Belgrano appoint Lucas Bernardi ahead of next season’s relegation battle

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With Belgrano opting to replace Pablo Lavallén with the still unproven Lucas Bernardi, Jimmy Lee shares the concerns of supporters ahead of such an important season…

On Thursday evening, Belgrano de Córdoba announced that they had reached a decision to hire a new manager. After a fairly lengthy process and a host of names linked to the post, El Pirata somewhat surprisingly selected Lucas Bernardi to replace Pablo Lavallén, who abruptly left after Belgrano were defeated on the final day of the season by already relegated Temperley.

Bernardi’s short managerial career has been less than impressive and with Belgrano starting next season in the midst of a relegation battle, supporters have been quick to voice their displeasure.

Despite not winning a top flight league title, Belgrano de Córdoba is a club of the stature that believes it should be able to compete with any team in Argentina and should regularly qualify for international competition.

Since their most recent promotion to the Primera in 2011, when they relegated River Plate to the B Nacional in the process, Belgrano became one of the Argentina’s most competitive clubs. Then manager, Ricardo Zielinski, had the Piratas playing a brand and style of football that is described around Córdoba as ‘A lo Belgrano’ meaning, the Belgrano way. In one of the short seasons in 2011 and again in 2012, Belgrano finished tied on points for second. 2013, ’14, and 15 saw them finish tournaments in 6th, 10th, and 6th, respectively.

Midway through 2016, revered manager Zielinski departed for Racing Club and things have never been the same in the barrio of Alberdi. The worst being the 2016-17 season when Belgrano finished 28th in the table, just one point above last place Aldosivi.

Since El Ruso Zielinski left, Belgrano have had four managers and is yet to find one that has both picked up points and played to the style the fans got accustomed to seeing.

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All this has led to the upcoming 2018-19 Superliga season where Belgrano finds itself in danger of relegation.

Lucas Bernardi, the native Rosarino who played for Newell’s Old Boys before going to France for eight years before eventually returning to his boyhood club to finish his career, has been chosen as the man to help Belgrano fight to stay up in the top division.

Bernardi began his managerial career with Newells in 2015. He lasted one season with the club. The next season he went to Arsenal and was their manager for five matches. The following season he went to Godoy Cruz and the one after that, he managed Estudiantes and did not make it through the end of the season.

Four teams in four years. To date in his managerial career he has accumulated 46% of the available points.

Bernardi will be taking over a club that to many may appear to be small. Some may say that perhaps it is just the right size club for a manager who has not had great success in the past but deserves another shot. Even though many may see Belgrano as a small club, they have some of the most passionate fans in Argentina. They fill their 30,000 seat stadium each week. Clubs outside the big five from Buenos Aires rarely play in front of a packed house, but the Gigante de Alberdi will always be filled to the brim with screaming Piratas.

Belgrano also ranks high on the list of clubs with the most social media interactions.

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Córdoba may not be as big as Buenos Aires, but make no mistake, it is a football crazy city and Belgrano has some of the best and most passionate fans in Argentina.

So, what do I think about the selection of Lucas Bernardi? First and foremost, let me say that I wish him absolute and complete success. I want him to come in from day one, make the correct personnel decisions, implement his system, and start winning matches. Nothing would make me happier than to see Bernardi succeed at Belgrano – because if he does not succeed, the Piratas are on a crash course to the B Nacional.

Let me also make this clear, I do not think he is the right man for the job. His managerial record to this point says it all. If he leads Belgrano to 46% of the available points, we may need to prepare ourselves for a painful reality ahead. Not only has Bernardi not been successful as a manager, his teams have been painful to watch. Last season Estudiantes scored 25 goals in a 27 match season and finished with a negative goal difference.

I am nervous. No, it is more than that, I am terrified. Not only is Belgrano in serious danger of relegation, but they may continue to stray further away from the ideal of playing football ‘A lo Belgrano.’

I became a Belgrano fan while they were still in the B Nacional, so it’s not like my love for the club would change one bit if they were relegated, but we believe we belong in the Primera and anything less is not acceptable.

But I am just one fan, let’s see what the other Piratas thought after Bernardi was announced.

“Well its unanimous that nobody likes the new Manager. Let’s hope we are wrong and we have to hang a flag in the stadium that says: Sorry Bernardi.”

 “Why the hell did we want him?” He’s a horrible manager. I understand not doing well at one club, but FOUR? Stop screwing around. It makes me sick.”

“Gloria [referring to Instituto, another club from Córdoba currently playing in the B Nacional] wait one year for us, we will be with you in the B.”

“I do not agree with the choice of Bernardi, but all I want is for him to do well because he will be at Belgrano. I believe we need a manager with experience, we will be playing against relegation, Bernardi is a new manager and it hasn’t gone well for him so far, I hope I’m wrong and it goes well for us.”

Look, I’ll say it again, of course, we all want to be wrong and we all hope Bernardi has success at Belgrano. But it’s scary. It’s not the manager we the fans would have chosen, but it is now the manager we will all support.

Jimmy lived in Córdoba, Argentina as a teenager and is still an active Socio for his beloved club, Belgrano. He currently lives in Seattle, WA and loves to write about football when he has a brake from work and family. He also runs the Belgrano – English twitter account.

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