National team coach Jorge Sampaoli is heading for the exit door following his team's World Cup elimination by France, reports in local outlets suggested today.
Rumoured to be at odds with his players, including captain Lionel Messi, Sampaoli is expected to be sacked after just a year in charge, even though there are another four years to run on his contract.
"More alone than a lone madmen," screamed sports newspaper Olé on its front page Monday. "The exit is that way."
The problem lies, though, in Sampaoli's reluctance to resign and a contract clause that would oblige the Argentine Football Association (AFA) to pay the 58-year-old around US$15 million (13 million euros) to get rid of him, reports said.
"Management want Sampaoli to go, but the coach is resisting," added Olé, which organised a poll among 100,000 Argentines and found 82 percent wanted rid of the former Chile and Sevilla boss.
Sampaoli's record since he was hired in June 2017 makes grim reading given the Albiceleste's usually high standards: seven wins, four draws and four defeats in 15 matches.
He was hired with a big reputation after guiding Chile to the 2015 Copa América title – beating Argentina on penalties in the final.
He took over the reins of the Albiceleste with the two-time world champions struggling to qualify for the finals in Russia after an underwhelming World Cup qualification campaign. Sampaoli's team drew the first three qualifiers of his rein but Messi scored a hat-trick in a 3-1 win at Ecuador in the final match to send Argentina to Russia.
But things quickly turned sour during the tournament itself as Messi missed a penalty in a 1-1 draw with minnows Iceland, followed by a chastening 3-0 defeat to Croatia.
Newspaper Clarín attributed "40 sins" to Sampaoli in an article, including "never fielding the same side two matches running" and "arguing with his assistant [Sebastián] Beccacece in front of the players".
Television viewers also saw Sampaoli cutting an increasingly isolated figure during the thrilling 4-3 defeat to France on Saturday, celebrating his side's goals on his own with neither players nor members of staff joining him.
He did not win any fans by describing elimination as "a frustration" rather than a "failure."
His compatriots, Mauricio Pochettino of Tottenham and Atlético Madrid's Diego Simeone, have been touted in the press as possible replacements, although it remains to be seen if either would be interested in the job, with both having long-term contracts with their clubs and stability in their current posts.
Sampaoli is expected to arrive back in Buenos Aires on Wednesday with his backroom staff but not the players, who have already left Russia by their own means.