Chivas-Monterrey pits two Argentine managers who have taken to Mexico

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Antonio Mohamed Monterrey
Rocio Vazquez
The two coaches have their own unique styles on and off the field, which Mexican fans have been lucky enough to enjoy

Antonio Mohamed marches to the beat of his own drum.

The Monterrey manager wears fashionable clothes in a league where some managers look to be having a contest to see who can look the most like they just rolled out of bed. He plays the style of soccer he wants, currently a 4-3-3 with Monterrey that's all about winning the ball back from opponents. Previously it was a swashbuckling style of full-force attacking play that saw him lift a trophy with Club Tijuana. He won the league with Club America with an intermediary version.

He has his own swagger, so it's no shock to see one thing that concerns Mohamed is the sameness of so many of his colleagues. Too many people are trying to copy the great managers, trying to be the next Pep or Mourinho or Bielsa instead of being the first Mohamed.

"There's a generation of interesting guys, but there's also a generation of new managers who copy others who have a lot bigger names. They even copy the way they walk. I don't think that's a good thing," he told La Nacion in his home country of Argentina. "They should have their own personality.

"Yes, take the best of everyone because the new generations are nourished by the previous ones. You learn from the models you choose but walking with your hands behind your back, sitting on an ice chest or using the same words as other people to me is copy and paste. You have to copy and learn. I'm dying to one day go manage and face the new generation of Argentine managers. I'd love it, but I also feel really good where I'm at. We'll see if our paths cross, if not maybe they'll come here like Chacho (Coudet, who managed at Tijuana) and Almeyda. I'll catch them at home," he closed with a laugh.

His path does cross with Matias Almeyda this weekend, with Mohamed taking his Rayados into the Estadio Chivas to face off with a fellow Argentine manager. Three years Mohamed's junior, Almeyda has earned respect from not only his colleagues but throughout the Americas for reinvigorating Chivas.

But the titles of the 2017 Clausura now seem well placed in the rear-view mirror. Almeyda even seemed to be headed out the door, expressing frustration last week about Chivas not signing reinforcements. Yet, that salve that covers everything, winning a game, has the manager looking much happier in Guadalajara.

His future aside, Almeyda is similar to Mohamed in that he has his way of doing things. That includes a focus not only on the field but on what might come after for a young man whose playing days are done.

"We look at their grades because the club rewards those who get the best grades and pays for their schooling. If you have bad grades, you have to pay for your education. The player who doesn't go to university isn't going to play with me," he said this week of his young players.

That's not to say the lessons Almeyda teaches on the training ground haven't taken. Last tournament was frustrating, but Almeyda had Chivas playing in his image and has been pleased with the team's performances in the opening three weeks - save for the final 15 minutes of a 3-1 loss to Cruz Azul in Jornada 2.

He also has history on his side. He's lost just one of the six contests he's had against Mohamed since arriving in Mexico. 

GFX Chivas Monterrey managers

Almeyda isn't relying on recent history, though, praising the work of his countryman before the game and preparing his team for a stiff test.

"We don’t think we’re better or worse than them. It’s 11 vs. 11. We’ve played Monterrey a lot, so it’s a great game a game that we can enjoy that the fans will enjoy and hopefully we have the quality to compete equally with them," he said in his pre-match news conference.

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What fans in Mexico can enjoy is two up-and-coming managers who do things their own way and bring their own style to the game both on and off the field. In a week where we've been reminded how easy it is to be safe or do the same thing in Liga MX, there's a reason Saturday's game demands attention. It's no accident that these managers also are regularly tossed out as candidates for jobs back in Argentina or even as potential coaches for the Mexico national team once Juan Carlos Osorio's tenure comes to an end. Even for his next step, Mohamed has a different plan than most.

"I don't want to come in like a parachuter, I don't see myself doing that. To come in Week 14, stand in front of the squad and tell them, 'Today we're playing against La Coruna,' and not having any idea who plays for La Coruna. What am I going to tell them? I'm not going to feel comfortable," Mohamed said in the same interview. He reflected on one of his few coaching failures, taking over Huracan in the second division. "I'd been champion in Mexico, gotten to the semifinals of the Copa Libertadores with Tijuana. I got to Huracan and I thought just by being there I was going to reach the goal. Soccer gave me a terrible punch. It was painful, but at the same time a huge lesson. I never played in Europe. I don't know how they do things. I'd like to go but I don't want to go, bounce out and come right back. I'd like to go prepared, well-equipped."

That's the Mohamed style, to go into things ready. Saturday we'll see how he's approaching another showdown with Almeyda. For now, Mexican soccer is better off enjoying the fruits of both men's labor.