FEATURE: Was Martín Lasarte the right choice for Al Ahly?
His appointment was announced Sunday afternoon after a meeting with club president Mahmoud El-Khatib, which saw him sign a one-and-a-half-year deal. The 57-year-old will succeed Patrice Carteron, who was sacked after Al Ahly’s CAF Champions League final loss and their elimination from the Arab Club Championship.
Lasarte will take charge of the team after the Reds’ clash with Jimma Aba Jifar in the CAF Champions League, meaning that his first game will be against El-Dakhelya on December 26.
Lasarte is one of the most successful Uruguayan managers, and has vast experience, having been a manager since 1996. His first managerial stint came at the age of 35 with Rampla Juniors, leading them to the second place in the Primera División Clausura, before taking over Rentistas, Atlético Bella Vista, and Emirati side Al Wasl in 2002.
After less than a year in UAE, he returned back to his home country to coach then-second division side River Plate, helping them win promotion and the Uruguayan Segunda División.
His first big job came when he was appointed as the manager of Uruguayan giants Club Nacional, winning back-to-back domestic league titles in 2004 and 2005, however, the club didn’t renew his contract and he was forced to leave. Short stints at Colombian side Millonarios and Danubio FC of Uruguay were not successful, but he then took a big jump and managed Spanish side Real Sociedad. In his first season, he helped the club return to the top flight after an absence of three years and won the 2010 Segunda División. Despite a bright start to the 2010-2011 La Liga campaign, the club struggled at the end of the season and had to wait until the last matchday to secure survival.
Lasarte was relieved of his duties and went on to manage Chilean sides CD Universidad Católica and Club Universidad, winning the Apertura in 2014, and the 2015 Copa Chile and Supercopa with the latter. He returned back to Club Nacional in June 2016 and helped them win the league title, before leaving the club in December 2017.
Martín Lasarte will be the first-ever South American to coach the Red Devils.
Why was Steve Bruce a favorite to take over the Al Ahly job?
The former Real Sociedad manager was favoured ahead of Englishman Steve Bruce, who was close to taking over the Cairo giants, but the club’s board opted for Lasarte.
Steve Bruce was one of the leading candidates to succeed Patrice Carteron as the Cairo Giants’ head coach. Bruce was sacked as Aston Villa head coach in October, where he managed Egypt’s Ahmed Elmohamady, following a slow start to the 2018-19 English Championship season. He narrowly missed out on promotion the season prior. The 57-year-old has worked with several Egyptian players in the past including Ahmed Hossam Mido and he has an overview of how the Egyptian Premier League works.
“Steve Bruce is a great manager and has great coaching abilities but I think taking over Al Ahly now is a big gamble,” Mido told NRJ radio station.
Was Lasarte the best fit?
In my opinion, Lasarte has an impressive CV compared to his competition. I want to say that hiring a coach that is capable of managing Al Ahly’s ambitions, fans, and the crucial competitions that the team participates in is the most important quality. He must be able to bear the players’ and media’s pressure because it’s a very stressful and exhausting task. It will require a lot of evenings to stay up late and figure out everything. I believe Lasarte is the coach that Al Ahly needs at the moment.
Lasarte has a great impact in the lives of many football stars including Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez. In an interview after France winning the World Cup, Griezmann was questioned about carrying an Uruguayan flag on his shoulders. He replied by saying “Marín Lasarte is the most important coach that has been in my life and I’m thanking him by doing this.” Lasarte is very experienced in finding new talents and that will be his goal with the Cairo Giants.
On the pitch, he seems like a good fit for Egyptian Premier League football. He’ll motivate his players, organise the defense, and move towards a slightly more aggressive style. He’ll try to gain back the team’s identity of possession football, but he’ll prevent them from becoming too stale, like they were against ES Tunis.
The coaches who place a priority on group dynamics and have a relaxed approach to management tend to succeed at Al Ahly.
It would be a mistake, though, to dismiss Lasarte as merely a good man-manager; he is much more than that and his trophies are evidence of that.
His football is more direct. The transitions are quicker, the pressing is intense, and the attacks are more varied. Martín Lasarte is keen for his teams to have the ball, but also to get it forward as quickly as possible. At times, he even invites the opposition to attack and then take advantage of those spaces. The Uruguayan is less of a purist, but his football is proving to be effective. Martín Lasarte could be a blessing for Al-Ahly.
What do you think about the appointment of Lasarte? Was he the right man for the job, or should it have been someone like Steve Bruce?
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