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Emelec

Trezeguet, new stadiums and suspended polls: Emelec's elections take a surreal turn

1:00 PM WAT 22/01/2022
David Trezeguet 2019
The ex-France star has become wrapped up in a roller-coaster campaign, with even the date of the vote unknown following a judge's intervention

Whether it is politics or football, grandiose promises are a part of almost every hard-fought presidential campaign.

In those clubs which maintain fan control of the boardroom, a pledge to bring in a star centre-forward or invest in sparkling new facilities can help tip the balance among indecisive voters and deliver victory for the aspiring candidate.

In Ecuador, Jose 'Pepe' Auad is no exception to the rule.

The perennial Emelec presidential hopeful is aiming for the stars in his bid to unseat incumbent Nassib Neme, vowing to bring a World Cup winner to Guayaquil.

At the start of January, Auad was all smiles as he sat alongside David Trezeguet, one of France's heroes in their tournament triumph on home soil in 1998.

The ex-Monaco, Juventus and River Plate ace has been put forward as Emelec's next sporting director should Pepe prevail at the polls.

Interestingly, it's the second post Trezeguet has sought in South America in the last two months, after running on Antonio Caselli's unsuccessful ticket as River's potential vice-president in December.

“I liked the proposal to take Emelec further, to think of taking their brand international,” the Buenos Aires-born Trezeguet told reporters at an impromptu press conference in a Guayaquil hotel earlier in January.

“I am very excited about the trust Mr. Auad has placed in me. This project has a lot of energy and ambition for the present and future of the institution.

“We will look to make Emelec a leading side and to win all the games and competitions they compete in at international level, in particular to become a Copa Libertadores champion.”

The presence of an internationally recognised name like that of Trezeguet would be a significant coup for Auad, who has been competing unsuccessfully for the Emelec presidency for over a decade, but it is far from the only big plan the businessman has in store for the club.

As well as lining up alongside the ex-striker, Auad has unveiled plans for a lavish new stadium and sporting complex in Guayaquil, under the rather immodest tag of the 'Estadio Olimpico Pepe Auad.”

Reports suggest that the project could cost up to $80 million (£60m), the funding of which remains somewhat unclear, although the candidate has also claimed he has sealed numerous lucrative sponsors and is in talks with airline giant Fly Emirates to provide a further injection of cash.

The idea of closing down Emelec's historic Estadio Capwell, which received a multi-million dollar renovation in 2017, is not universally popular either, but Auad is bullish over his chances.

“I want to prove that Pepe Auad is not a buffoon nor a charlatan,” he told reporters in a press conference last year.

“I already feel like and am going to be president because if I am president the members will have $50m (£37m) in sponsors, they will have a $25m (£18.5m) training centre, they'll have foreign signings of the highest quality, which is what they most want.

"So, if they are intelligent, they know that Pepe Auad wants the best for the team.”

Auad subsequently promised to sign two Flamengo attackers once he takes charge – “not Gabigol”, as he helpfully pointed out when asked to clarify his claim – but just when the hopeful will hear the fans' verdict on his grand designs remains up in the air.

At the start of 2021 – indeed, just days before Trezeguet's Guayaquil visit – a local judge decided to suspend the elections planned for January 30, upholding complaints over the original call to go to the polls made the previous months.

There is currently no alternative date scheduled, leaving the democratic process up in the air and an atmosphere of uncertainty around the club.

“I hope that the most rapid, coherent solution is found in order to hold the elections and for Pepe to win them, to put our working plan into action,” added Trezeguet, who scored France's Golden Goal win in the final of Euro 2000.

“I don't want to give away anything specific transfer-wise and with regards to the current team, which is what members and fans most care about, until knowing the result of the vote.”

The coming 12 months could be a watershed in Ecuadorian football, particularly for the port city of Guayaquil, in constant competition with capital Quito for sporting supremacy.

While Emelec and their local rivals Barcelona lead the rankings for the most successful clubs domestically with a combined 30 titles, neither side boasts a continental crown, while LDU Quito lifted the Libertadores in 2008 and Independiente del Valle took the 2019 Sudamericana.

In October 2022, Barcelona's Estadio Monumental home will have the distinction of holding the Libertadores final, beating out iconic grounds like Boca Juniors' Bombonera and the Estadio Mane Garrincha, built for the 2014 World Cup in Brasilia.

Ecuador are also in fine shape to make the cut for Qatar 2022, currently sitting in third and six points clear of the play-off spots with just four games still to play.

Returning to the World Cup finals would be a huge boost for the nation, which has been a strong contender at youth level in recent years and is now reaping the fruits of that investment.

Meanwhile, young stars like Moises Caicedo, Piero Hincapie and Gonzalo Plata are making an impact in the European game despite being barely out of their teens.

The future looks bright, then, and Emelec certainly appears an intriguing opportunity for Trezeguet to prove himself as a sporting director in his first experience in such a role.

Still, there are no guarantees as of yet: everything depends on whether the exuberant Auad can convince fans he is the real deal, and then actually deliver on his hugely ambitious vows.