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SPORTS | 25-05-2024 05:17

Beware coaches… success is nothing if not ephemeral

Football is a cut-throat business, whether you are coaching at the nation's biggest clubs or fighting down the bottom of the table.

Success is nothing if not ephemeral in the wild world of Argentine football. A rapid change in fortunes is never far around the corner, ready to trip up even the best-prepared teams.

Take River Plate. After a tumultuous start to the year the Millonario looked to be firmly in the ascendancy these past few weeks. River clinched qualification to the Copa Libertadores knockout stages – the 10th consecutive season River have reached that stage or better, an outstanding achievement in itself – with ease, and began this season's Liga Profesional de Fútbol defence with two dominant victories in front of a packed Monumental to raise hopes even further.

Then along came Temperley, a team currently straddling mid-table in the bloated Primera Nacional, and the unheralded Fernando Martínez. The ex-Gimnasia trainee scored a last-minute goal to tie Wednesday's Copa Argentina clash at 1-1 before journeyman goalkeeper Pablo Rago outshined Franco Armani with two penalty saves – he claimed after the match he had dreamed exactly that outcome – to send Temperley through in the shootout. 

Two steps forward and another one back for Martín Demichelis, then, whose time in charge continues to throw up more frustration than the average River fan appreciates.

It will come as little consolation that one of his former Argentina team-mates fared even worse last week. Carlos Tevez parted company with Independiente following Saturday's dire 0-0 draw with Platense, nine months after taking over in Avellaneda and barely five since he signed a fresh contract tying him to the Rojo until December 2026.

Tevez found out the hard way about the fleeting nature of success on the bench. Carlitos had initially dispelled doubts over his appointment with a strong run of results towards the end of 2023, including victory over Racing Club in the all-important Avellaneda Clásico. But consecutive failures to reach the Copa de la Liga Profesional play-offs and, somewhat ironically, a chronic lack of goals under the ex-forward ace took their toll, as did the overwhelming pressure that comes in hand with leading one of Argentina's Grandes in this most turbulent of environments.

The truth is that this is a cut-throat business, whether you are coaching at the nation's biggest clubs or fighting down the bottom of the table. After a remarkable, even miraculous return to form under Rubén Insúa in 2023 amid financial meltdown, San Lorenzo had no qualms in sacking the Cuervo favourite as soon as results took a turn for the worse. Another club idol, Gustavo Costas at Racing Club, might well have joined Insúa on the unemployment line had La Academia not turned around their own mini-slump with recent convincing wins in the Liga and Copa Sudamericana, and his job might still be in jeopardy despite winning nine of Racing's last 12 games.

Perhaps harshest of all was the fate of one Matías Módolo: The rookie coach delivered Deportivo Riestra's first top-flight promotion in their history in December, before being booted out just three games into the 2024 season when they got off to a particularly rough start (eventually landing back in the Primera Nacional with Jujuy's Gimnasia). 

But that is the nature of the beast. You are only ever as good as your last result, and success seems to linger in supporters' minds for less and less time with every year that goes by.

 

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Dan Edwards

Dan Edwards

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