The former Monterrey boss may be the only man who can turn around El Tri's annus horribilis.Three years after he was asked to lead Mexico to Brazil 2014, Victor Manuel Vucetich took up El Tri’s coaching challenge on Thursday, taking over a battered team that has fallen so short in the generous CONCACAF qualification that making the World Cup is no guarantee.
Luckily for Mexico, Vucetich’s nickname is King Midas (the mythological Phrygian king who turned everything he touched to gold), he was out of work after recently leaving Monterrey and is now ready to take charge after family commitments led him to pull out of the race before Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre took over.
His appointment was the rational choice – as it was three years ago – even if America’s Miguel Herrera also had an excellent claim, especially considering his motivational ability.
But it isn’t always the coach that screams from the sideline who is the best motivator and at this point – just nine months from the World Cup - if Mexico’s players aren’t self-motivated, then the problems running through the squad are even more severe than we thought.
Vucetich will bring a calmness to the post at a time when the country is panicking. There wasn’t a hint of nerves in his first press conference and not one of the questions thrown at him by the masses of media outlets present caused him to flinch.
He answered those questions directly and got to the point. Yes, he will be getting in contact with Carlos Vela and Guillermo Ochoa to gauge their willingness to return to the national team fold. Watch this space on that one, with Vela’s return especially likely to give the whole team (and nation) a morale boost.
Vucetich will also be talking to other members of the squad to try and iron out the psychological problems and “fear of taking risks” that has plagued El Tri in 2013.
In addition, the former Monterrey coach will be looking to get rid of any antagonism between players in the squad, explaining to FIFA.com before the 2011 Club World Cup of the necessity of building a strong, almost family-like bond in his squads.
And people shouldn’t be fooled by Vucetich’s calm, collective persona all the time. He can also lose his temper, as he did just one month ago when young debutant Bernando Hernandez was sent off for Monterrey against Tigres and his vocal complaints led to a red card and suspension.
Tactically, Vucetich beats Chepo hands down. The most obvious and recent example was the CONCACAF Champions League final second leg against Santos Laguna when he started with three center backs, but made three game-changing substitutions early in the second half and switched to a back four with Monterrey needing three goals. Los Rayados scored four and lifted the cup for the third consecutive season.
A balanced, studious coach, who is versatile, isn’t averse to using youngsters, yet respects the role of experience, Vucetich is the best Mexico has right now.
With Monterrey, he was in charge of 242 official games. Vucetich won 113 of them, drew 67 and lost just 62 over the four years. Two league titles and a historic triple of CONCACAF Champions League crowns came within that period.
But perhaps the stats that best back up Vucetich’s appointment is that he has won 13 of the 14 finals he has coached in. El Tri needs that kind of Midas touch to get to work immediately, with either two or four of those finals coming right up.