For all the rumours and speculation Argentina are still no closer to replacing Jorge Sampaoli and while the Argentinian Football Association (AFA) continue discussions, president Claudio Tapia has admitted, “In August, we must have a coach.”
There has been little official out of the AFA or those involved since Sampaoli’s departure but speaking to Radio Rivadavia, Tapia touched on the some of the names suggested in the press, his own preferences, Lionel Messi’s future and those trying to undermine his work.
“Whoever heads the next project must make a big change,” Tapia admitted, aware of the task that lies ahead for any prospective new coach.
“I would like Gallardo as coach, he has the profile we’re looking for, but I know he wants to finish his project at River and it’s good to think that way.
“I think it’s difficult for Gallardo to take over Argentina based on what he has said.”
River Plate manager Marcelo Gallardo has been one of the front-runners in any recent discussion along with the more familiar names of Diego Simeone and Mauricio Pochettino but with all three presenting difficulties to the AFA, Tapia has reportedly been having discussions with several more options.
‘I haven’t spoke to [Diego] Simeone,” Tapia stated while denying any such conversations. “[José] Pékerman did the best job with the youth of the National Team. He can contribute a lot but I haven’t spoken to him or anyone else.”
2014 World Cup finalists Alejandro Sabella the latest reported to be heading up a comprehensive reshuffle from the senior side down to the youth sides but once more Tapia shot down such rumours: “Sabella didn’t present me with any project.”
Given the difficulty with finding a coach, some have suggested that Sampaoli would have been better suited to assisting with the rebuild post-Russia but Tapia discussed the now former manager’s appointment and subsequent departure.
“I chose Sampaoli with [vice-president Daniel] Angelici. When we brought Jorge, he was the coach that everyone wanted, but we never saw the Sampaoli from Chile or Sevilla, so we made the decision not to continue.
“The results and what happened forced us to sit down with him and it ended in his departure. We didn’t try and wear him down to force him out.”
“After the departure of Jorge Sampaoli we have to re-plan the entire national team. The next coach will be chosen with the executive committee as a whole.”
This meeting is scheduled to take place at the end of the month but Tapia has urged caution going forward.
“If anyone thinks that we are going to win the next Copa América [in 2019], they’re wrong, we have to work on the changes. We have to work with a goal set on eight years.”
Tapia, at least in his words, has his mind set on a long-term project, something that Argentina is desperate for but the president revealed that he feels that there are plenty hoping he fails.
“I had the feeling that they wanted to wear me down as they did before the match against Ecuador but it did not cross my mind to leave as AFA president if Argentina was knocked out in the first round.
“There are operations against me to try and stop me being president of AFA,” Tapia said.
“They always try to underestimate me, but the management has been brilliant. Everything I could do at the World Cup as president I did.”
Of course the major talking point when it comes to Argentina is Lionel Messi and while Tapia admitted that he has been in touch with the Barcelona star, they will not be pushing him to make a swift return.
Messi has remained quiet since Argentina’s elimination at the World Cup but Tapia still feels that the 30-year-old will continue for the Albiceleste.
“We wrote to each other for Friends’ Day [July 20th], he [Messi] is on vacation, enjoying his family a bit, but we only talked about that, we did not talk about the World Cup or anything. We have a good relationship.
“I think he’s going to keep playing but we have to leave him alone.
“We have to start a project and then see how things are happening, he loves the Argentine national team very much, I think that this blow must have been very hard for him, as it was for us, but Argentina needs him.”
Messi’s importance to Argentina goes far beyond merely on the pitch and Tapia admitted, “Messi is a very important help to the AFA economically.
“Today we have to try to leave him alone, let him reorder, start the season in Spain, and next year we’ll see.”