching paradigm of a passive, instructional team talk before embarking on training drills.
By simulating onscreen a similar visual experience to one of the FIFA Football games, the players could then control themselves with a joystick (again much like a console), thus learning the movements required and creating a far more interactive participation, and overall more innovative way to reach the players cognitive intelligence.
The Beta application would first be put to use when Manna was recruited by Facundo Sava in 2013 during his spell in charge of Unión de Santa Fe. However, it was continually developed until its completion in 2015, by which time Manna had returned to the Chilean national team at the request of Jorge Sampaoli, acting as an analyst for both his own team and opposition performance.
In terms of day-to-day use the Sandball software’s visibility is limited, despite the capability being expanded to incorporate simulation around in-game intelligence on opposition players/movements. However, it is still regarded by the coaches as an avant-garde way of reaching the modern day generations of players under their tutelage.
Moreover than this though Manna’s re-introduction into the Sampaoli’s setup was seen as a first step towards incorporating greater aspects of El Juego de Posicion within a notoriously Bielsista style.
A now much acclaimed disciple of Guardiola, Manna’s appointment would be further enhanced by the arrival of Juan Manuel Lillo to the unit. Both men being seen by many within and who regularly watch the camp as key components to Chile’s historic Copa America success in 2015.
Lionel Scaloni – Performance Analyst/Opposition Scout
The newest arrival to Sampaoli’s squadron. Yet another native of Rosario, Leo Scaloni to date is best known for a successful club career in Europe, including spells with Deportivo de La Coruña, West Ham United and SS Lazio to name the more prominent few.
Back home though Scaloni’s most highly regarded playing participation was as part José Pékerman’s all conquering under-20 World Champions in 1997 of Samuel, Cambiasso, Riquelme, Aimar and Co.
The all-action defender going on to make his senior international bow with the same manager, who would take the former right back/right sided midfielder to the 2006 World Cup.
Curiously enough in Germany, Scaloni would share a dressing room with current Argentina stalwarts and captain(s) Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano.
Having hung up his boots in Bergamo, Italy barely two years ago, and after some sporadic work on Spanish TV as a pundit, Scaloni was recruited as an additional analyst months after Sampaoli’s arrival in Seville to join an already extensive crew.
Principally tasked with opposition reconnaissance, albeit much like Matías Manna (whose work together dovetails considerably) Scaloni’s involvement within weekly preparation has progressively increased. So much so that many believe his role could expand before too long, in particular in the instance of a future move back home in particular.
Despite the versatility, and obviously multitudinous nature of Sampaoli’s staff, if as it has been rumoured the Spanish contingent of his Sevilla entourage are to be left behind when taking over in Argentina, then there would theoretically be at least one opening that “Don Sampa” would be looking to fill.
Of the reported five: Lillo, García, Iñigo Domínguez, Jesús Olivera Moisés del Hoyo and Sergio Domínguez set to be left behind, it would be Juanma Lillo’s role as number two that would be the most pivotal vacancy under consideration.
Having already lost (current Defensa y Justicia boss) Sebastián Beccacece since the 2015 Copa success, the national team position could seemingly open an intriguing window in terms of possibilities in this respect.
Of the glut of names thrown into the equation, a few of the options stand out: Pablo Aimar, who recently visited Sampaoli in Spain to take in some of his coaching sessions, would if nothing else excite the wistful Albiceleste supporters for sure.
However, having accompanied the ex-Rosario Central boss Eduardo ‘Chacho’ Coudet on said trip, the consensus is that he has given priority to forming part of any future project alongside his old teammate. With recent media speculation indicating Coudet could be back on the touchline in Liga MX in the not too distant future, the picture could well become clear sooner rather than later.
El Payaso to one side, another comparable name in terms of star status thrown into the ring is that of Gabriel Milito. The former international defender is much like Lillo a known advocate of the possession style shift preferred by Sampaoli nowadays.
Although unlike Aimar, Milito’s situation presents a different challenge having already worked as a manager in spells at Estudiantes De La Plata and Independiente. Thus offering a similar point of contention to that of another exciting proposition banded around of late, the current Independiente boss Ariel Holan.
Moreover than the myriad of names, the possibility of choosing an active manager currently working domestically in Argentina opens up an intriguing scenario. The hypothesis being that the role could be adapted to a part-time basis, with other members of Sampaoli’s finely tuned current unit filling in the day-to-day gaps.
At this stage though everything is of course pure conjecture, with the option of an internal promotion (primarily with Manna or Scaloni in mind) being as distinctly possible as well. Nonetheless within his own setup, one thing is for certain is that much, if not all of Team Sampaoli are set for an exciting future.
Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanielFMPro
Football fanatic/writer: #Bielsista & #Eterno21! Covering #Argieball, #SouthAmerica, #LaLiga #MLS & many more, both in #ENG & #ESP [Creator of@FootballARGnews]