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Diego Imposta

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About Diego Imposta

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  • Biography
    Maradona was like an absent father to me

About Me

  • About Me
    The people who make art their business are mostly imposters


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    Catalan football

Favourite Team

  • Favourite Team
    FC Barcelona

Currently Managing

  • Currently Managing
    Peñarol and Uruguay

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  1. Evening gents. Doc’s given me painkillers to get through but I’m still not match fit
  2. Live from Killa Fame’s Isuzu Trooper? He’s the guy who ‘found’ Sturridges dog and lives in his car apparently
  3. 336. An injury inside a minute disrupted the game, River Plate’s number ten being replaced soon after. If anything, it sped things up. The game became end to end. I did not like the lack of control on display. A wonderful goal gave us the lead, Palacios coming deep to pin together some excellent passing and G. Rodríguez stormed in behind him to finish a through-ball. I instructed the players to slow it down to remove the chance of losing second balls. We needed time to think with and without the ball. We were really being made to work by the home side, getting tight to our men and looking after the ball. Quintana put us in the clear with a searing header from G. Rodríguez’s free-kick and Elizari was given the rest of the night off. Torres was on against his old loan club and asked to be more direct to goal. Again, he really struggled and I was starting to worry that he would never hit his stride. It’d normally taken most players five or so games to get there but the penny had to drop for him soon or he’s out. Guruceaga had to make a couple of smart saves inside the second half and we looked to be burned out. Midway through the second half I ordered a switch to our narrow formation to get a grip on the game. Tactically, we had to stretch the field as River Plate looked to get it down and play through us. B. Rodríguez was unfortunate to be the man tasked with running down the clock. We just looked so brought forward to satisfy the television magnates, and if we won that then I would fully believe we could win the title. A defeat for Cerro felt like the stars were aligning: two points clear of the Closing Stage already. It was a huge psychological boost. I reminded myself to sit the players down for a talk. I’d do it informally, as we reviewed the tapes from the week together and players and staff in the big room at Palacio Peñarol. It was always good to have a break from the pressures of Estadio Campeón del Siglo and there were better places to eat downtown, too. Three wins from three is a great week. We looked at home in the national stadium, often a rental option for teams wanting to cash in on big ticket sales against us and Nacional, and the yellow shorts and socks only added to our nice football. The idiosyncratic kits of Uruguayan football only added to the tense tribalism of the barrios. That we could chop and change our three kits, all variations on black and yellow, was just so style conscious! Before August was over, Inter moved to sign Valverde from Real Madrid for $162.5 million. It was an excellent chance for him to make a real name for himself at one of the biggest clubs in the world. He went to Castilla from Peñarol for less than that as a teenager but he was into his mid-twenties now and had to deliver on the promise he had once shown. A fifth loan move would have been too much. Big wins for the reserves and Under-19s rounded off the month beautifully - we’re back in business. It was time to make a decision about the national team squad. The youth team manager had already shook the press with his…
  4. 335. Liverpool de Montevideo would wipe the floor with us if we continued with the same system. They had a winger looking to get beyond Saracchi and a playmaker looking to pull Sirino’s attention out wide, which would leave an imbalanced three against three in the middle. Our usual formation was trained in the scant time we had between games this week and changes were afoot to keep it fresh. Á. Rodríguez in for Elizari was the obvious switch, giving us two defensive midfielders to sit in front of our back line. The Argentinean magician was already tired and didn’t need to be risked again just three days later. Rossi and Waller were recalled to the flanks after such shot-shy performances from Sirino and G. Rodríguez. Palacios was also guilty but at least he scored, as he always seems to, and I also saw fit to pull Lares out of the firing line completely as Píriz had now developed paranoia about his own place in the team. The kid had his whole career ahead of him and I had to eke it out of Píriz. Formiliano and Guruceaga obviously had other things on their mind after the mix-up at the back in the last game. Both came to me separately to say they would drop