Mister Gago: the former from Valencia and Real Madrid looks like a coach at 36 years old

Aldosivi appears lately on a recurring basis in the career of Fernando Rubén Gago (Ciudadela, 1986): against the Mar del Plata club he suffered the last of a long list of serious injuries when he was still wearing shorts, the Mar del Plata team was the first to recruit him for a bench, changing the role definitively, the team from Mar del Plata (with Martín Palermo at the helm) was the rival of ‘his’ Racing in the Spanish early hours of Wednesday for the quarterfinals of the Argentine League Cup. The 5-0 with which Avellaneda’s squad dispatched that match was planted in the semis against Boca, former Gago, a match that will be played this Saturday at the Lanús stadium.

The newly minted technician is 36 years old, just a month ago. Age to continue playing football, especially in these times. Physical mishaps were wearing him down, however. For the memory remains his last appearance at the Santiago Bernabéu (years before he had played four and a half seasons at Real Madrid, where he arrived with Higuaín and Marcelo in a particularly busy winter market), when an Achilles tendon broke during the extension of that mythical Libertadores final between Boca and River that had to be moved to Europe. It was not the first time that he suffered such an injury nor, as already written, it would not be the last injury that he suffered. “I learned from them and they made me who I am,” he says.

I believe in being the protagonist, but the beauty of football is that there will be situations where you end up with ten defenders.

Fernando Gago (Racing coach)

It was in November 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, when playing for Vélez he decided to hang up his boots, ending a career that, in addition to all those already mentioned, also passed through Rome and Valencia. The Pintita player became a coach almost immediately, but now that everything is going well, his difficult start in the technical directions should be remembered: with Aldosivi he lost 16 of the 26 games he directed, so he himself had to announce his departure; with Racing, second season, he counted for defeats five of the eight meetings with which the previous course was closed and with whom he premiered. Everything was doubts, by then. Not even his continuity was clear.

It is convenient now to attend to the format of the Argentine League Cup, similar to that of 2021 (with which Colón was champion), oriented in any case towards a peculiar football year with the Qatar World Cup that will be played between November and December in the background. When it began in February, there were 28 teams in the running, divided into two groups of 14 to play in a single round plus a special date of interzonal classics. Well, Gago continued in office… and Racing began to function. In fact, they finished that group stage undefeated, with eight wins and six draws to lead a group in which River, Defensa y Justicia and Argentinos Juniors also qualified.

That first place cited him with the fourth of the other group, Aldosivi, who had had above Estudiantes, Boca and Tigre. The defensive strength had been the great endorsement of Racing, barely ten goals conceded, but in general Gago had recovered the best level of his footballers to build a showy team at times. The 5-0 of the first direct eliminatory seems otherwise a tremendous business card. There is a coach… and there are many years ahead. “The team has an idea and tries to demonstrate it in each game”, he considered with a low profile once a duel was over that put Racing in the face of a double by Carlos Alcaraz. Yes, you read that right: Carlos Alcaraz. With ball instead of racket.

Enzo Copetti also signed two goals and Javier Correa closed the list of scorers, in a list of footballers that includes Emiliano Insua as an old acquaintance of Spanish football, a left-back during his time at Atlético, now a central defender. The players line up behind Gago’s ideas, the club (chaired by Galician Víctor Blanco) is working on renewing a contract that expires this year until December 2024… and the Academy is partying in a balance that includes the Copa Sudamericana: he commands his group with the same points as the Peruvian Melgar, whom he will receive on the next day.

Luis Enrique marked me in the way of training, of solving the game, of understanding why…

Precisely on the website of the continental tournament, he tried to define himself as a coach: “I have a consideration of what I want my teams to do. I try to understand the rival’s strength and weakness… and from that think about what we do. My teams must dominate as many matches as possible. The longer they have the ball, the safer they feel. I believe in that, in being the protagonist, in being intense… but there are going to be game situations where you can end up with ten defenders, yes. All that is the beauty of football. I am convinced that, if one works, the result is in the long run”.

One of his references is precisely the Spain coach, with whom he coincided in Rome: “Luis Enrique marked me in the way of training, in the way of solving the game and understanding why… I tried that in my last years. When the technicians open up that range of things to you, everything is much easier”. The other is recent and corresponds to someone who, like him, once wore the Madrid shirt: “From Heinze in Vélez I learned a lot. He taught me about group management, how to play, the system… and on top of that I have a friendly relationship with him“. Fernando Gago, anyway. Two games away from what could be his first title as coach, but in any case laying the foundations for a career that seems spectacular. 36 years, remember.

Leave a Comment