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Bianchi says no to Argentina
Luis Ampuero | September 16, 2004 14:51 IST
Jose Pekerman emerged as favourite to take over as Argentina coach on Wednesday after original first choice Carlos Bianchi turned down the job, Argentina Football Association president Julio Grondona said.
The post became vacant after Marcelo Bielsa surprisingly resigned on Tuesday, saying he had run out of energy after six years in the high pressure job.
Grondona quickly targeted Bianchi as his priority for the post but on Wednesday announced that the former Boca Juniors coach wanted to distance himself from the sport for the time being.
"At this moment, Bianchi is much more concerned about his life than about coaching in football," Grondona said.
"I'm very unhappy as my idea was for Bianchi to be coach."
Shortly afterwards, Grondona announced: "I'm going to try and see about the possibilities of Pekerman taking over as coach of the national team."
"Everybody knows what he represents for Argentine football."
Pekerman's brother Pablo told Radio Mitre that a deal was close.
It's almost a fact," he said.
Pekerman has worked extensively in the development of young players and has won the World Youth Cup three times, in 1995, 1997 and 2001.
He was also the man who suggested the previously little-known Bielsa should take over as coach in 1998.
Pekerman had been tipped to take over the job after Argentina were knocked out in the first round of the 2002 World Cup.
But he said at the time he was not interested and Bielsa surprisingly held on to the post on the basis of his previous good record.
Pekerman, a firm believer in fair play and encouraging talent to flourish, shares the same footballing philosophy as Bielsa.
Bianchi, meanwhile, is a wily figure who led Boca Juniors, the country's most popular team, from years of mid-table obscurity to become the dominant force in South American club football.
Boca won the South American Libertadores Cup three times in four years under his leadership as well as the Argentine championship.
Bielsa shocked the country by walking out on Tuesday at one of the high points in his six-year reign.
He had led the under-23 team to the country's first-ever soccer Olympic gold medal only three weeks earlier and had been credited with rebuilding the senior side after a two-year struggle which followed the 2002 World Cup failure.