their requests to leave and want to stay until the season end. It was fantastic news and I hoped that meant consecutive clean sheets were on the forefront of their mind, too. Liverpool de Montevideo were currently without a coach. A particularly drab opening 20 minutes in the ever-increasing rain saw us come out on top with our technical superiority. We kept the ball well and Palacios poked home after Waller had struck a post. Rivero was forced off with what looked like ankle ligament damage on the stroke of half time. This is a big opportunity for Benítez, who had the ability to play on the fringes of either box. This still felt for all the world like a pre-season game as we were never afraid to pass backwards. The game was won – if we could keep our cool at the back – and Benítez was enjoying the freedom of expression. Torres was given fifteen minutes to impress up front on his own, away from the shadow of B. Rodríguez, in order to rest Palacios for the weekend. There was still no word on how bad Rivero was but he had to be taken down the tunnel for assessment. We were far from our swashbuckling Intermedio best but another three points is all we want. The medical department could only tell me that it could be up to a month that Rivero could miss but the real good news was that Defensor held Nacional 1-1 at home to give us a fighting chance. Only ourselves and Cerro had won two from two. It seemed we were all a bit sluggish at the beginning of the Clausura. There was a healthy five point gap below us now, and only three to our bitter rivals. There was still a long way to go to catch Defensor, but that nine points could be six if we beat them at home. From the highs of bringing 55 000 fans to Ramplas Juniors and then 40 000 to see off Liverpool de Montevideo at home, we would have to settle for ten percent of that at River Plate de Montevideo. Torres had to show his worth.
  5. 334. The difficulty for the Ramplas game was that along with Poyet tough-tackling Á. Rodríguez was also out, suspended for one game. G. Rodríguez had become a highly influential player in the last two or so months and would have a chance to shine as the left centre-forward in our 4-3-1-2 narrow, much like his initial role when I first arrived. Similarly, Sirino was tasked with sitting on the right of the trio but easing out wide when the opportunity arrived. This tactic was more of a natural progression for the squad rather than ripping it up and starting again. We had this long week to iron out any issues. Saracchi moved to left back with Píriz occupying the defensive central midfield, and Rivero came on to play number ten with Palacios in front and Elizari behind on the left side of the engine room. The rest of the side kept their place, so only a few personnel changes to keep things motoring along well. Positionally, we looked fine. Our yellow shorts and socks shone but it was clear that things were just not landing for us in front of goal. We actually looked nervous, unable to make our early dominance count. Perhaps we were guilty of overplaying. Ramplas were doing a good job of shutting us out with their two defensive midfielders but both Palacios and G. Rodríguez squandered one-on-one chances and we were heading into half time 0-0. Some of our play in the middle of the park was so safe, and just as we would normally prepare to walk down the tunnel we watched on mouths open as Saracchi beat his man in the middle of Ramplas territory on the wing and swung a deep cross over to the far post for Palacios to head home. Cue pandemonium in the stadium. The majority Peñarol crowd went wild. Winning is all that matters to them. At the break we talked about floating more crosses in. Our direct play had earned the lead, now it was time to go through the gears and pull away. We laboured for the entire second half and Ramplas smelled blood, bringing on new wingers and then a striker to freshen up their chances. Píriz earned himself a substitution with a silly booking on the hour, Benítez coming on for his league debut, wile Elizari followed soon after due to fatigue. Lares had a quiet time of it in the middle but had the luck of being in the right place at the right time, when a deflected shot fell into his path with five minutes to go. Make no mistake, this kid knows how to finish. 2-0 Peñarol. Ramplas had matched our formation and they crumbled. It was a terrible decision from their coach. It was a terrible game of football, and a tiring one too, but we’d leave with three points as planned. Ramplas found a way through with a long ball over the top from the centre circle and Guruceaga just did not react in time, their striker smashing it home and carrying the ball back where it came from. It was the 90th minute and we had already been nervous. Waller was thrown on at number ten to give us an outlet. He did his job well, occupying defenders with his fresh legs and surging attacking intent. There were no surprises to be had elsewhere in the league the next day, keeping us at arm’s length.
