It has been one of the worst kept secrets in football and although Jorge Sampaoli has previously denied speaking with Argentina over the coaching job, the Sevilla manager admitted on Friday that he wouldn’t be able to turn down the opportunity to fulfil his lifelong dream.
Since sacking Edgardo Bauza in April, with the national team’s place at the 2018 World Cup under threat, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) have made it very clear that their first, and only real choice, is Jorge Sampaoli.
Sevilla’s annoyance at a very public pursuit and Bauza’s subsequent claims that talks between the AFA and Sampaoli have been ongoing for months only increased speculation and with the Spanish league season to finish this weekend, the path seems clear for the Sevilla coach to return to international management.
“My dream from a young age has been to manage my national team. My country has the clear intention of offering me the job,” Sampaoli said in his pre-match press conference in Sevilla, insisting that nothing has been discussed or agreed yet.
“I’d only leave here if it were to go and take over my country. It is an offer that I would not be able to refuse. I feel like I have to go. Based on the needs of my country, I have to be there.”
Sevilla have enjoyed a successful season under Sampaoli, reaching the Champions League last 16 for the first time since 2010 and finishing fourth, but might look back and think what more they could have done given the drop in form at the tail-end of the season when speculation around the 57-year-old began to appear.
“This situation is something that is getting resolved now, not earlier because we had a lot to play for. We can now talk about (Argentina)… because we achieved our objectives, but it’s not in my hands.
“If they don’t sort things out then I won’t be going anywhere. I’m not leaving them for another club.
“I leave for my national side, it’s something I can’t refuse. Every human being has a dream, mine since I was a child was to play or coach my country, but I could’nt play because my legs prevented me.”
The squad for Argentina’s friendlies next month against Brazil and Singapore is to be released shortly but Sampaoli was keen to stress that he hasn’t selected it.
“I haven’t given the (squad) list for Argentina. First, I would need the authorisation of my club, Sevilla. I will be able to give a list whenever the club allows me and at present there is still no agreement between the club and Argentina.”
The only thing delaying the AFA’s announcement is Sampaoli’s release clause and while Sevilla have reportedly accepted that this will be met, the manner of the payment and when it will be made is not clear.