TIM VICKERY

MIGHT the successor to Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid come straight out of South America?

It is a possibility that is being taken seriously in Argentina, where there is speculation that Marcelo Gallardo might be seen as the man to take charge of the Spanish giants.

River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo is being touted as a future Real Madrid manager

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River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo is being touted as a future Real Madrid managerCredit: Reuters

It comes amid speculation Zizou could be off at the end of the season.

Gallardo turned 45 last week. He has spent the last six and a half of those years in Buenos Aires with River Plate.

These days in European football it is very hard to find coaches who have spent a similar amount of time with the same club.

In South America it is barely believable. Two years is typically considered a marathon stint.

To stay at the helm of a big club for almost seven years and counting is an extraordinary achievement – proof that, in an ever changing environment where players are always being sold, the coach has managed to keep his team competitive.

And in the case of Gallardo, he has kept River Plate both competitive and attractive. The players have changed, the tactical systems have changed – Gallardo has a number of different formations up his sleeve – but the overall approach has been a constant.

His team are possession based, moving the ball well and looking to pass their way through the opposing defence.

It is his ability to handle change that, it is argued, makes him so attractive to Real Madrid.

In his time with the club Zidane has displayed an undoubted talent for working with top stars.

Gallardo has built an attractive and competitive River Plate team in his six and a half years with the club

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Gallardo has built an attractive and competitive River Plate team in his six and a half years with the clubCredit: Getty – Contributor
Master tactician Gallardo has even earned the nickname 'Napoleon' because of his strategic knowledge

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Master tactician Gallardo has even earned the nickname ‘Napoleon’ because of his strategic knowledgeCredit: AP:Associated Press

The doubts are whether he is good at dealing with the transitions, of rebuilding the side and getting the best out of the club’s collection of highly promising youngsters.

It helps that Gallardo has European experience as a player. An attacking midfielder good enough to win over 40 caps for Argentina, he enjoyed a fine spell with Monaco, where he won the French league, and had a season with Paris Saint Germain.

Apart from River Plate, his only coaching experience came with a year in Uruguay in charge of Nacional, the club where he ended his playing days.

This would make him something of a gamble for Real Madrid. But he is no pushover.

Gallardo’s baby faced looks won him the nickname of ‘the doll’ when he first started playing. Since then, though, he has picked up another nickname – Napoleon, a tribute to his talent for strategy.

Gallardo experienced playing in Europe with Monaco

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Gallardo experienced playing in Europe with MonacoCredit: Reuters
A job managing a European giant could be in Gallardo's near future

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A job managing a European giant could be in Gallardo’s near futureCredit: Getty – Pool

If Real Madrid is seen as too big a step, then the modern day Napoleon might well feel at home in France.

With Andres Villas-Boas under pressure at Marseille, taking over there could be another possibility.

Whatever the route taken by Marcelo Gallardo, Napoleon’s second conquest of Europe is surely being plotted in Argentina.

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