Ever since it became clear that Edgardo Bauza was heading for the exit door, rumours linking Jorge Sampaoli with the Argentina job have grown and although Sevilla warned the AFA off their manager, it is being reported that a deal has already been struck and immediately after the Spanish league season ends, La Albiceleste will confirm their number one target.
Sevilla host Osasuna on the final day of La Liga (May 21st) and according to Spanish newspaper AS, Argentina will announce Sampaoli as the successor to Edgardo Bauza on May 22nd.
Despite Sevilla’s obvious annoyance, Argentina’s pursuit of Sampaoli never ceased and has merely continued behind closed doors.
Sampaoli is still determined to lead Sevilla back into the Champions League but president José Castro is understood to be aware that Sampaoli will be leaving the club at the end of the season.
This week Sampaoli addressed the rumours directly for the first time and did little to allay Sevilla’s concerns that after only one season in Andalusia, the Copa América winning coach was leaving.
“I know that there is an interest, because to deny it would be to lie to all of you,” Sampaoli said in a press conference,
“I know they say that I’m the chosen one, but they [the AFA] will have to wait until the time is right in order to do it in a manner that doesn’t damage anyone. To do it right now would be to hurt Sevilla, and I’m not going to allow that to happen.
“I know there is a real intention, but when the time comes to have a dialogue with the AFA president [Claudio Tapia], most likely the message will be that, until the end of the season, I cannot meet with anyone because my head is focused here.”
However, all the indications are that Tapia has spoken with Sampaoli and his lawyer and while they will allow him to continue work until the end of the season in peace, Argentina have their next manager.
“Just as a player has a right to leave if his release clause is paid, so does a coach,” Sampaoli told the press and his well documented €1.5 million release clause will almost certainly be met at the end of the Spanish season.
Confirmation at the end of May will leave Sampaoli little time to prepare before Argentina’s friendly against Brazil in Melbourne on June 6th and so for this reason conversations between fitness coach and long time confidant Jorge Desio, his brother Hermes, a coordinator of Estudiantes’ youth sides and Juan Sebastián Verón are underway to lay the groundwork.
Part of this will be to arrange Sampaoli’s coaching staff and while the 57-year-old will be accompanied by his inner circle of Jorge Desio, Matías Manna, Lionel Scaloni and Martín Tocalli, there are discussions with Gabriel Milito and Pablo Aimar over the assistant’s role.
Any decisions regarding the squad appear to be little more than speculation but Vero Brunati suggests in the same AS article that the Argentina careers of Ezequiel Lavezzi and Carlos Tevez is over and Mauro Icardi will be called up for future squad, possibly for the Brazil and Singapore matches in June.
Paulo Dybala will start alongside Lionel Messi when both are available and Sampaoli may opt for a mobile 3-3-1-3 formation with Tigres goalkeeper Nahuel Guzmán as Argentina’s number one due to his superior skills with the ball at his feet.
Nothing is certain at this stage but given the AFA’s relaxed attitude in public over the vacancy, it would appear that the end of the football season in Europe will spark plans into action and Sampaoli remains at the centre.