Risky move for Man in Black Simeone

April 22, 2009

Diego Simeone was often described as playing with a knife between his teeth as he scowled his way through 106 internationals for Argentina.

As a coach, the former Lazio, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid player cuts an equally menacing figure as he prowls the touchline, unshaven and dressed all in black.

Simeone got off to a flying start to his coaching career by helping Estudiantes win the Apertura championship in 2006, their first major title for 23 years.

One year ago, the man who famously provoked David Beckham’s sending-off in the epic England-Argentina match at the 1998 World Cup, added another domestic title to his cabinet as his River Plate team won the Clausura championship.

By the time Alfio Basile quit as Argentina coach in October, Simeone was already being tipped as a possible replacement.

Unfortunately for Simeone, his career was by then in freefall. River suffered an unprecedented 11-match winless run which left them at the bottom of the table and Simeone quit. In between, Diego Maradona came from nowhere to be given the Argentina job.

Simeone has now been given the chance to resurrect his career at San Lorenzo, another of Argentina’s big clubs. But he has made a risky move.

San Lorenzo are in disarray, weighed down by debts and with an expensive squad of under-achieving players which is expected to be disbanded at the end of the current season in June.

He is going to have to rebuild it on a greatly reduced budget, yet the supporters’ expectations will remain as high as ever.

If Simeone can rebuild San Lorenzo, he will have put his career firmly back on track. If he fails, then San Lorenzo could go down the same path as the likes of Independiente and Racing Club, two other big clubs who have seen themselves overtaken by smaller rivals such as Lanus and Arsenal.

And if that happens, then Simeone will run the risk of becoming a journeyman coach who flits from club to club.

PHOTO: Diego Simeone, head coach of Argentina’s River Plate, looks down during their first-leg quarter-final Copa Sudamericana soccer match against Mexico’s Chivas Guadalajara in Buenos Aires, October 22, 2008. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

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