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River and Marcelo Gallardo, Signs of a Worn Out Cycle?

The 'millionaire' club, the most important in Argentina, along with Boca Juniors, is going through a long crisis of results that raises the question of whether the time of the remembered former player on the white and red bench should end

Marcelo Gallardo

Photo: Flickr-Public Media EP

LatinAmerican Post | Onofre Zambrano

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Leer en español: River y Marcelo Gallardo ¿señales de un ciclo desgastado?

Eight years accumulates Marcelo "Muñeco" Gallardo as technical director of River Plate. It was in 2014 when Gallardo took office, replacing Ramón Díaz, perhaps without imagining that he would lead the 'millionaire' club to one of the most glorious cycles in its history, adding 773 points in 414 games with 221 wins, valid for obtaining two Copa Libertadores titles, a league title and three Argentine Cups, among others.

In today's football, in which results prevail over processes in which there are few examples of continuity, except for Diego 'Cholo' Simeone at Atlético de Madrid, Gallardo's is very prominent. However, history shows that clubs with a winning generation typically begin to decline in performance once they have peaked. That could be the case of this River Plate.

In the defeat a few days ago in the Clásico de Argentina against Boca Juniors, the team left a poor image in the generation of the game. Consequently, the alarms went off before it stopped being the great continental candidate -taking into account the power of the Brazilians- and that at the local level it no longer frequently scores victories.

Since Marcelo took charge of River, only once had he had to witness the celebration of the premises in La Bombonera. It was in 2015 when his cast fell to Rodolfo Arruabarrena's with goals from Pablo Pérez and Cristian Pavón.

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The “Muñeco” Is More than a Technician

For those outside the club, it seems obvious that the cycle of the Buenos Aires strategist has already given what it had to give, but for the “millionaire” environment it is much more difficult to see it that way. The team has created an emotional bond with Gallardo, as a result of his positive results over almost a decade and his time as a player, in which he was a benchmark.

A strange fact surrounds Marcelo's cycle, and it is that it was not until his sixth year, 2021, that he was able to win the league title, the only one so far. 2022 seems to mark a clear involution in the operation of the team after being eliminated just in the round of 16 of the Copa Libertadores. Apart from that, in the domestic tournament the team is eighth, far from usual.

Since 2019, just after losing the Copa Libertadores final to Flamengo 2-1 in Lima, there has been talk of the end of Gallardo's cycle. But the strategist, who has been located in different clubs in Mexico and Europe, has remained faithful to the millionaire cause, where he is well paid.

It does not seem to be an easy link to break, and that is because the fundamental stone on which he built his figure has to do with the three victories over Boca in international cup matches. The "Muñeco" accumulates 21 titles with the red band, 8 as a footballer and 13 as DT.

Renovation, but in a Weak Market

The transfer market has not been the most positive for River Plate in the winter, as they saw Brian Romero, one of their most effective attackers, leave. They could not finalize the signing of the Uruguayan international Luis Suárez, who preferred to play this semester with his country's Nacional. By the same time, the Chilean Juan Pablo Solari and the Colombian Miguel Ángel Borja, have not been able to demonstrate their goalscoring abilities.

Many attackers and little reinforcement of their midfield and defensive lines, in which, for example, a veteran like Javier Pinola, 39, continues to be a reference. Other relevant names such as Juan Fernando Quintero and Enzo Pérez are not at their best level. Gallardo has little to do with these movements, but the truth is that the new board trusts him to reverse the situation.

The leader of this new leadership, its president Jorge Brito, renewed Gallardo's contract for one year and logic indicates that it ends in December. Perhaps there are only three months of opportunity for River to recover that performance it had between 2015 and 2018, which allowed it to be the best team on the continent.

A Cycle Endorsed in Numbers

Under the command of 'Muñeco', Núñez's team played 213 games for the local tournament, winning 108, drawing 59 and losing only 46, for a total of 379 points. During the 2021 League Tournament, it accumulated 18 undefeated dates, a streak that began on match day 5 against Godoy Cruz and extended to match day 24 against Defense and Justice, a keychain for obtaining the achievement.

That undefeated streak included eight consecutive victories, remaining on the verge of equaling the club's best historical chain, which is 9 wins in a row and which began in 1975 under the direction of Ángel Labruna, who awarded them, at that time, the first domestic pennant after 18 seasons.

As for the cups, Gallardo collected a record of 110 victories, 51 agreements and 36 setbacks in his first 197 commitments. The total of the coach from Buenos Aires is broken down into 414 games, 221 wins, 110 agreements and 83 losses, for a total of 773 points and an effectiveness of 65%.

In short, Gallardo's cycle has seven International titles, which are distributed in two Libertadores 2015 and 2018, one South American in 2014, three Conmebol Cup Winners' Cups 2015, 2016 and 2019, and one Suruga Bank in 2015.

At the national level, there are six. Copa Argentina 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2018-19, Supercopa Argentina (the one in 2017 that was played in 2018) and in 2019, and the League in 2021. The great plus of the cycle was having beaten Boca in two finals and in three knockout stages, capturing the title four of those five times.

He is the technical director with the most titles in the history of River and has commanded the second-longest period of a coach in the white and red, ahead of Ángel Labruna, who directed for 6 years and 7 months. The recent past accompanies Gallardo if he decides to renew a new contract, in addition, the governing body trusts him and his relationship with the fans continues to be optimal.