Independiente secure Ariel Holan until 2021 & complete plenty of early business in transfer window


With the dream of lifting an eighth Copa Libertadores title and the desire to return Independiente to its former glories, El Rojo have made some swift and positive moves in the transfer market ahead of an important year. Manager Ariel Holan has signed a new deal at the club that runs until 2021 and four promising signings have already been unveiled.

Holan extending his stay points toward the long-term project the coach had desired and the additions of Carlos Benavídez, Guillermo Burdisso, Francisco Silva, Pablo Hernández and possibly Richard Sánchez to follow all add quality to the first team pool.

The Libertadores is the immediate target but challenging for honours regularly is the goal and that requires a break from the mentality that plagues Argentinian football.

The cut-throat business of managing in Argentina saw Independiente as one of the prime examples of the short-term thinking that grips the majority of football clubs. A different coach at least once a year, a high turnover of players and off-field problems too numerous to mention were not things restricted to the Avellaneda club but had seen the the gradual decline of one of South America’s greatest clubs and their eventual relegation in 2013.

Slowing rebuilding and achieving promotion immediately back to the top flight, several more talented managers came and went before Independiente turned to Ariel Holan at the end of 2016.

The former field hockey coach had plenty of experience as an assistant in Argentinian football but only a little over a year with Defensa y Justicia as the main man but had shown enough potential for Independiente to turn to the 57-year-old.

A lifelong supporter of the club, innovative and tactically astute, Holan had the characteristics for success but it would mean nothing without results.

Thankfully Holan’s impact was almost immediate and bringing through a number of talented young players, Independiente began playing some of the most attractive football in Argentina. Copa Libertadores qualification via the league may have just eluded them despite losing Emiliano Rigoni to Zenit St. Petersburg, El Rojo had eyes on the Copa Sudamericana.

Captained by Nicolás Tagliafico and inspired by the attacking trio of Maxi Meza, Martín Benítez and Ezequiel Barco, Independiente lifted the title after defeating Flamengo in the Maracaná and the joy for the club to be back among the biggest clubs in the continent was clear.

Ariel Holan deserves enormous credit for that and after threats from the club’s Barra Bravas almost saw the coach walk away in the aftermath of lifting the Copa Sudmericana, El Rojo were desperate not to see the coach’s contract expire at the end of this year.

The desire to remain was there but only if the club shared Holan’s vision. One which saw investment from the ground up and allowed the coach to look beyond just his first eleven and for longer than the next six months.

No one would be naive enough to suggest that Holan’s new contract until 2021 guarantees his job security but Independiente also look to be backing their manager in the transfer market.

Talented Uruguayan under-20 midfielder Carlos Benavídez, a long term target of Holan, had been confirmed some days earlier but the club has continued to push ahead and brought in some quality experience too.

Former Boca Juniors centre-back Guillermo Burdisso arrived as a free agent after his contract at Liga MX club León had expired and likewise Chilean international Francisco Silva came in from Cruz Azul.

Burdisso, 29, will provide experience alongside the likes of Alan Franco and Nicolás Figal in defence while Francisco Silva, 32, comes in to try and plug the gap left in midfield since Diego Rodríguez was sold to Xolos de Tijuana.

However, he is not alone as El Rojo also appear to have sealed a deal for another Chilean international, Pablo Hernández. The Tucumán-born midfielder played over 30 times for Celta Vigo in La Liga last season but opted to return to Argentina providing El Rojo with another outstanding option.

A deal for young Paraguayan talent Richard Sánchez is reportedly close, if Independiente can off-load Fernando Amorebieta and free up a foreign player spot in the squad, and that could conclude El Rojo’s transfer business early.

The concern will naturally be that Maxi Meza could return from World Cup duty and depart for Europe but Independiente will be hoping to hold onto their playmaker until at least the end of the year.

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