“This is where I met my first love, where I grew up, where I was taught to live and defend these colors like a warrior, where I once had a great dream.”
Cristián ‘Kily’ González certainly said all the right things after being presented as Rosario Central’s new manager last week but has been around Argentinian football long enough to know that sentimentality only gets you so far. After two years in charge of the club’s reserves, the 45-year-old gets his ‘dream’ first move into management aiming to restore El Canalla to past glories.
The last of Central’s four top flight titles coming in 1987 that looks a long way off but with Diego Cocca steering the club away from relegation, González is only looking up and acknowledged that a 33-year drought is far too long.
“I want us to regain our sense of belonging and identity. Hopefully we can achieve a united Central, no individual is more important than the club. We want every player who enters the pitch to understand the shirt they’re representing.”
After a ninth-placed finish to the Superliga season, Cocca and the club decided not to renew his contract this month leaving the way clear for González to make the upward step, signing an 18-month deal as manager.
The former Argentina international’s time spent with the reserves will likely prove useful with a number of Central’s academy youngsters looking to push through to the senior side. González is well placed to run the rule over a number of those players and has already stated his commitment to improving the club from the ground up.
“We emphasise the comprehensive project beyond focusing only on the first team. I have to be in charge of empowering the boys in the academy. It’s the big goal we have as a club.”
Those academy products may well play a major role in the first team with finances at Central and almost every Argentinian club strained in the current climate. Youngsters Mateo Tanlongo, Lautaro Blanco and Luca Martínez Dupuy will all sign professional contracts this month and another of other reserve players will now look to graduate under González.
23-year-old playmaker Joel López Pissano was a key player for Kily in the reserves last year after returning from a loan at Emelec but was overlooked by Diego Cocca despite scoring six goals in 16 appearances. Former under-20 international Pedro Ojeda featured a little more under Cocca and will be aiming to push for a more prominent role as will Diego Becker and Andrés Lioi who both return from loans.
Some experience will also be required and one of González’s first orders of business will be convincing Marco Ruben to continue his career. The 33-year-old returned from a spell at Athletico Paranaense last year but has flirted with retirement and despite no longer being at his best, Ruben still offers plenty to the Canalla.
“He’s a club idol and I know the board are in touch with him to keep him going. Everyone associated with Central wants that. I spoke to him and showed him my interest in him continuing,” Central’s new manager explained.
And while Ruben’s continuation appears probable, González has two somewhat more fanciful additions in mind.
“[Ángel] Di María is a weakness I have. The first message of the day was from him. He knows what I want from the club and I know Angel loves this club and loves being able to wear this shirt,” Kily said at his unveiling.
“I’m not going to promise anything. I talk to Di Maria all the time and he loves the club. He wants to go back to the club and he’s going to do it at some point, I know. He dreams of putting the shirt back on. Everyone tells you that it’s crazy, but love for Central can’t be understood.”
Di María doesn’t look to be leaving Paris Saint-Germain just yet after another fine season en route to lifting the Ligue 1 title again and yet it wouldn’t be the most surprising arrival if González managed to coax Ezequiel Lavezzi out of his recently announced retirement.
“I know he’s dying to put on a Central shirt. He’s lying on the beach, but it’s a matter of talking to him,” González told Oral Deportiva.
A lifelong supporter, González had three spells as a player at the club, finishing his career in 2011 with Central in the Nacional B. Better known outside Rosario for his career in Europe with Zaragoza and then with Valencia and Inter, Kily was a gold medalist with the national team in 2004 and will now be hoping to bring the success to the Gigante de Arroyito that he was unable to as a player.
Time will tell if Kily is able to do that but his passion for the club cannot be underestimated.