Other Latin American teams have reaped the benefits from giving continuity to a manager, but the coach has been pondering an exit for some time
Yon de Luisa knows how to interpret the ratings. The former Televisa vice president of sports has had his finger on the pulse of the Mexican public and what fans want for some time now. Now the newly minted president of the Federacion Mexicana de Futbol has to make choices that are more difficult than programming decisions. Starting Monday, the 47-year-old is making the calls about the direction forward for the Mexican federation.
His first order of business is to confirm the setup. How will the federation look? This, like most other choices he’ll make, will affect and is affected by his second order of business: figuring out who will lead the Mexico men’s senior national team. Juan Carlos Osorio, who has led Mexico since November 2015, looks to be on the way out. Even during the World Cup, Osorio hinted that he would be taking on other challenges after the tournament.
“I think we’ve had a good cycle. We’ve suffered, I’ve cried. But it taught me the patience to put up with things because it hasn’t been easy, but I wouldn’t change the experience for anything,” he said before Mexico’s second group match. “I’m very thankful with Mexico, with the federation, with this group of players to give me this great opportunity that I think is preparing me for any other footballing challenge.”
The fact that Osorio hasn’t been announced as the new national team manager of Colombia or the United States or at a European club indicates there is still a chance for him to retain the top position in Mexican soccer. De Luisa saw how fans went from asking for Osorio’s to be fired to literally singing his name in praise within the span of two or three matches. El Tri’s 1-0 victory over Germany to open the World Cup flipped a switch, with many Mexican fans seeing Osorio’s methods come to fruition. Players they’d criticized him for including helped Mexico beat the reigning champion of the world.
The coach’s limits also showed later in the tournament as he abandoned his principles to play the same team in a defeat against Sweden and gave in to romanticism in starting 39-year-old Rafa Marquez in the round-of-16 contest against Brazil. Yet, De Luisa is attempting to persuade Osorio to stick around, and he’s right to do so.
It is not an accident that Uruguay won four straight at the World Cup before falling to eventual champion France in the quarterfinal, nor that Colombia was on the verge of repeating its best-ever World Cup performance. These are countries that have put faith in managers and allowed them to exercise a large amount of control not only over the senior team but over the whole men’s side of the setup.
Long-time Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez engineered a youth system getting players used to the atmosphere they’ll be in at major tournaments and helping players establish connections with their national team teammates at a very young age. Colombia’s now former coach Jose Pekerman built out Argentina’s successful youth system before doing the same in Colombia. That combined with his obsessive scouting of both his players and Los Cafeteros’ opposition helped Colombia to its best World Cup finish in 2014 and a last-16 spot this year – this after consecutive cycles failing to make the World Cup.
With these examples in mind, perhaps it’s no surprise that the typically volatile group of Liga MX presidents who voice their support or displeasure with the national team manager met in Los Angeles this weekend and, according to Record, came away saying the best plan of action is to give Osorio control of whatever he wants.
The alternatives appear to be swaying Tigres coach Tuca Ferretti to take a job he repeatedly has said he is not interested in, or trying Matias Almeyda. Almeyda was successful with Chivas but would be another coach without international experience taking over El Tri.
Osorio has never purchased a house in Mexico, looking at his predecessors and deciding it would be folly to do anything but rent. After suffering years of abuse from commentators and fans who didn’t enjoy his methods, he has seemed to have one foot out the door for months. A chance to call the shots in Mexico’s youth system is one thing that could help convince him to bring that foot back in and stay in Mexico for another cycle.
The coach has a passion for developing young talent. A photographer captured a potential lineup for 2022 among the notes Osorio took to a news conference in spring. He believes Mexico has a bright future as a footballing nation, that El Tri has potential that has yet to be unlocked.
It might be a beautiful challenge to take Mexico to the next level after years of stagnation, and De Luisa has the right read that Osorio is the best realistic option for Mexico. However, the years of insults and grief Osorio has taken may have already sealed his fate.
It may be too late for Mexico to convince Osorio it’s in his best interest to stay. The damage has been done. Barring a huge reversal or an offer he simply can not refuse because of finances, the terms of employment or some combination of the two, Osorio is off to take on a different challenge.
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