  6. 333. Wanderers were not messing around, rebuffing all sorts of offers. I simply wasn’t going to give them enough funds to challenge for the title next season. Meanwhile, the scouting role for Uruguay came with a few interesting applicants. Not least my own trio at Peñarol, but another set from Nacional. It really was a close-run thing but I opted for the man who had given Defensor Sporting their charge to the latter stages of the Copa Libertadores this season: John Syzard. He was just the right age and was able to demonstrate wider tactical knowledge with his application which earned him a shot on merit. A very late decision to play 3-5-2 saw the two former loan players play up top together and Elizari in the middle of the park again. New signing Benítez came with a versatile but small bench. This was an yellow shorts and socks against the red and blue halves of Albion and the front two were desperate to impress. However, swings and misses led to Saracchi clobbering the ball home from a Rossi cross three minutes in to give us the lead. Rodríguez clipped in a second ten minutes later and despite the link-up play with his strike partner was having a much better time of it generally. Torres could be off. Elizari put a half-volley in off the bar and to save him from further injury he was replaced by the new boy on half an hour. The boy from Boca would have the freedom to run at two defensive midfielders and show me what he can do with a football. As an aficionado of all things Argentinean, I just hoped there was something mercurial in his talents. He took some time to settle but was soon striking out from range. He seemed to get the best out of Torres and Rodríguez, too, although that wasn’t saying much. Sirino and G. Rodríguez were thrown on the flanks for the last half an hour to try and impress. In truth we hammered Albion at walking pace but it was an excellent test of the formation. We had a wind-down of sorts in terms of fitness intensity before preparing for games back in the Campeonato. De los Santos went back in with another offer for Zapata. If they accepted this now it would be some coup. His contract had a year to run and $22million would be tremendous work, especially as he had to be poached by a bigger club if he hit the ground running. A loan offer for Rodríguez was rejected after the match but the squad needed to be trimmed all the same. I just didn’t want to send both of them to a sideways move – I wanted to get the best out of them. Perhaps others would want to go. The re-opening of the league gave us three fixtures inside a week. First and second were teams we had already beaten 5-1 in the Intermedio, Rampla Juniors and Liverpool de Montevideo, followed in turn by River Plate de Montevideo. We should not expect a problem from any of them and I demand nine points as standard. Fearing nothing from their wing play, we would line up with the 4-1-3-2 that the staff here so loved. Should we experience any problems, all four wingers were ready to step in. As it turned out, Wanderers rejected De los Santos’ offer. They’d play the long game for his contract. I dismissed a derisory offer for Formiliano from a Portuguese team and pressed ahead hoping more did not arrive for other players. De los Santos managed to unsettle Píriz with his constant bidding for anything with a pulse but by the time deadline day came we had our squad of 22 cut down to 21. On the morning of the deadline Poyet was ruled out for up to eight weeks, which effectively ended his season. Worse still, a late rumour about Sirino attracting interest from Argentina worried me sick. I’d not realised their window was still open for another week yet.
