If local media outlets are to be believed, the uncertainty is over: Argentina’s World Cup-winning coach Lionel Scaloni is very close to renewing his contract with the national side.
According to reports, the Pujato-born 44-year-old has agreed terms on a new deal that will see him lead the Albiceleste into the next World Cup in 2026, which is set to be staged in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
The news, initially reported by TyC Sports on Wednesday and backed up a few hours later by perhaps the world’s most high-profile football journalist Fabrizio Romano, will be welcomed by fans across Argentina, who hold Scaloni in large part responsible for delivering the long-awaited third star to the national crest on the players’ shirts.
Some reports suggest that the deal is all but agreed, though Perfil reported on Thursday that Scaloni’s financial terms are still yet to be finalised.
The Qatar 2022 World Cup-winning coach is currently with his family in Mallorca, where he lives. Scaloni is due to return to the country in March for the two friendly matches scheduled for the FIFA dates, which will take place from 20 to 28 March.
Argentine Football Association (AFA) chief Claudio ‘Chiqui’ Tapia wants Scaloni to sign his new contract in that window, with the governing body intending to reward the coach for his triumphs in the 2021 Copa America, the Finalissima and the World Cup.
Tapia briefed before the tournament in Qatar that Scaloni would be invited to sign a new deal, but the coach’s success in winning Argentina’s third World Cup – a feat only matched by César Luis Menotti in 1978 and Carlos Salvador Bilardo in 1986 – made talks all the more urgent.
Scaloni, the youngest coach in charge of a national team at the tournament in Qatar, took charge of the Albiceleste in September 2018. He has coached the national side 57 times to date, winning 37, drawing 15 and losing just five games. Over that period, Argentina have scored 113 goals and conceded 35.
The former right-back was nominated earlier this month as one of the contenders for FIFA’s “The Best” Awards in the “coach of the year category, alongside Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti. AFA chief Tapia hopes to have news of the deal confirmed by then, if only to ensure that Scaloni can be introduced onstage as Argentina’s coach.
In the meantime, the ex-Deportivo La Coruña and Mallorca player is drawing up plans for next month’s friendly matches. AFA have yet to confirm the identity of Argentina’s opponents, though local sports outlets said this week that Panama have been lined up for the first match in the window, with the game likely to take place at River Plate’s Monumental stadium.
Unconfirmed reports on Monday said that Argentina also intend to play a friendly match against Bangladesh to thank the nation for their strong backing of the Albiceleste’s campaign in Qatar.
Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero announced that he would travel to Dhaka in the coming weeks to formally re-open Argentina’s Embassy in Bangladesh, which was closed in the late 1970s. The two nations are looking to boost bilateral ties and capitalise on the wild support in the Asian country for the Albiceleste, which drew global attention during the World Cup in Qatar.
It’s likely that the match will be played in June, reported local website DobleAmarilla, at the National Bangabandhu stadium in Dhaka.
Last month, Bangladesh Football Federation Vice-President Ataur Rahman Bhuiyan Manik confirmed that talks were underway over a potential match.
“Argentina are expected to come to Bangladesh to play a FIFA friendly in June. They have quite a few conditions that must be met and we are completing the final negotiations,” Manik told The Daily Star newspaper.