Jorge Sampaoli and Argentina part company: Effects on both parties
Jorge Sampaoli has parted ways with the Argentina national team after fallout from La Albiceleste's poor outing at the 2018 World Cup. This came after a mutual agreement by the Argentine Football Association (AFA) and the coach, to immediately terminate his contract. Sampaoli's time with the team has been riddled with problems as he struggled to bring out the best from a talented national side that has grossly underperformed in recent times.
The former Sevilla boss was in charge of the Albiceleste for just over a year, he leaves the side no better than it was before he took over. After reaching the 2014 World Cup final in Brazil, the team struggled under Gerardo Martino and Edgardo Bauza. Sampaoli was expected to replicate his heroics for the Chilean national team with Argentina. He led La Roja to their first ever Copa America title win in 2015. Incidentally, he beat Argentina in the final.
So when Argentina were looking for a proven winner to end their string of near misses, they went for their conqueror. Unfortunately, the plan failed woefully at the first attempt, as the team and indeed the whole country was embarrassed in the very first competition under the 58-year-old gaffer.
After struggling through the CONMEBOL qualifiers to get to the event, it took an 85th-minute strike by Marcos Rojo to save the team from group stage elimination. But the inevitable was only delayed for one more match as they were booted out in the next match by eventual winners France. The disappointment was felt far and wide as so much expectation was placed on the team due to the presence of Lionel Messi.
The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has shown in Barcelona what an influence he can be to a side. His years with the club have been extremely productive as he has hardly gone a season without silverware. Having continuously failed with the national team, Russia 2018 provided a unique and perhaps final opportunity to remedy the situation. But both he and the other players failed to live up to expectations. They drew lowly-rated Iceland in the first match and were pummeled 3-0 by Croatia in the second game. It took until the last five minutes of the last group game to squeeze through to the next round.
After the poor performance in the group stage, the players were rumoured to be against the manager. Javier Mascherano denied such reports in a press conference. But with the prevailing atmosphere in the team, it was clear changes were going to be made after the tournament. So this latest development comes as no surprise.
What are the implications of the decision for both parties?
For Sampaoli, this is no new experience as he has been fired several times in his managerial career. Hiring and firing has become the norm in the game for managers. A couple of weeks or months on the sidelines and there will be another top side beckoning for his services.
Having done a reasonably good job at Sevilla as he led them to a fourth-place finish in the 2016-17 La Liga season, this puts him in good stead to return to club football. Some other national sides, especially in South America, may also look at his achievements with Chile and feel he can come good again.
For Argentina, the problem goes beyond the manager. Most of the present crop of players have come full circle with the national team. It's time for a change. The old guard needs to give way for a new set of players to take centre-stage.
The change must start with their talisman and captain. He must lead the way by stepping aside for the next generation. Other players who have served the country with dedication through the years will also need to follow suit. Whoever takes over as the new manager will have to start on a clean slate.