Pep Guardiola always goes out of his way to claim that player signings and contracts are the exclusive domain of his great friend and Manchester City director of football, Txiki Begiristain.
“Ask Txiki”, or a variant of it, is usually repeated in any press conference question about a new but yet to be confirmed arrival.
Of course, no player will enter the carefully cultivated first-team environment of the Premier League champions with Guardiola’s nod, and the youngster expected to be their next attacking chant comes with a pedigree to delight the boss of the Town.
“What Gallardo has done with River is unbelievable,” Guardiola told TNT Sports in 2019, discussing Marcelo Gallardo’s impressive tenure in charge of Boca Juniors giants River Plate.
“Some things are inexplicable. Every year three coaches are named the best in the world, and he is never among them. I can’t understand it. It’s like there is nothing else in the world apart from Europe.”
Gallardo was appointed in 2014 and his haul of trophies at River now stands at 14 after Manchester City striker Julián Álvarez starred as top scorer in the 2021 First Division triumph.
“In the recent history of River, Gallardo is a before and after, a turning point”, Dan Edwardswhich covers Argentine and South American soccer for Goal.com, said The city is our.
“Before Gallardo came in, they were really a club on the way down. They had been relegated for the first time in their history and worked their way back. They were rebuilding.
“They had won the league again before he took over, but they were a team without an identity, full of mediocre players who didn’t really make much of a difference.
“Gallardo understands what River is about. It has always been a team that wants to play with the front foot, attacking, with possession”.
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The great club Enzo Francescolli has been a wonderful ally for Gallardo, the Begiristain for his Guardiola as a cunning manager.
Senior and youth players have been recruited according to Gallardo’s trademark style of high-pressure, high-tempo football that features frequent exchanges of positions between players and adjustments in play to formation.
In case you still haven’t figured it out, Guardiola and Gallardo share a mutual admiration for Marcelo Bielsa.
“River presses more than anyone in Argentine soccer, River runs more than anyone in Argentine soccer, has more shots, scores more goals,” Edwards explained.
“He has won over the neutrals. Personally, I don’t have any type of loyalty to River, but I can say that it is one of the games that you look at in the list of games every weekend and say that it will be worth watching.
If Álvarez completes a move to City on a five-year deal in the coming days, he is expected to be loaned back to River until July this year, possibly later in the calendar if Gallardo’s men remain in contention for a third Copa Libertadores in its history. reign.
But the 21-year-old’s departure, when he arrives, won’t present a particularly new problem for River’s boss, who has made a habit of persistently reshaping a team stripped of their star names every year, many of them like Alvarez, who has started of the youth ranks
Gallardo’s own contract expires at the end of 2022 and questions remain over whether he will bring his talents east for those poor blind souls Guardiola feels are missing out.
“We have a habit of thinking that when you are doing well in South America, the next logical step is to go to Europe; it’s built into the way you watch football, even for those of us who cover South America. football,” Edwards added.
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“But with Gallardo extending his contract [last year]… I thought this might have been the year he would take six months off and then see what happens in the northern hemisphere in the summer.
“It didn’t happen and maybe Gallardo is happy at River. Maybe he will leave next December, but I don’t know if he is motivated to take a job in Europe. It would be a dangerous assumption, considering how long he has been at River, to say that the European job is the beginning and the end. Maybe it isn’t.
Even if Gallardo doesn’t end up following his latest protégé to Europe, City fans should be in no doubt that the lavishly gifted Álvarez has enjoyed an upbringing that puts him in tune with Guardiola’s footballing vision.
When we look at the reasons why Álvarez is likely to go straight from Argentina to the Premier League with no more interim loans, the man who has guided him from the bench to this breaking point is pretty close to the top of the list.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.