  7. 332. A full compliment of substitutes was taken by Perdomo, obviously impressed with the second halves of the youth players yesterday. A couple of the schoolboys were brought along for further analysis of their abilities but thankfully Paiva and Scala were left out to enjoy their weekend with their families. A woeful pass off the pitch from Píriz within seconds took my mind off the game. I needed a new left back – he was just a defensive midfielder crowbarred into a position he would never fully impress in. We were playing some good stuff, Saracchi able to stretch his legs after recovering from a summer in Australia and Rossi on the opposite flank striking the underside of the crossbar with an ambitious hit. The reserves predictably offered no threat but they were steadfast in defence. These are the players that I wanted to see anyway. It took half an hour but our dominance was rewarded with the wingers combining with a classic cross to the far post for the former striker to head in. Rossi was becoming a very good player out wide and Saracchi’s pace was, to use an old cliché, like a new signing. Happy to wrap them in cotton wool, Fernández was asked to play on the right and Lares on his favoured left. It hadn’t been a stellar performance from the front two yet but they are still acclimatising to my style. Within two minutes the new wingers combined beautifully, Fernández raking a ball square across an exasperated defence and into the path of Lares to clip home underneath the goalkeeper. It was poor from J. Silva but in fairness he had not had a save to make in the first half. The first goal was so good. He followed it up with a good amount of saves as I urged the team to up the tempo and force some opportunities. We dropped a little deeper in an attempt to get the strikers on the ball a bit more but even though it created space they just weren’t having good games. Calm turned into disinterest and before long the reserves had a corner and scored, two central defenders working a goal themselves. Rodríguez and Torres finally got in on the action a few minutes from time, the former putting Lares in on goal to finish past a stranded goalkeeper. It was excellent to see the youngest player in my side do so well. There was time for one more with one of the last phases of play, that man-mountain of a captain Formiliano heading in for 4-1. The professionalism shone through in the end and again I was pleased, especially heading into a two-week fitness camp. I had a sentimental journey planned at the other end of it. Albion, the oldest team in Uruguay, would be a feel-good warm-up for the Clausura. Our newly reformed reserve and youth sides would take each other on at the same time to give the players time to get to know each other on the pitch. Santiago Benítez was soon in from Boca and he was happy to be a part of our club. I gave him the number 18 shirt. No sooner had we finished when Zapata’s agent was on the phone. He wanted us to make an offer – he had pre-approved a transfer! I decided to low-ball with an offer for the entirety of his contract from its start two years to its finish next summer. I knew it would be rejected out of hand but I could always turn the players head later. Two loan offers came in for Torres – perhaps that poor performance got him talking to his agent. We simply hadn’t seen enough of him yet to let him go and Elizari had just picked up an injury, too. I said no. I certainly didn’t want him going back to River Plate de Montevideo. Sud América wasn’t much of an upgrade either, although they were offering key player status. River Plate also came back with the cheek to bid for Lares!
  8. 331. Estadio José Pedro Damiani, named after the previous president, was a dry and unforgiving place. In this hostile arena the youth candidates would undoubtedly prevail, their joy at playing on the dusty surfaces of Montevideo giving them the right temperament. Peñarol’s youth side were consistently in the upper half of the table but for half a decade the title was always a three horse race between Nacional, Defensor Sporting, and Wanderers. That Zapata link again. Should we test the water early? For five of these players, it could be their last game at this level. The reserves, replacing Wanderers in the above trio, were used to competing for the title and were a little off the pace this year. Those reinforcements should help swell their ranks and make room for the 16 new faces in the kids team. They would be too old next season and with a rumoured future star in goal coming through, one of the youth ‘keepers already on a full time deal would go with them. In turn J. Silva would be given his chance in the first team as promised and all was right with the age groups. 21 players in each squad. A breezy afternoon made for long, weighted passes. The schoolboys, wearing black shirts with dark grey stripes, black shorts, and black socks, looked menacing. The third kit looked absolutely deadly. It was great to see these sides in action – the last two months had gone in the blink of an eye. There might be talent here, yet. A relentlessly determined central midfielder won the ball and played in the centre forward, who coolly took the ‘keeper to ground and slotted home after ten minutes. He was causing all sorts of problems up front and hooked a daisy-cutter into the bottom corner five minutes later. I sat up in my seat. Who is this young man? Paiva came the reply. Both wingers from the youth side were becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of service from behind. It really was a position we lacked depth in across all three sides. How desperately I wanted Molina to mirror Narvaez’s right. Five minutes before half time Paiva had his hat-trick, taking a second bite at a shot and wheeling out towards his parents in the stands. What a dream audition for him. A fire was lit under the home side at half time and a renewed endeavour was shown. The young man in goal had a lot to say about any potential comeback, though, and showed a very calm pair of hands to his defence. It pleases me that there will be real competition to end the season with. The last six months mean nothing in football. After a long second half, Peñarol Under-19s finally clawed one back, Hérnan Fernández nodding in at the near post in the 80th minute. The big lone centre forward squandered a second chance to reduce the deficit further, his shot more suited to a rugby conversion. He seemed best with his back to goal. Winning the second half was the least I expected of Bello’s men, although I wanted him to improve if he and his staff had any ambitions of staying at the club. Now I was giving him the tools to do his job. Limiting ourselves to three changes to the starting line-up, we prepared normally for the reserves. In the next few weeks we can reassess tactical plans to move to three at the back or the narrow central formation of Peñarol’s recent past. Guruceaga got his start in goal after finally recovering from jetlag due to the World Cup. There was still time for Torres and Rodríguez – the two players recalled from loan – to cement a space in the squad and I would give them every chance with attacking positions. Four senior players were not required to prove themselves to me: Gelpi in goal, Argentinean Elizari, and main goal scorers Palacios and Rivero. This would be a slightly different set-up today, with our front two both looking to score goals.
