Madrid: After guiding River Plate to their second Copa Libertadores in four seasons, coach Marcelo Gallardo seems destined for a move to Europe but his players are hoping his bond with the Argentine giants will keep him in Buenos Aires a while longer.
“He will go to Europe at some point, but right now he’s at his home and it’s hard for him to leave,” team captain Leonardo Ponzio said after River’s 3-1 win over arch rivals Boca Juniors.
“It’s important that he has told us for now he wants to stay. But, of course, like everyone else one day he will go to Europe.”
Gallardo, a cultured midfielder who played part of his career at Monaco and Paris St-Germain, is well aware that Argentine talent inevitably heads to Europe and he will also be aware that his compatriots are currently in vogue as coaches.
Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs, Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds and Diego Simeone and Santiago Solari in Madrid are among the Argentines making a name for themselves far from home.
Gallardo’s success will surely lead to offers and his colleagues say there is every reason to believe he can repeat his success at the highest level.
“There are three words that define him: quality, determination and effort,” said his assistant Matias Biscay.
“He has so much determination to improve and to get others to improve. He demands a lot of himself and of others, he tries to get the best out of every player.” Gallardo was christened “El Muneco” (The Doll) by the older players at River Plate when he joined the club as a 16-year old but the nickname does not reflect his underlying mental strength and willingness to win. Gallardo watched Sunday’s final from the stands as he served a touchline ban imposed after the semi-final against holder Gremio.
He had been banned from the dressing room for a previous infraction but with his team 1-0 down and heading out, he ignored the ban and gave a team talk that inspired his side to a 2-1 win and a place in the final.
He was then banned from entering the stadium for the final’s first leg on Nov. 11 and forced to watch the second leg at the Bernabeu from the stands.
His mentality, however, has transferred over to his players.
“Muneco has a very clear message and he’s convinced about what he does,” Ponzio said.
“The group manifests itself in his image.”