An emotional Julio Cesar Falcioni waved farewell to his adoring public at the Estadio Florencio Sola before Banfield’s final home game of the year against Argentinos Juniors a few weeks ago. Ill health had forced the club to rethink things ahead of 2019 and if the decision to bring back the vastly experienced title winning coach two years ago was one route, then the move to appoint Hernán Crespo as his successor is the complete opposite.
Falcioni brought an strong attachment to the club and a wealth of experience; Crespo brings profile and desire. With only a short stint in charge of Serie B club Modena and as youth coach at Parma, the former most expensive player in the world is something of a gamble.
Nevertheless, with president Lucìa Barbuto in charge, the first elected female club president in Argentina, Crespo represents another step towards a more youthful, progressive Banfield.
“It’s a very important day for me. I want to thank the people of Banfield for this beautiful responsibility, one which I take very seriously,” Crespo said at his official presentation.
Since calling time on his glittering playing career in 2012, Crespo immediately set about completing his coaching badges and after serving as youth coach at Parma, where the iconic number nine had enjoyed great success during the 1990s, the only prior management experience was a short stint in charge of Modena, failing to steer the struggling club away from relegation danger in Serie B during the 2015/16 season.
A point seemingly not lost on Crespo, whose gratitude and humility towards Banfield is clear.
“The project and the growth are important. I promise a great effort and hard work and while I’m going to make mistakes, with formations and substitutions, I will not lack desire to work or dedication.”
Eager to begin his management career, Crespo certainly has no shortage of inspiration and guidance having worked under some of the greatest coaches over a 20-year period. And while the 43-year-old will look to utilise this, Crespo admits that he will look to develop his own style.
“When I started dreaming about being a football player I loved [Marco] Van Basten, Diego [Maradona], Enzo [Francescoli], but I wanted to be Crespo because I could not be them. The same thing happens to me now that I’m a coach, you can admire, you can like one or the other, but in the end it’s me.
“I like the team management of [Carlo] Ancelotti, to be very close to the players personally. The methodology of [José] Mourinho and the personal development and improvement of the individual players like [Marcelo] Bielsa.”
Banfield have finished the year tenth in the Superliga and while Julio César Falcioni usually has the team well drilled and tough to beat, particularly at the Estadio Florencio Sola, it hasn’t exactly been exciting. Certainly a repeat of the club’s only Primera title, in 2009, under coach Emperador Falcioni was a long way off.
And Crespo won’t be expected to achieve that kind of success but with less than a goal averaged per game, perhaps a more attacking approach will be.
“I want a Banfield that wants to build and be offensive, that wants to be a protagonist,’ Crespo explained.
“A well organised team that tries to play good football. We all want to win and there are many ways. There is no manual. Everyone has their own way.
“The intention is to achieve an identity that can be seen as a trademark of Banfield.”
That is not to say that Crespo is looking to draw a line under what Falcioni has been doing with the club and in fact the new manager is hoping that the veteran coach will assume another role within the structure.
Falcioni, who was successfully operated on after being diagnosed with cancer of the larynx earlier this year, was always expected not to renew his deal ahead of 2019 but such is his standing that a role as director of football has already been discussed.
Something that Crespo is clearly keen on: “I hope he [Falcioni] accepts, he would give me a huge hand, his work was fantastic, what he created at Banfield. I’m new, I’d love to be part of Banfield so I can talk to him, I need to know what he thinks.”
There is no question that Crespo has a task on his hands. This is not his beloved River Plate or one of the Superliga’s title challengers, and with little money to spend, it will be Banfield’s academy which will likely provide the foundation to the team. Developing these players while identifying his own system will be vital over the next 6-12 months.
“80 percent of the squad are players from the academy. The captain of the National Team [Nicolás Tagliafico] came from here and I have the challenge of trying to improve the players.”
And it will be a challenge. The vast majority are under 22 but could benefit from the experience of a younger coach, who has achieved everything as a player and remains the fourth highest goal scorer in the history of the Argentina national team.
Banfield should be commended for not turning to the usual merry-go-round of older coaches so often recycled around Argentinian top flight clubs and while there are no guarantees with Crespo, it is a good reason to keep an eye on El Taladro in 2019.