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Five Aside
By ESPN Staff

Player revolt forces out River coach

BUENOS AIRES, Jan 9 (Reuters) - River Plate coach Reinaldo Merlo resigned on Monday and said he was being forced out by pressure from the players, led by former Argentina forward Marcelo Gallardo.

Merlo, known as 'Mustard' because of the colour he dyes his hair, had been in charge since September. He led River, considered one of Argentina's top two clubs alongside Boca Juniors, to a modest sixth place in the Apertura championship which finished in December.

'Gallardo told me yesterday (Sunday) that he didn't agree with the way we were playing and that he was going to leave River,' Merlo told reporters in Mar del Plata, where the team are preparing for the second half of the Argentine season.

'We kept talking and he said that 90 percent of the squad also disagreed with my project.'

'I had a meeting with the players and explained that, as I was born and bred at River, the best thing was for me to step aside and for the players who did not like my plan to go ahead with their own plan.'

'That's all there is to it.

Merlo said the discussion happened after a goalless draw against San Lorenzo in a pre-season tournament.

The 54-year-old coach added he was also upset at a lack of reinforcements for the 2006 Libertadores Cup campaign and the Clausura championship.

'The Merlo project should start now with the five or six new players, but only one has arrived, so I have to say that my project hasn't begun,' he added.

'As long as I coach in Argentina, I will be in charge of the team and they will do what I say.'

River face Bolivia's Oriente Petrolero in the first leg of a Libertadores Cup preliminary round tie on January 26.