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La Volpe opens his mouth and puts his foot in it
Mexico’s recent tribulations — four coaches in the last three years, two defeats to Honduras in five months, an even more humiliating loss in Jamaica — have left many supporters with a certain nostalgia for former coach Ricardo La Volpe.
Gruff and outspoken, La Volpe brought almost unprecedented stability between 2002 and 2006 as he actually completed the four-year cycle between World Cups. He made Mexico one of the world’s most tactically versatile teams, boldly drafted in numerous young players and enjoyed competitive wins over both Brazil and Argentina.
Now coach of Mexican club Atlas, La Volpe is still producing the goods and has taken the unfashionable side on an impressive nine-match unbeaten run which has included a 1-0 win away to their more powerful neighbours Guadalajara.
Yet, not for the first time, La Volpe has threatened to undo his good work on the field with his comments off it. Tact is not his strong point, as he proved once again with a stunning public attack on his squad.
“We don’t have any players who can tip the balance of a match,” he complained, adding that if the players did not understand his tactics — a criticism which has been levelled at him in the past — then they should leave.
“The players have to adapt to me, not the other way around. I’m 57 years old and I can’t change my style. My team plays the way I want and if they can’t understand it, their agents should go and look for another team as we can always sell them.”
It has been like this throughout his recent career. La Volpe spent most of his time as Mexico coach squabbling with the media, saying: “Seventy-per cent of journalists are really, really bad.”
He threatened to quit four times, backtracking on each occasion by saying his remarks had been misinterpreted. He left the talented Cuauhtemoc Blanco out of the World Cup squad while including his own son-in-law Rafael Garcia despite only a handful of appearances in the run-up to the tournament.
He is also not renowned for being a gracious loser. After a World Cup qualifying defeat in the United States La Volpe said: “It’s easy for them, because they aren’t playing under any pressure. My mother, my grandmother or my great grandmother could play in a team like that.”
He fell foul of FIFA’s no smoking rules at the Confederations Cup and committed a gaffe on the eve of the World Cup when he appeared in a soft drinks commercial for a rival of one of the Mexican federation’s own sponsors.
After leaving Mexico, he joined Argentina’s most popular club Boca Juniors and celebrated his home debut by pulling a bright red tie out of his wardrobe — a colour which represents their rivals River Plate.
After coaching Velez Sarsfield, La Volpe moved back to Mexico to Monterrey where he stoked up the rivalry with UANL Tigres by describing them as boring.
“I’d rather go shopping than watch them play,” he said. “If that’s football, I’m going to take up baseball.”
PHOTO: Ricardo Lavolpe as head coach of Argentine soccer club Velez Sarfield, April 2007. REUTERS/Andres Stapff