When Sergio Batista was given the reins of Argentina’s national team on an interim basis, reactions in his home nation were mixed. Some were still mourning the resignation of national icon Diego Maradona, while others were hoping for a different gaffer, one with some managerial experience in Europe or Argentina’s domestic league. After all, Batista was coming off a horrendous experience with the youth squad, having failed to guide Argentina to the World Youth Cup for the first time in recent memory.
Some, however, remember Batista as the brilliant tactical manager who ledArgentina to Olympic gold at Beijing in 2008. In the process, he found a way to get the most out of his best players, namely Leo Messi, Angel Di Maria and Javier Mascherano. So how would he perform at the senior level? The answer, thus far, is magnificently.
Unlike Maradona, Batista has stacked his midfield and defence with more possession based players, and the results have been astonishing. Nicolas Ottamendi, Di Maria, and Maxi Rodriguez were replaced by Ever Banega, Esteban Cambiasso, and Javier Zanetti and Argentina has looked unstoppable since. In fact, following Tuesday’s 4-1 demolition of world champions Spain, supporters of the Albicelestes are no doubt be wondering what could have been had Batista been in charge in South Africa instead of Maradona.
Batista still has a number of upcoming friendlies to justify his appointment as permanent manager, including a match against hated-rivals Brazil. But if the big win over Spain is any indication, he looks certain to be around for some time.