  9. 330. Something shook me out of my slumber. There were four weeks until the season resumed for all of the Peñarol sides, and the usual Monday morning text brief to the players ahead of Tuesday training came as a shock: Double fitness sessions this week, treble fitness the two weeks after, and you’ll be seeing double again in the build-up to the first game. I would spend the day with De los Santos, just to try and tidy up our watch list. The reality was that no-one of worth wanted to change clubs here. We would expect Head of Youth Development Luis Duarte to welcome a new youth intake this week and it changed plans for our behind-closed-doors games. The schoolkids would now play the youths and the first team would play the reserves this weekend. It felt senseless that it would’ve been eight weeks since the reserves and youths had last played. I really have been too busy to keep an eye out. That gave us three weeks after to find competitive games to get them all up to speed, if its required. De los Santos informed me that he would like to make a bid for Boca defensive midfielder Benítez on loan. There would be competition, of course, but with the possibility of Poyet dropping back into the back three there could be a space for him. He’s strong, quick, and works hard. How could I say no to that? I pressed him for more details and Boca were looking to jettison a transfer that didn’t work out from the lower leagues. An immediate loan to the team that ended up finishing rock-bottom of the league killed any love from the directors and the manager had to move him sideways. We can assist! I got a call from Rebollo, apparent secretary to the Football Association, who wanted me to confirm a few exhibition match options. It was my turn for a surprise. The President wanted us to learn how to travel again and had arranged a match in Ecuador after the Poland game – I just had to decide the day. If that wasn’t bad enough, the return to Australia in October was going to be too tough on these players’ psyche. I told him to make sure the President scraps them both. Let the youth learn how we travel – send them to Australia instead. It would be one last celebration before some of them moved on. With all my interjections he had forgotten about Costa Rica. A double bill for the return from the World Cup redemption match. The men at the FA are mad – the problems have not been addressed yet. I agreed to the youth team meeting up with us there so we could sign off the year together and in style. I hung up on him, stressed that I was not involved in such big decisions. I had a day job, too. The media were still trying to engineer a move for the giant teen forward Zapata, although the price had now gone up, and I wondered whether he may end up being a panic buy late in the window. My attempts to prize Molina from Defensor were dead in the water – no rival club would negotiate with us. Their finances were in as good shape as ours, relatively speaking, and dropping $30million in this league would alter the future. If we were going to spend it had to be foreign.
