Martino, Lopetegui or Sanchez Flores? Behind Mexico's search for new head coach

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Tata Martino reportedly agreed to take the job, but last week reports emerged that the Mexican federation hasn't concluded the process

Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti's time leading the Mexico national team will come to an end this month. Whose long-term tenure will begin still isn't certain.

Fans can be forgiven for believing Atlanta United manager Gerardo "Tata" Martino already had the job locked up, so definitively was his arrival reported in the press earlier this year.

Those reports only seemed more certain last month when the MLS team announced Martino would leave once the 2018 campaign draws to an end. Despite reports of verbal agreements and conversations, though, the 55-year-old has consistently maintained he has not agreed to anything and not formally spoken with anyone.

That is why last week's reports emerging of Yon de Luisa, Federacion Mexicana de Futbol president, journeying to Europe to meet with another managerial candidate, Quique Sanchez Flores, were not as out of left field as they may have seemed.

Martino has done an impressive job building Atlanta United, and his experience with not just Barcelona and Argentina but also with Paraguay's national team help make him an attractive candidate - not just to El Tri. While the U.S. may not have considered Martino because of what language he does or doesn't speak, other nations are still looking to woo him.

Argentina federation president Claudio Tapia reportedly is looking to speak with Martino as well about the vacant Albiceleste position. Colombia also has been rumored to have an eye on Martino.

Sanchez Flores, the former Espanyol, Watford and Benfica manager, had been mentioned as a candidate for the Mexico job earlier in the search as well. Maybe he is being sought out as a back-up, but some of the reports went as far as saying the Madrid native has an offer from De Luisa on the table.

There even were reports Mexico had reached out to Julen Lopetegui after Real Madrid cut its relationship with the manager short. While his time with Los Blancos was a failure, Lopetegui still boasts impressive credentials. Like Martino, he has managed a top club and a top national team in Spain. He also has a close relationship with players key to El Tri's future like Hector Herrera and Diego Reyes, whom he coached at Porto

What exactly is going on with the Mexico national team coaching search? The truth is, no one on the outside really knows right now.

Tata Martino Atlanta United

Martino is continuing on in the MLS playoffs after Atlanta United concreted a 4-1 aggregate victory over NYCFC in the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 3-1 win in Sunday's second leg. He remains the favorite to take the job.

Yet, all the noise coming from Spain isn't likely to have materialized from absolutely nowhere (on second thought, maybe it is, but we'll finish the thought here). Clearly, De Luisa pressing on with the search would indicate that Martino arriving isn't a done deal. 

The Mexican federation is eager to have a manager in place in December, allowing the coach not only to begin long-term planning ahead of the 2022 World Cup but also to have a full five-month period in which he can evaluate his strategy for the Gold Cup this summer.

There will be only the March friendly dates and the pre-tournament period in May for the coach to put together his squad for the continental championship. Even if El Tri have a January friendly featuring domestic-based players, that's little interaction with players who need to be convinced of the manager's vision. If there's any indication that Martino isn't planning to take the job, having a viable Plan B is critical.

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Whether or not fans are pleased with the options will depend on their perspective. From the outside looking in, all three managers who appear to be in the mix are outstanding candidates. The Mexico job is a bit of a mix between what Martino did with Argentina and what he did with Paraguay, and his international experience would be welcomed. Sanchez Flores played exciting football during his club stops. Lopetegui worked with Spain's youth teams and then took on the senior job.

There also will be detractors. Martino never got over the hump with Argentina. Sanchez Flores has never coached a national team and has been out of work since being sacked at the end of the previous La Liga season. Lopetegui, well, no real need to explain there. Plus, there's the factor that many Mexico fans are still hoping for a Mexican coach, or a coach like new San Jose Earthquakes manager Matias Almeyda who has worked with Mexican players in the past when he took Chivas to the double.

Fans will be eager to know how everything will shake out after Mexico's pair of matches in Argentina this month, but all indications are that it will instead serve as an early Christmas gift. Martino's season might not end until Dec. 8, and even with the latest new surrounding Sanchez Flores, it would be a surprise to hear an announcement before then.

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