Is Ricardo Ferretti the right coach for Mexico?
Mexico's interim coach, Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti, told two journalists -- whom he called his "sons" -- on Monday that he would be writing them into his will. One is to get the Ferrari, the other the Lamborghini, said Ferretti. Clearly, 41 uninterrupted years working in Mexico's first division, first as a player and then as a manager, has its financial rewards.
Ferretti began the same pregame news conference by asking if any female reporters had any questions, so they could go first. He went on to wonder aloud whether the players would let him play "and win" during the subsequent training session. He wasn't joking, either. Within an hour of the news conference ending inside Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee, the 64-year-old Ferretti had showed he still has skills on the pitch as well, netting a perfectly weighted free-kick from the edge of the area.
The recent camp -- including losses against Uruguay and the United States -- was a snapshot of what life under Ferretti could look like if, after the back-and-forth, he is appointed the full-time national team manager.
If anyone in North American soccer didn't already know, this is a manager who dances to a different beat and isn't suddenly going to become flustered because he's the Mexico national team manager.
The basis of that is his experience in Mexico. Ferretti knows the talking heads on television and a lot of the journalists at news conferences, can dial up Liga MX club directors and can find out about players' personal lives within one or two phone calls.
This is a coach who famously has never been fired, and those who have followed him won't get any shocks or surprises about what makes him tick should he take over El Tri.
With Ferretti, you know what you are getting: the best head coach in Liga MX's recent history and a safe pair of hands.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that he is the best person for the job, and it isn't difficult to see why the federation seems to be tempted.
Ferretti is a self-described "foot soldier" employed to do a job for his bosses. And during his coaching career he's generally succeeded.
The Brazilian won a title at Chivas in 1997, lifted another title at Pumas in 2009, while introducing youth team players, and is currently on track to make Tigres the team of the decade with four Liga MX trophies since 2011.
There have been some comments about his record at promoting young players and it is true that if every Liga MX club had the same record of promoting youngsters as Ferretti's Tigres, the future of the national team would be much darker than currently. The mission at Tigres is not to promote youngsters but to win trophies. And Ferretti has done that.
At the Mexico national team, the immediate goal for Ferretti would be to carry on the generational change that he's tentatively started over the past week, bringing along younger players while keeping the experienced, Europe-based ones on side and available. It's going to be a delicate process, squarely because the likes of Hector Herrera, Andres Guardado, Javier Hernandez and Miguel Layun have plenty still to give to El Tri.
It'll take a shrewd manager to negotiate the change en route to Qatar 2022, but the decision as to who should take over must naturally look beyond Ferretti.
The Tigres coach prioritizes keeping possession, patient build-up and what is essentially a game of percentages. It suits Mexican players, but it isn't cutting edge on a world level, and if there is a criticism of his time at Tigres it is that often the team seems to play with the handbrake still half-on, as though there is more to come from a supremely talented squad.
Ferretti's outlook as a coach has been molded between Brazil and Mexico, and while he's more of a connoisseur about the world game than he lets on, taking the players to the beach for grueling preseason running sessions and the traditional cascarita (informal game) the day before games don't point to a coach who is at the forefront as the global game in terms of progressive ideas.
And in the context of the often-insular Mexican game, that poses a problem. Former El Tri coach Juan Carlos Osorio may have had analysts and fans pulling their hair out at times, but the Colombian's forward thinking won over the group of players, eased them through qualifying and earned perhaps Mexico's greatest-ever victory at the World Cup.
It would be strange in some ways for Mexico to have offered Osorio a contract extension, but then to fall back on Ferretti as the long-term option.
But the decision as to whether to look outside of Mexico is naturally conditioned by the interest of foreign coaches. In the background are Matias Almeyda and Jorge Sampaoli, as well as a host of options that could include Quique Sanchez Flores, Frank de Boer or Ariel Holan. Nestor Pekerman has also been mentioned, although it is difficult to believe the former Argentina and Colombia coach would be interested.
There are interesting names, but no perfect candidate.
The decision is especially tough because Ferretti is not going to accept being part of the pack chasing for the Mexico position. It's either move heaven and earth to bring in Ferretti, or take a risk, roll the dice and see what other projects are out there.
If Ferretti is the chosen one, the FMF will need to act swiftly.