Argentine football in limbo over Scaloni contract extension

Lionel Scaloni coached Argentina to World Cup victory - but will his contract be renewed?

by Buenos Aires Herald
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Argentina’s national team coach Lionel Scaloni is fresh from a resounding success in the World Cup that brought joy to a country buffeted by skyrocketing inflation and institutional fragility. But his contract expiring on December 31, and its renewal has not yet been officially confirmed.

After celebrating Argentina’s victory in his home town of Pujato, Scaloni traveled to Mallorca, which has been his home since retiring as a player in 2009. As of today, Scaloni has three days to reach an agreement with Chiqui Tapia, head of the Argentine Football Association, on whether or not to renew his contract

Scaloni was hired in 2018 after the disappointing results of his predecessor Jorge Sampaoli in that year’s World Cup, when the team was knocked out early by France. Given his lack of experience as a manager in a competitive and high-profile position, it was thought he would be a mere placeholder for a more experienced candidate. 

Tapia has acknowledged that much of the Argentine football world was deeply uncertain of his decision to name Scaloni as the head coach of the national side. But contrary to expectations, his steady success and consolidation of a new, younger group of players to complement Messi, resulted in successive renewals of his contract. 

Now, it appears that the World Cup triumph, coming as it did after Argentina’s 2021 Copa América victory and a 36-game winning streak, has forced Tapia’s hand. 

During  the post game festivities, as Scaloni was feted by his players to the chant of “Renew his contract, Chiqui, damn it!” the coach was asked the pointed question whether he would continue or not.  His answer was “we will see”.

Countering this tepid response, Tapia, said in a news conference last Monday: “I have no doubt that [Scaloni] will continue to be the manager of the national team. We are both men of our word, we shook hands and agreed to go forward.”

As to the immediate future of la selección, Messi (the team’s other Lionel) has played his last World Cup: he will be 39 years old by the 2026 tournament, which will be shared between Canada, the US, and Mexico. But with a young squad, most of the current players will probably remain on the team. 

As the end of his contract approaches, Argentine football is waiting for the most important statement of all: that of Scaloni himself. He has yet to give public statements on the matter – and with the end of December rapidly approaching, the clock is ticking.

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