  10. 329. There was just enough time to get ready for the match tonight. Nacional versus Defensor Sporting, a battle for the eventual title at the end of the season encapsulated in the Intermedio final. I had to be there, ready to steal a player or two to make sure it was a three-horse race. I desperately need cover at full back and one youngster from Defensor is one I will be jettisoning from the national team as he is too old for the Under-20s: Carlos Molina. He’s played all year for them at left back – a key player. If building bridges was my main aim for Uruguay then I’d be steering clear of any player from Nacional. Gran Parque Central: the home of the enemy. Could Nacional’s home advantage make a difference? Defensor were six points clear in the overall table so this was a freestanding slugfest to draw a line in the sand for my great rivals. 30 000 would fill this place for one last time before a two week break to herald the Closing Stage of the Campeonato, when all would be decided. Peñarol were far enough in the distance to not present a threat but we were just getting our season back on track. Time will tell. The weight of noise around the stadium was choking the players. Nacional outnumbered Defensor’s fans by about ten to one. It took ten minutes to see a shot of meaning, attacking midfielder Müller’s free header sent over for the home side. Defensor, persisting with their 4-2-4, breathed great relief. With panicked shots raining in, Defensor dug deeper and deeper. The nerves were permeating those in white now, while the deep purple of Defensor Sporting made them appear as if larger in number. An outrageous, ambitious diagonal strike from deep by the number ten atoned for earlier. It’d sailed high and dipping toward the top corner from easily 40 metres and new Uruguay third-choice ‘keeper López handsomely got an arching glove to it, only to watch on as none of his defenders reacted as he got up off the floor. 20-year-old José Giménez stole in first and clipped the ball home. It was a terrific way to turn the screw on Defensor, who were looking more and more frustrated by the minute. Did they have enough to fight back? No! Penalty! There’s been a reckless challenge chasing a lofted ball into the left channel and, with fifteen minutes until half time, Nacional can double their lead. First to the ball is diminutive central midfielder Freddy Alvarez. It’s a long, wide run up and… saved! López had gone the wrong way but pulled a wrist back to knock wide the softest, most central penalty I’ve seen in a long time. Game on! Molina was looking aggressive now, the will to win strong. I liked him. He wanted to channel that energy when all about him were losing their heads. He earned himself a booking soon after, tempering my affinity somewhat. The Defensor right winger didn’t come out of the tunnel after half-time, finally succumbing to his injury. The game was so tight in the second half, the rain beginning to pour on proceedings. There would be one more mistake in this one, surely. My man Molina was looking determined now, adversity making him a better player, although in truth no player had really caught the eye in the first hour. Olés from the crowd nearly went suitably punished with a long ball over the top, but again those shots were just not getting on target for the away side. It was beginning to become a very damp game indeed. Another wonderful save from López kept it all a bit too respectable for my liking. Nacional had been totally dominant, allowed to play in front of an accommodating defence tonight but equally they couldn’t quite get in behind too often. With those famous blue and white colours falling from the sky in celebratory ticker tape, it was time to go. I’d be on the ‘phone to Molina’s agent…
  11. 328. Manager Fabián Coito and his assistant Gustavo Ferreira both had links to Peñarol which was a great introduction for me. With fifteen and ten years in their roles they had held strong producing players but the manager above them always eschewed their work or failed to build on it. Goalkeeping coach Carlos Nicola and fitness coach Sebastián Urrita were a little younger still but again had ten or fifteen years in the setup. The quartet’s separative oddball experiences playing abroad really seemed to get them together and I wondered if they could all be transplanted into the senior squad, depending on the result of the Juventude de América tournament. They had a very busy six months of scouting on. Speaking of which, I had none in the setup. I could not rely on Rebollo as the president’s right-hand man so an advert was asked for. I wanted someone who would want to work with me and only me. I took an empty office and settled down with videos from the World Cup to try and figure out what system the previous manager was deploying. Valverde was given a creative role from deep, almost a regista, and linked up well with Betancur coming inside from the right. I wasn’t sure about a winger on the opposite flank but good play did lead to a goal inside the first five minutes, Carniero rocketing a shot into the roof of the net. Senegal weren’t the power they once were and soon after it became apparent that the move was a one-off: the winger was told to drive inside his full-back. Torreira was on set-pieces which seemed a bit odd as he was deployed deeper behind Valverde in transitions. The line was being led by Carniero and his huge frame and athletic ability melded well to a solid technical ability. Suárez was looking for him at every opportunity. I hoped my Dutch import could do the same to make things happen. However, the game was quite boring as the Uruguayans sat back and looked to hit the Africans on the break. Allowing mediocre teams the ball is a fine tactic but only for a while. Senegal really should have equalised with a striker missing a one-on-one with his volley from a cross before a flurry of bookings for my charges saw out the half. They had real trouble with any discipline. Cavani was on for the second half in place of Suárez, Carniero doing well dropping deeper, but both full backs sat far too deep for my liking. Who was going to supply the crosses into him? In fact, there was no need, Valverde slipping a through ball for the veteran to thunder home. The players enjoyed getting their foot on the ball now, and a double substitution changed the game. A new left wing and strike partner for Cavani saw a third added five minutes from time. Valverde engineering a pass for López to head home and silence the opposition. An own goal by Coates, a mis-kick unopposed, made the game longer than it needed to be and again showed up the team’s inability to deal with crosses. This was no show of strength from Uruguay. No World Cup vigour - just a poor win against also-rans. The enormity of Australia was a problem for every team. Next up was a 500-mile trip to Melbourne from Adelaide and knowing the result, a 0-2 loss to Iran, made even viewing it tiresome. A third leg to Sydney for the crushing 1-4 defeat at the hands of Portugal was another 800 miles. Every journey was bigger than Uruguay and many of these players were just not used to that kind of travel. I didn’t want to learn much from these collapses so I skimmed through them to not fixate on individuals who made mistakes. The system was broken – I could see that in victory – so I had to fix it in 90 minutes. One thing was for certain: I had to stop this team from dining out on past glories.
