The Manager Leaves River Plate After An Historic Eight-And-A-Half-Year Tenure
By Tristan Bonetto – LA Soccer Press
Buenos Aires, Argentina – In a press conference on Thursday, October 13th, Marcelo Gallardo announced that he would no longer continue as River Plate manager after his contract expires in December. This marks the end of an eight-and-a-half-year spell in which Gallardo became the winningest coach in River Plate history.
During his time in charge, Gallardo coached River Plate in 422 matches, winning 227 matches and claiming 14 titles with the club.
Gallardo won three Recopa Sudamericana’s (2015, 2016, 2019), three Copa Argentina’s (2016, 2017, 2019), two Copa Libertadores (2015, 2018), two Supercopa Argentina’s (2018, 2021), a Copa Sudamericana (2014), an Argentine Primera División (2021), and a Trophy of Champions (2021).
Gallardo arrived at his boyhood club to become their new manager in May 2014. His main goal was to bring the South American giants back to the success they once enjoyed on the international front. After only six months in charge, Gallardo led River Plate to a Copa Sudamericana title in December 2014.
But there was one cup that eluded River Plate for 19 agonizing years, the Copa Libertadores, South America’s most prestigious international club tournament. The last time River Plate won a Copa Libertadores was in 1996. Gallardo was a player on the winning squad that claimed the title.
Nineteen years after winning it as a player and a year and a half after taking the reigns as manager, Gallardo returned River Plate to international glory with a victory over Tigres UANL of Mexico in the 2015 Copa Libertadores Final. But Gallardo wasn’t done there, and he expressed there was still more work to do.
After three more successful years with the club, Gallardo’s work finally paid off in the ultimate way. On December 9th, 2018, at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, River Plate defeated their eternal rivals, Boca Juniors, in the Copa Libertadores Final. It was the first time the two arch-rivals ever met in a Copa Libertadores Final, and most likely the only time it will ever happen.
The victory over Boca Juniors in the 2018 Copa Libertadores Final, which pundits called the “final to end all finals,” catapulted Gallardo into near immortalization with the River Plate fanbase. He was revered by every fan and former player that ever played for the club for his monumental achievement, one that will be remembered for eternity.
There was one more title that Gallardo wanted to win with River Plate, the Argentine Primera División. It was the only title he still hadn’t claimed as the River Plate manager. His tenacity was rewarded when he led River Plate to an Argentine Primera División title in November 2021.
During the press conference on Thursday, Gallardo expressed gratitude towards the River Plate front office for letting him embark on such an ambitious project in 2014. He also gave his eternal thank you to the fans for their unwavering support.
“It is one of the most difficult and heartfelt decisions I’ve had to make,” Marcelo Gallardo said of his decision to leave River Plate after the season ends.
“I am here to thank Enzo (Francescoli) for his friendship, Jorge (Brito), and Matías (Patanian) for their trust. The same to the entire leadership body; thank you for giving me the opportunity to express myself [and] develop my work with total freedom. I would like to thank a lot of people who have accompanied me very faithfully during these eight and a half years.”
“I want to thank the fans for every little tribute they have paid me [over the years]. It will be an unforgettable memory for me. I thank you wholeheartedly for [all] the displays of love and affection. Although I am going to end my contractual relationship, I am going to do it as I always wanted to [end it]. On Sunday, I’m going to [coach] my last game at El Monumental. Thank you for the love you’ve shown me. It’s been a beyond beautiful story.”
Gallardo’s last home match in charge will be against Rosario Central on Sunday, October 16th, at El Monumental. His last match as coach will be away against Racing Club of Avellaneda on Sunday, October 23rd, at Estadio Presidente Perón.
Photo Courtesy of Getty Images
Bonetto is a student at CSU Long Beach. He covers Orange County Soccer Club for LA Soccer Press. Follow him at @tristanbonetto on Twitter.