It seems wild to think that it was a little over a year ago when Barcelona sacked Ernesto Valverde.
Everything that’s happened since – at Barcelona and in the wider world – has meant it has been a long 13 months. The appointment of Quique Setien, the 8-2 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich, the dismissal of Quique Setien, the Lionel Messi transfer saga and the resignation of club president Josep Maria Bartomeu. All while the pandemic has decimated the club’s finances further, and slowed the actual football down to a crawl.
Things might have gone a little more smoothly for Barça over that chaotic period had they landed the manager they actually wanted, however.
Reports in Argentina, relayed by Marca, claim that legendary River Plate boss Marcelo Gallardo was approached ahead of Setien in 2020, but rejected the chance to manage in Europe out of loyalty to the side he has coached since 2014.
Gallardo is generally considered to be the best coach in River’s history and one of the greatest Argentina has ever produced. Since taking the reins, he has led them to two Copa Libertadores titles among 12 major honours, and was named South American coach of the year in 2018 and 2019.
Marca say that he was preparing for River’s pre-season when Barça approached him, but that appears to be a slight mistranslation – in January 2020, in the short window between Valverde’s departure and Setien’s appointment, River were deep in the throes of a title race with bitter rivals Boca Juniors.
Gallardo opted to stay and see out the job, though they would eventually lose out after the season was called in April. They sat a point behind Boca with 11 games still due to be played.
Gallardo’s stock has fallen a little since after a trophy-less couple of years, but he will not be short of offers if and when he decides to end his association with River Plate, who he has served as player and manager for a combined total of 17 years.
In addition to interest from Barcelona, he has also long been touted as a potential replacement for Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid.