Former Albiceleste coach Alejandro Sabella, who led the national side to the 2014 World Cup final in Brazil, has died at the age of 66 from cancer, local media said on Tuesday.
Sabella, who played for Leeds United and Sheffield United during his career as a midfielder, picked up a virus while receiving treatment in a Buenos Aires clinic and his health deteriorated soon after, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) said.
A former player and coach with Estudiantes de la Plata, where he won the Argentine title as a player and the Copa Libertadores when the boss, the silky midfielder also played for local giants River Plate, winning the league title there too.
His coaching career was short, though, spending two years with Estudiantes and three more in charge of the national team.
But his tenure ended with a close 1-0 defeat to Germany in the World Cup final, which could have gone either way. A number of players missed good chances, as Argentina failed to claim a third title.
As a coach he focused on the team ethic and was popular amongst his players.
While Lionel Messi couldn't inspire his Sabella's team to World Cup victory six years ago, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner scored the clincher against Sabella's Estudiantes team in 2009 in the Club World Cup final for a star-studded Barcelona coached by Pep Guardiola.
Messi paid tribute to Sabella as news of his death emerged.
"It was a pleasure to share so much with you," Messi said in a post on Instagram. "Alejandro was a great person, as well as being an impressive professional who left a mark on my career and I learned a lot from him."
"We live together some of my best football memories during the World Cup qualifying stage and also at the World Cup. My condolences to all his family and friends," said the star, who posted an image of him embracing the late manager.