Independiente turn to club favourite Lucas Pusineri as new manager

There is never any lack of nostalgia in Argentinian football and as clubs continue to favour former players in key roles, Independiente have appointed one of the heroes of their last league title winning side, Lucas Pusineri as new manager.

The 43-year-old returns to Avellaneda after two years in Colombia and succeeds interim manager Fernando Berón.

The memory of a shirtless Pusineri celebrating wildly his headed goal against Boca Juniors that effectively sealed the 2002 Apertura title, a factor in the former midfielder’s appointment no doubt. So too the less than prohibitive costs involved for the cash-strapped club yet for all the convenience of the move, there is clearly a conscientious coach who has been honing his craft in Colombia.

Since hanging up his boots after a brief spell with Platense in 2011, Pusineri has been studying the game. Assistant to Claudio Borghi at Argentinos Juniors between 2013 and 2014 before Bichi departed La Paternal, Pusineri travelled to Europe to gain insight from a number of top managers and it was at this early stage that the Independiente job was first mooted.

At that point with no first hand experience, El Rojo opted for Mauricio Pellegrino, interestingly Pusineri’s closest rival again this time round.

Eventually a first managerial job with Colombian side Cúcuta Deportivo arose. Tasked with taking the club back to the top flight, Pusineri’s waltzed to the title with the Rojinegros in his debut season and this impressive record earned him a switch to Deportivo Cali.

Defeat to Independiente Medellín in the Copa Colombia final and decent campaigns in both the 2019 Apertura and Clausura certainly wasn’t a poor season in Cali.

It will be an experience that stands Pusineri in good stead yet this and all the former player’s strong ties to the club will only go so far.

Independiente have badly underperformed during a miserable 2019. Sebastian Beccacece never settled and is now poised to take over at rivals Racing Club, interim manager Fernando Beron barely improved matters and El Rojo sit 15th in the Superliga.

A run of opening fixtures in 2020 which will see Independiente face River Plate, Boca Juniors, Rosario Central and then a clasico against Racing is a baptism of fire and could turn an already tense atmosphere all the more fractious.

Climbing the table, competing in the Copa Superliga and the Sudamericana will be the goals in 2020 and Pusineri will likely need to do this with the hand he is dealt (or worse). Mauricio Pellegrino was understood to have asked for no players to be sold and to be able to bring in some new faces when interviewed but with trouble financially that was unrealistic.

Pusineri could see key players leave and it is unlikely that there will be much reinvestment.

Reminding supporters of the glory days in 2002 is one thing but Independiente need to hope they can get things right on the pitch in 2020.