The European football calendar has drawn to a close and the Argentine league season reaches the final straight so May has been a hectic month with champions crowned, title races hotting up and relegation pictures becoming clearer.
Away from all the club action, Argentina finally completed a deal for Jorge Sampaoli to leave Sampaoli and succeed Edgardo Bauza as national team coach. Speculation was rife since El Patón was given the boot and now a new exciting era begins under the Copa América winning manager. The forthcoming friendlies against Brazil and Singapore have already prompted a fresh looking squad with Mauro Icardi, Manuel Lanzini, Leandro Paredes and Papu Gómez among the newcomers.
A boost couldn’t have come at a better time after the under-20s crashed out of the World Cup in South Korea. Since dominating at this level between the mid-90s and 2007, Argentina’s decline has been dramatic, highlighting a desperate need for overhaul.
Bauza hasn’t wasted any time since leaving the Argentina job and has already been named UAE coach while Diego Maradona joined his old teammate in the Arab state, signing a contract with second division club Al-Fujairah.
In Europe, there was success for Argentina pair Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuaín as Juventus completed a league and cup double, Eduardo Salvio, Franco Cervi and Lisandro López celebrated a title with Benfica and while Lionel Messi’s season ultimately ended in disappointment, the best player on the planet did help Luis Enrique sign off as manager with a Copa de Rey triumph.
The Copa Libertadores group stages came to an end with four of Argentina’s six representatives progressing to the last 16 – River Plate, Lanús and Godoy Cruz all fairly comfortably and San Lorenzo echoing the miraculous qualification from their 2014 success. Estudiantes and Atlético Tucumán came up short and go into the Copa Sudamericana, where Arsenal, Defensa y Justicia, Huracán, Independiente and Racing Club all got through their first round matches.
Argentina’s Primera clubs joined this year’s Copa Argentina and the tournament has already thrown up a number of upsets and close shaves. The masked men of Sacachispas knocked out Arsenal but Tigre, Quilmes and Patronato all fell to lower league sides.
The Primera title race has increasingly boiled down to a two-horse race between Boca Juniors and River Plate after Marcelo Gallardo’s side recorded an impressive victory in La Bombonera during the clásico weekend.
And finally, Nelson Vivas deserves a special mention for his incredible outburst during Estudiantes’ draw with Boca Juniors.
— Planeta Gol (@PlanetaGolOK) May 8, 2017
Manager of the month
Marcelo Gallardo and Ariel Holan both deserve credit for overseeing unbeaten months that have seen River and Independiente climb into title and Copa Libertadores contention respectively. However, another side not to taste defeat during May was Defensa y Justicia and in recording four wins and a draw, El Halcón impressively didn’t even concede a goal. Sebastián Beccacece has done a tremendous job in Florencio Varela and it comes as a significant blow to the club that Jorge Sampaoli has selected the 36-year-old as his assistant with Argentina.
Player of the month
Any one of the team of the month could probably make a good claim for the individual award but Banfield’s Emanuel Cecchini has been consistently impressive in the Taladro midfield. The 20-year-old can tackle, pass and even pops up with the odd goal and it seems only a matter of time before a European club comes calling. Julio César Falcioni’s side have put together something of a surprise title challenge and won six of their last seven games — the one defeat? Not coincidentally coming when Cecchini was suspended.
Team of the month
Goal of the month
a) Alexis Castro – Vélez Sarsfield v Tigre
b) Gonzalo Martínez – Boca Juniors v River Plate
c) Maxi Meza – Independiente v Racing Club
d) Gastón Giménez – Patronato v Godoy Cruz
e) Germán Denis – Arsenal v Lanús