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Barca make case for the defence

Barcelona Jul 7, 2014
Read

Jorge Sampaoli

Latest Team: Chile

2014 FIFA World Cup

  • 4GP
  •  
  • 2Won
  •  
  • 0Draw
  •  
  • 2Lost
  •  

Profile

Previous clubs: Belgrano de Arequito, Argentino de Rosario, Juan Aurich, Sport Boys, Coronel Bolognesi, Sporting Cristal, O'Higgins, Emelec, Universidad de Chile

Honours: Primera Division de Chile: 2011 Apertura; 2011 Clausura; Apertura, 2012; Copa Sudamericana: 2011

If ever you've fired up a game of Football Manager, or managed a team of friends to glory in a Sunday League, and wondered whether one day maybe you could manage a nation at the World Cup for real as a result of your exploits, Jorge Sampaoli's career might be the closest thing to a template to follow.

Okay, the Argentine didn't learn his trade through computer games, but he did start just about as far down the managerial ladder as it's possible to get. In 1979, at the age of 19, injury forced him out of the youth ranks of his local amateur team in Santa Fe province (he'd had a brief spell in local first division side Newell's Old Boys' famed youth system).

By the mid-1990s, he'd taken up management for one of his local amateur teams, Belgrano de Arequito. When banned from the stadium during one match in 1996, he climbed up a nearby tree to get a view of the action, and shouted instructions to his players from there; a photograph of the situation published in La Capital, Rosario's local newspaper, caught the attention of then Newell's president Eduardo López, who offered Sampaoli the charge of Argentino de Rosario, an amateur team linked to the Primera side.

Coaching Argentino until 2000, he then took a two-year break and re-emerged in Peru, where he struggled to find much success, later going to O'Higgins in Chile and Emelec in Ecuador. At the latter, he enjoyed his first taste of success, winning the first half of the 2010 championship and ending the season as runners-up.

Then, at last, came true success -- and when it arrived, it came in abundance. In just under two years in charge of Universidad de Chile, he won three back-to-back championships (like Argentina, Chile has two championships per season) and the 2011 Copa Sudamericana (the region's Europa League equivalent) and reached the semifinals of the 2012 Copa Libertadores. He won the Chilean Manager of the Year award in 2011, and that same year, Uruguayan newspaper El Pais named him the second best manager in South America, behind only Uruguay's Oscar Tabarez.

This success understandably turned heads, and in December 2012 he was offered -- and accepted -- the Chile job, with the national side on a run of three consecutive losses in qualifying and their World Cup place looking in jeopardy. Though he lost his first qualifier, things quickly picked up; Uruguay were dispatched 2-0, an always tricky visit to Paraguay resulted in a 2-1 win, and three goal hauls at home to Bolivia and Venezuela, before a 3-3 thriller away to Colombia got the ship back on an even keel before a 2-1 home win over Ecuador sealed qualification in the last match.

Strengths: Sampaoli is thoughtful and analytical, prepares his sides well and, quite clearly, ensures they enjoy playing for him. England got a taste of how much that can help during the recent friendly between the sides at Wembley.

Weaknesses: Perhaps too much cleaving to his footballing principles. It seems to be a common thread among disciples of Marcelo Bielsa.

Career high: Universidad de Chile's Copa Sudamericana win in 2011, which had fans across South America and football hipsters all over the world salivating at some truly beautiful football.

Career low: An unhappy spell at Juan Aurich, his first Peruvian club and first top-flight job, where he managed just one win in an eight-match spell.

Tactics: A Bielsista (disciple of Marcelo Bielsa) to the core, Sampaoli's sides are relentlessly attacking, though as he showed with numerous tweaks throughout the recent friendly against Brazil, his teams are incredibly versatile and can switch systems at the drop of a hat.

Quotes: 'I'm motivated by rebelliousness, by the desire to change [existing] systems... you can't ban it. If a player is satisfied with sitting on the bench, he's of no use to me." Sampaoli explains his approach to management.

Trivia: During his time managing Belgrano de Arequito, he worked in the civil registry in his local town, signing marriage, birth and death certificates, and dreaming all day of becoming a football manager.

Words: Sam Kelly and Cecilia Lagos