Aventuras Américas | Part 35 | Newell’s Old Boys #1: Walking Into A Nightmare!

We’re moving to club 10 on this journey, so a few bookmarks for previous teams might be helpful. Feel free to begin the Aventuras Américas journey at the job hunt stage, club 1 Puerto Montt, club 2 Universidad Católica, club 3 New York Red Bulls, club 4 River Plate Montevideo, club 5 América de Cali, club 6 Alianza Lima, club 7 Puebla FC, club 8 Palmeiras and club 9 FC Edmonton.

In early November 2037, Robinho Lazaró boarded the first flight out of Edmonton back home to Colombia. He took his mind off football for a few days while enjoying his mother’s delicious homemade food.

16 years into his Football Manager career, Lazaró had won eight of the nine titles available to him in his mission to win every top-tier league in North and South America. His sole remaining target was Argentina, along with a desire to win Copa Libertadores and potential international opportunities.

The good news for Lazaró was he was now an appealing manager to most leading clubs, given he had excellent attributes and a 70% reputation rating. He also had 14 league titles and six cup wins, plus two promotions to his name, in addition to a 59% winning record from 795 games in management, scoring 1,548 goals in the process.

Lazaró spent a bit of downtime reading up on the state of Argentinian football, which didn’t take long as Boca Juniors and River Plate were still the dominant forces. As a result, Boca’s manager has been in the role for 12 years and won four titles on the bounce, while River’s has been in charge for two years and has two cup wins.

Lazaró began looking for jobs at the end of November and the first interest came from top-tier side Colón, whose mention of “severe financial difficulties” in the interview was a serious concern. However, a more intriguing option arrived as Newell’s Old Boys sacked their manager and wasted no time in offering Lazaró an interview. Both sides asked for staff changes and made Lazaró offers, leaving him with an intriguing choice.

But the big-name lure of Newell’s Old Boys was too much for Lazaró to look beyond.

Who are Newell’s Old Boys?

You’ve likely heard of Club Atlético Newell’s Old Boys as the club where a certain Lionel Messi began his career or where Marcelo Bielsa became a club legend by leading them to two titles in the early 1990s. It also has a prodigious youth setup that’s produced the likes of Gabriel Batistuta, Walter Samuel, Gabriel Heinze, