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Testing times ahead for new managers of Argentina

The Olympics are over, the season has started for the world’s main football leagues and it is now time to see a few new faces at the helm in several of the world’s most important national teams, including Argentina, Brazil and Spain.

In the case of Argentina, however, the new manager arrives in a chaotic context, amid a terrible crisis. That crisis has been ongoing for several years, but it is getting deeper and deeper. We saw it at the Games, where an interim manager like Julio Olarticoechea had to coach the team without having had the slightest opportunity to pick his players. It is a collapse that most had seen coming: Argentinian football simply had to implode, and fortunately it imploded now.

For all the mess, Argentina can still count on their players, who continue to make it to the final rounds in major tournaments like the World Cup and the Copa America. This is the context for the arrival of Edgardo Bauza, a manager who will have just two days of training before playing a World Cup qualifying match against Uruguay. He can hardly change everything that was there before him in so little time. He has stood by the team as it was, and I think he is right to do so.

I had the opportunity to meet with him last week. While the actual conversation will remain between us, we agreed that Argentinian football is in a catastrophic situation, or at least was in a catastrophic situation until the creation of the normalising commission. Bauza is from Rosario, like me. I remember calling him up for the national team once or twice. I was looking for a replacement for Daniel Passarella and Bauza was a defender with great power and character, and he scored lots of goals. I hope he does well.

He is lucky to have one player who is different from anyone else, Lionel Messi. I never took that exit he announced right after the Copa America final at face value. It was a reaction that was linked to a state of mind. Of course he wants to play with the national team. The problem now is to find the right place for him in the team. We cannot always wait for him to score the goal that will save us. His role must be to help the team play well. If that happens, goals and assists will come all on their own.

In the upcoming qualifiers, we will also see that Brazil have a new manager, Tite. They have just had the joy of winning the Olympic gold medal, but I do not think that will have taken a significant weight off their shoulders. The World Cup qualifiers are very different from the Games. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil played a Germany side that sometimes played better than the hosts, but it was not the real German national team. Brazil have long been playing very badly, but it is impossible to imagine that they might not qualify for the World Cup. Still, they face a tough test against Ecuador.

In Europe we see some changes too, particularly Julen Lopetegui’s debut as Spain manager. There is probably a need to try new things in the Spanish national team, which no longer has that large base of Barcelona players. However, Spain can still put together a good team if they stick to the quality leap that comes from great players. They have three fantastic players: Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets. Further, many young footballers have now emerged at Real Madrid. Spain are clearly sticking to their idea, which is something that is not happening here in South America.

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