Edgardo Bauza is Argentina’s new national team coach. The appointment was announced on Monday 1 August by Armando Perez, the chair of the Argentinian Football Association’s Regularisation Committee.

“We’ve spent the last five days working, and one of the most important things was appointing a new coach,” said Perez at a short press conference held at the AFA’s offices in Buenos Aires. “We have decided therefore to name Edgardo Bauza as the national team coach. We hope he enjoys the success we need.

“The contract has to be as long as possible. If things go well, it will run up to Russia,” said Perez, who did not deny having met with other coaches, among them Miguel Angel Russo and Ramon Diaz. He also confirmed that the AFA had been in discussion with Sevilla about the possibility of triggering the sizeable release clause in the contract the Spanish club has just signed with Jorge Sampaoli.

The 58-year-old Bauza was in discussions with Sao Paulo late on Monday, putting an end to his contract with the Brazilian club, which announced the news of his appointment on social media, before the AFA press conference.

“Sao Paulo FC wishes to announce that it has been informed by Edgardo Bauza that he has received an offer from the AFA on Monday evening to coach the national team and will now leave his post as Tricolor coach,” it said in its statement. “Appointed at the start of the season, El Patón leaves the club after eight months, having done a significant amount of rebuilding work.”

Next steps
In replacing Gerardo Martino, who vacated the national team job on 5 July, Bauza will become Argentina’s sixth coach in the last decade. Perez said he would be officially unveiled on Friday 5 August in Buenos Aires.

Bauza’s first assignment as Albiceleste coach will be the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying double header at home to Uruguay and away to Venezuela in September. In the meantime, he will have to find out if he can count on the services of Lionel Messi, who retired from international football following the defeat to Chile in the final of the Copa America Centenario. “Bauza is in contact with him, or he will be,” said Perez.

From pitch to dugout
Born in Granadero Baigorria, Santa Fe, Bauza started out at Rosario Central, the club where he spent most of his 15-year playing career, excelling as a disciplined yet combative central defender with a gift for goalscoring. So adept was he at finding the back of the net, in fact, that he lies fourth behind Ronald Koeman, Daniel Passarella and Fernando Hierro as the highest-scoring defender of all time with 108 goals.

A contemporary of Passarella and Oscar Ruggeri’s, Bauza enjoyed few opportunities with the national team, though he did form part of the squad that finished runners-up at the 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy™. “He was always the ultimate professional. He never complained about not playing a single minute at that World Cup,” said an appreciative Carlos Bilardo, who coached that Albiceleste team.

Bauza’s first coaching appointment came at his beloved Rosario Central, in 1998, six years after he hung up his boots, with current Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi among the players under his tutelage. The new coach almost tasted success straightaway, taking Central to the final of the 1998 Copa Conmebol and to the runners-up slot in the Argentinian Apertura the following year.

Striking a balance
“I can be a very hard taskmaster when it comes to work,” he told the magazine El Gráfico, describing his approach to his job. Skilled in the art of putting together defensively well-drilled teams, Bauza has made a habit of getting the most out of the squads at his disposal and treating all players alike, regardless of their status.

He proved that in 2008 by making Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito the first Ecuadorian club to win the Copa Libertadores, a triumph sealed against Fluminense at the Estadio Maracana. Liga de Quito went on to reach the final of the FIFA Club World Cup that year, going down 1-0 to Manchester United.

Mighty Argentinian club San Lorenzo then turned to him in their continuing quest to win their first Libertadores, with El Patón duly obliging, becoming the first coach to lift the trophy with two clubs from different countries.

“That team played very direct football in winning the Argentinian title. They were formidable going forward but lacked solidity at the back. What we did was find a little balance. That was the key to success,” he told FIFA.com before appearing at his second Club World Cup, where he lost another final, this time to Real Madrid, by two goals to nil.

Bauza was given another restructuring job by Sao Paulo. And not for the first time, he was up to the task, steering the Brazilians to the semi-finals of this year’s Libertadores, where they lost to eventual champions Atletico Nacional.

“Who wouldn’t want to coach the national team?” said the Argentinian coach after that defeat, responding to rumours of his possible appointment as Albiceleste boss.

The experienced Bauza now has the task of convincing Messi to return to the national team fold, which will be crucial to ensuring he achieves his first objective of securing Argentina’s place at Russia 2018.