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By ESPN Staff

Passarella back at River Plate helm

BUENOS AIRES, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Former Argentina captain and manager Daniel Passarella was named as the new coach of River Plate on Tuesday, returning for a second stint at the club where he built his career.

Passarella, who captained Argentina when they hosted and won the 1978 World Cup and coached the side which reached the quarter-finals eight years ago, replaced Reinaldo Merlo after he resigned the day before.

'It's an enormous pleasure for me to be here, to return to the club which gave me everything in my sporting career and I hope to meet the expectations,' the former central defender told reporters as he was officially presented.

'They say that the second time around is never good but I don't want to waste this chance for me, the team and the institution.'

River are considered one of Argentina's top two clubs alongside Boca Juniors, but failed to win either of the two domestic championships played last year and fell in the semi-finals of the South American Libertadores Cup.

The 52-year-old's appointment came amid speculation over the team's top player, former AS Monaco forward Marcelo Gallardo, who was at the centre of Merlo's resignation.

Merlo walked out of the club after only four months, saying that Gallardo and 90 percent of the squad were opposed to his working methods.

Gallardo himself was reported on Tuesday to be leaving the club but club president Jose Maria Aguilar said he wanted the former Argentina international to stay.

Passarella declined to comment on the situation.

The new coach's priority will be this year's Libertadores, a competition River won in 1986 and 1996 but which has recently brought a series of frustrations including 2004's semi-final elimination at the hands of bitter rivals Boca.

Passarella played at River from 1974 to 1981 before moving to Italy where he spent four seasons with Fiorentina and two with Inter Milan.

He then returned to Argentina for a swansong with River as a player before coaching the side from 1991 to 1994, winning three domestic titles in his four years in charge.

Passarella then spent the next four years in charge of the national side, where he controversially banned ear-rings and long hair.

That was followed by disappointing spells in charge of Uruguay, Italian club Parma and Brazil's Corinthians, where he was fired last May after only 15 matches.