Marcelo Gallardo made history in River sitting on the bench of substitutes. There is no doubt about that. Since its arrival in 2014, the Doll conquered 11 titles (7 at the international level), highlighting the 2018 Copa Libertadores. In the final they defeated Boca 3-1 in the legendary Santiago Bernabeu.
The youngest place that team as the best of all time, for the importance of that title and for beating the rival of a lifetime in a final dream. However, others put the River of 1986 by Héctor Veira.
In that season, those led by the Bambino they won the First Division championship (they gave the Olympic lap in the Bonbonniere), the Libertadores Cup (the first in the history of the Núñez club) and the Intercontinental Cup, something that no M team could repeat yetillusionary. In 1996 he succumbed to Juventus and in 2015, already in the Club World Cup, he fell against Barcelona by Lionel Messi. In the 2018 edition, Gallardo’s men were surprised by Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates in the semifinals.
Nery Pumpido, who in 1986 also raised the World Cup with the Argentine team in the Aztec stadium, did not hesitate before the consultation of Infobae. While he pondered the work of the Doll and all his achievements he stated that there was not like the 86 squad, where footballers such as Oscar Ruggeri, Héctor Enrique, Américo Rubén Gallego, Beto Alonso, Antonio Alzamendi or Juan Gilberto Funes shone.
What do you remember of your time in River?
It was the best. The maximum that could have been achieved. They were 5 extraordinary years, 5 years with many triumphs. The truth is that being in a large institution like River was something extraordinary.
Why do you think you could never repeat what you did?
Because it is not easy to achieve everything that was achieved in one year. Today you have the Sudamericana, the Recopa, the Suruga Bank, the Argentine Cup. You have a lot of drinks. You can add a lot more, but what was won that year was the most important. He won the local championship 5 dates before, he won the Copa Libertadores, the Intercontinental Cup. He won everything. He turned around in Boca’s court, something that many liked. That year was extraordinary for River, the best year.
Just commented on the return in Japan, something that River could never repeat. Do you think they lack recognition?
I don’t know if I recognize, but that was River’s best year. Then it goes through time and our way, from the Argentines, who many times leave those things aside. What we achieved generated great satisfaction and will remain in history. Until today, 34 years have passed and it still has not been achieved.
What do you remember of the return in the Bombonera?
We just got the chance to play with Boca and we wanted to give it, because it was the right thing to do.
In the distance, how do you see Gallardo’s River?
Extraordinary, very good. With a continuity of years obtaining very important results. It is a very good stage of River.
Many compare this period with yours. Are they comparable?
If you compare it in a year, there is no comparison. If you do it in time, this River has a time to win very good championships. An extraordinary stage, but comparing it to 86, 86 was the best year in history.
If both teams met, how would they come out?
You know what that match would be … But the ’86 team is hard to match, had a great squad. I had three world champions (Pumpido, Ruggeri and Enrique) and two players in the Uruguay team (Nelson Gutiérrez and Antonio Alzamendi). If you start looking at the situation, it’s hard to have a squad like that. It was the best.
At that time, the greatest were to play various jokes on the smallest.
It was a way to have fun and keep the group together. Today we are still the same. We have a WhatsApp group and we continue in the same way. The River of ’86 was a very close group. It was a barbaric group, extraordinary.
During his time in River, he never lost an official match against Boca.
In 5 years I have not lost any officer. Only one, a friendly in Mar del Plata. I also have one with Enrique and Ruggeri, another record that is not easy: winning the Intercontinental and the World Cup the same year. It will be a long time before someone joins that list again. I am the first coach to win a Copa Libertadores with a team from another country. I am among the 8 who won the Copa Libertadores as coach and player. I have them guardaditos, for those who speak …
Doesn’t it surprise you that since your last stint at Olympia in 2015 you didn’t direct again?
I’m not crazy about directing again. I will not knock on doors. I live calm. I want to be involved in soccer, I’m doing things with Conmebol, which I really like. I have a good relationship with them. They are doing extraordinary things for South American soccer. If you call me from a club, welcome. Otherwise I will keep waiting. At Conmebol I go to all tournaments and finals. I do courses and talks abroad, like the one I found with Pelusso in Brazil. We were going to do one in Ecuador and because of this the pandemic was suspended. Conmebol consults a lot with the coaches. They handle very well.
After his first foray into Los Andes with José Luis Brown, he was an assistant to Bilardo in Boca. How was that experience?
He called me to work with him. It was an extraordinary thing to work together. It was a very quick learning. It helped me a lot, it was like doing a Master in the University.
Do you think that step closed doors in River?
No, I had two offers at the time. One with Aguilar and another later, but it did not happen. They were after being champion of the Libertadores with Olimpia. Alfredo Di Stéfano trained Boca and River. Gareca and Ruggeri played in both. It has nothing to do with it. I was an assistant, and I was not going to despise the opportunity to work with Bilardo, despite all the love I have for River. It was a very good opportunity. That did not prevent him from having opportunities to go to River.
Why do you think you did not have as much recognition in Argentina as you do abroad?
What do I know, they are things that happen. With what I did I am satisfied, and that reaches me and I have more than enough.
Why do you say that being an archer provides more tools in the future to be a coach?
Because the goalkeeper is in a position that helps the coach to accommodate his teammates tactically in each game. That gives you room to learn a lot of things. It is a position where you talk a lot on the court. Note that there are many coaches who were formerly archers.
You were a manager for a short time in Union, is it a role you would like to do again?
I was a manager in 2009. I stopped a year to collaborate in Unión, which was not in a good moment. Today I am still a technician, but tomorrow I would like to be a manager, it is a position that I really like. I am preparing, I am reading a lot, doing courses and doing things with people who are in that position. I think that the experience and the years of football give me to be able to do it without problems.
I KEPT READING:
Nery Pumpido’s scrapbook in Italy ’90: the mistake against Cameroon, the injury that took him out and the unforgettable teaching of Bilardo
The Gallardo revolution: the changes it propelled to bring River to the top of South America
The leader who emerged in the land of leaders: the secrets of how Marcelo Gallardo was forged as DT in Nacional de Uruguay and the key to his success