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Montevideo, May 19th 2024 - 07:26 UTC



Legendary Argentine football coach César Menotti dies aged 85

Monday, May 6th 2024 - 08:34 UTC
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Menotti coached Argentina to the world title in 1978 and was manager of all national teams at the FA at the time of his death Menotti coached Argentina to the world title in 1978 and was manager of all national teams at the FA at the time of his death

César Luis Menotti, the man who coached Argentina to their first World Cup title in 1978 at home and was in charge of the Argentine Football Association (AFA) management that put together the team that won the Qatar 2022 version, died Sunday in Buenos Aires, aged 85. Menotti had been hospitalized weeks ago with a severe anemia but was discharged days later.

 “Deep sorrow for the departure of the leader of a group that has given one of the greatest joys to the country. Although I adhere to another school, it would be foolish to deny the contribution of César Luis Menotti,” wrote Argentine President Javier Milei on X. “Farewell Flaco...”

“The Argentine Football Association regrets to inform with enormous sadness the death of César Luis Menotti, current Director of National Teams and former World Champion coach of @Argentina. See you always, Flaco querido!,” read an AFA posting on social media.

National team captain Lionel Messi described his fellow Rosario-born Menotti as “one of the great references of our football.”

“Menotti was the one who told me that [Lionel] Scaloni had to be the coach of the National Team and have a contract until the end of the World Cup, whatever the result,” AFA President Claudio Chiqui Tapia admitted while Scaloni recalled Menotti's “endearing talks” which left “a mark” on him.

Born on Nov. 5, 1938, El Flaco's playing career included Boca Juniors (1965 champion), Racing Club, and Rosario Central, as well as and Brazil's Santos (1968 Paulista champions). He then surged into the limelight for coaching Huracán to their first professional era title in 1973 in a team that featured René Houseman, Miguel Brindisi, Omar Larrosa, Carlos Babington, and Jorge Carrascosa. Except Larrosa, all the others played for Argentina in West Germany 1974. However, Larrosa and Houseman would be the only ones on the 1978 roster because Babington and Brindisi were playing in Europe and Menotti insisted on summoning only those from the local league, with one exception: Mario Alberto Kempes. Carrascosa was still playing for Huracán in 1978 but declined Menotti's call out of political discrepancies with the Militay Junta ruling Argentina back then.

After Argentina's poor performnce in West Germany 1974 and with Huracán's accomplishment, Menotti was soon retained by the Argentine Football Association. But he turned in his resignation after the March 24, 1976, coup d'état. However, AFA President Alfredo Cantilo turned it down. ”He was the most loyal guy of all the leaders I knew, and he defended me when I signed the petition (for the disappeared),“ Menotti said in a magazine interview.

When putting together the 1978 squad, Menotti made a key choice when he left out the then-promising midfielder Diego Armando Maradona, whom he then coached in 1979 to the World Junior Cup title in Japan.

Menotti also coached Argentina's unsuccessful title defense in Spain 1982 despite the joint forces of Kempes and Maradona, at a time the country was engaged in a war with the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands/Malvinas.

After that, he coached Barcelona and Atlético de Madrid in Spain, Argentina's Boca Juniors, River Plate and Independiente, and Uruguay's Peñarol.

An avid reader of Jorge Luis Borges whom he even met, Menotti was deemed ”a lyricist“ of football. Houseman once recalled that Menotti's key to success was to pick talented players and then tell them to go on the pitch and ”do your stuff.“ Menotti never hid his admiration for players such as Johan Cruyff, Alfredo Di Stéfano, Maradona, and Messi.

”A football is a cultural fact that in Argentina was manufactured through the corners of the neighborhoods, it is not that great economic powers came and said: 'We are going to create clubs'. The club is created by the neighborhood, the neighbor and the dreams of the new generations that continue to defend them,“ Menotti said in one of his last interviews.

”When I see these struggles to privatize, I get very upset. Privatize what? It hurts me a lot. I really feel a danger because of the deep deculturation that Argentina is suffering,” he added.

No wonder Milei -who tried a career in professional footbal as a goalkeeper in his junior years- stands on opposite sides. He is about to meet with FIFA President Gianni Infantino to discuss precisely those privatizations Menotti so despised.

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