The Apertura is over, then, and immediately the game of managerial musical chairs has started. Diego Simeone leaving Estudiantes was probably the least surprising development, whilst elsewhere Ossie Ardiles has walked out on Huracán. Gustavo Costas, recently relieved of his responsibilities at Racing, is set to take on a foreign posting…
Simeone’s exit was as surprising for the citizens of La Plata as the sunrise, after the week he’d had at Estudiantes, arguing with the directors over various transfer policies. Most notably, Simeone wanted guarantees that Juan Sebastián Verón would have his contract renewed rather than go to play with D.C. United in MLS. In the end, the board’s refusal to give cast-iron guarantees got too much for Simeone, who’s left. Verón, for those who are wondering, has said he’ll make a decision on his own future when the identity of El Cholo‘s successor is known, but the smart money is on him making the move.
Ardiles marching out on Huracán, meanwhile, was a bit more of an eyebrow-raiser. Ardiles had performed well for his old club, winning six and losing only three of his twelve matches, and leading them to a seventh-place finish, but fell out publicly with club president Carlos Babington over, among other things, unpaid wages to his players. Also complaining about having had to pay his own plane ticket to Argentina from England, and paying for the hotel he stayed in whilst searching for a home out of his own pocket, Ardiles found Babington’s offer of a contract extension – on lower wages – the final insult, and left on Sunday.
It’s the second time this season that Babington’s fallen out with a manager who seemed to have the club going places – Ardiles was only called in because Antonio ‘Turco‘ Mohamed had quit citing similar grievances back in September. Babington claimed he was ‘greatly surprised’ by Ossie’s decision to get out while he could. Really, Carlos?!
The ‘in’ door could be busy later in the week at two other clubs, though. First the obvious one, that we’ve all seen coming for at least the last week or so: Diego Simeone was favourite for the River Plate job before he quit Estudiantes, but now that’s happened the press are all but reporting it as a done deal. He’s expected to be unveiled on Thursday, and if that does happen there’s a chance – just a chance – that he might be asking for a very special Christmas gift: his reported list of transfer targets is headed by Internazionale frontman Hernán Crespo. Crespo himself has said it would be ‘a utopic dream’ to play for River again, but that right now Inter are the reality, and he’s very happy there. Simeone, though, is the man who talked Verón back to Estudiantes 18 months ago, so who knows?
Paraguayan club Olimpia could be bringing in a new boss as well, and for some reason the directors at Paraguay’s biggest club seem delighted at the prospect. Olimpia haven’t had the best time of it recently, passing through a crisis since winning their third Copa Libertadores in 2002. A fourth-place finish in the most recent league championship, however, has qualified them for next year’s Sudamericana. They’ve given Costas – who before going to Racing had managed Olimpia’s rivals Cerro Porteño – a two-year contract.
And Racing’s directors themselves have decided, in the wake of Lanús’s championship win under a manager who was given plenty of time to develop his ideas, that sticking with their man is the best policy. Miguel Micó, they insist, is the right man for the job and will be given their full support as manager in 2008, as long as they can’t find anyone better. Yes, that’s the kind of decisive directorial thinking that’s got Racing to the position they’re in today. Good stuff.