  12. 327. We play Poland a few days before Cristian Palacios’ 32nd birthday. The loyal Peñarol servant had not been called up to the national team before but would enter his 15th season with at least a single cap. Six loan spells away from the club as a youngster took him across the capital, out to Argentina twice, and Ecuador for good measure. The travelling would not phase him but the game was beginning to take its toll on his body. The mind was still there – possibly the smartest poacher in the league – but for all the sentiment he would have a partner to do the legwork for him. The national team played a 4-2-2-2 DM formation and I wasn’t about to rip that up immediately. It was interesting to see which players they had to crowbar into the system. Former Juventus man Rodrigo Betancur was moved to the right wing as playmaker to accommodate the Real Madrid and Barcelona defensive midfield pair of Lucas Torreira and Federico Valverde. The latter was a former Peñarol youth who moved direct to Madrid but had to make do with loan spells throughout La Liga after an inaugural season at Castilla. The real test of the modern player was in England or Spain, although a lot of players still felt that the real prestige was to be found in the Argentinean or Brazilian leagues. In truth, the diaspora was not going to be too much of an issue for me until I started making changes to the squad. Muslera’s time out in Turkey would go unchecked as, at 36, he was surely the next in line to be ruthlessly moved on. It seemed as if versatility is a very important part of Uruguayan football culture but perhaps this was also their downfall. With Suárez and Cavani gone, there will have to be numerous auditions. With up to half of the under-20s now ineligible for the next game, the gap to the national team couldn’t have been less ideal: a four-year hole in transition from one team to the other. It was time to watch these boys closely. First I needed to address the men, under my charge in name only. This was a sect that I couldn’t dare hope to lead. They were all too ingrained in a storied history of jobs for the boys. I had to take baby steps with the organisation of the national team, for few would follow a fresh outsider. Rebollo was tasked with appointing the last two captains, so his influence was enormous. A modest career as a footballer took him to Ecuador, Chile, and Argentina. Gaining a handful of international caps, he was too experienced to cast aside even at 57. His defensive mindset had only been tested at international level, though, and with a strike partnership of Suárez and Cavani to play with over the last fifteen years I have to firmly point the finger at him for these defensive failings. He is unscathed. Diego Demarco was a similar age, a little younger, and had largely played at Central Español before moving on to Liverpool de Montevideo as he expanded his coaching career in various youth setups. He mixed with both teams at national level and after six or seven years here it was obvious that he is just a puppet with no real influence. Tabárez’s main fitness coach, José Herrera, is fast approaching the twilight of his career and his catalogue of coaching at top clubs in Italy and Argentina would sure be of benefit to me before the year was out. When he goes Rebollo will have no more friends here… Another to straddle both teams was physio Richard López, seemingly told to once Tabárez left. There was already a senior ahead of him, Esteban Montes, who had worked with the national team for just over 20 years. I couldn’t get my head around what these men had done to justify such longevity. The backbone of the youth side, busy together elsewhere, was a very tight knit group of men.
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