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Can new Atletico coach do a Guardiola?

February 4, 2009

Atletico Madrid’s decision to appoint Abel Resino as coach in place of the mild-mannered Javier Aguirre should help placate disgruntled fans and unsettled players.

Whether it will help them fulfil their aspirations of European success is a trickier question.

The 49-year-old Resino played at Atletico for most of his career, but has no track record coaching a major club.

He may well make light of that disadvantage, but banking on Resino to do a Guardiola and immediately set the world to rights is a gamble indeed.

Atletico are a difficult club to manage after all.

Mexican Aguirre’s two-and-a-half year term brought a measure of stability after the arrival and departure of a stream of coaches since they last won the title in the 1995/96 season under Radomir Antic.

Aguirre was sacked after his failure to win a match this year pushed the club down to seventh, five points short of the lucrative Champions League qualification places.

Resino, who was Atletico’s keeper from the mid-1980s to the mid-90s, needs to move fast if he is to turn things around before the first-leg tie against Porto on Feb. 24 in the last 16 of the Champions League.

It’s a tough ask for a man whose only coaching experience in Spain’s highest league was at Levante, the Valencia club he took over in January 2007 and helped avoid relegation.

He was sacked in October 2007 after the club slipped to the bottom of the table with only one point from their opening seven matches and they went down at the end of the season.

He has done reasonably well at second-division Castellon this term, with the club currently sixth in the standings, six points behind leaders Xerez.

At a news conference at the Calderon on Tuesday evening, Resino said he was full of desire and energy and set qualification for next season’s Champions League as his goal.

“We have an excellent squad and the immediate priority is to restore the confidence of the players,” he said. “Qualification for the Champions League should be the natural state of affairs for this club.”

The real long-term goal for the new coach is keeping Atletico’s stars at the other end of the pitch happy, including prize asset Sergio Aguero.

Aguero, who forms a formidable attacking line with Uruguayan Diego Forlan, Argentine compatriot Maxi Rodriguez and Portugal’s Simao Sabrosa, said he has no plans to leave but Argentina coach Diego Maradona, the father of his partner Giannina, recently advised him to seek a move to Inter Milan.

Like many Spanish clubs, Atletico are suffering from financial problems and cashing in on the 20-year-old Aguero must be a big temptation.

Their best chance of keeping Kun at the club will be to keep on qualifying for the Champions League. So not much pressure on Resino, then…

PHOTO: Atletico Madrid’s Sergio “Kun” Aguero reacts after missing a chance against Malaga during their match at La Rosaleda, Jan. 25, 2009. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

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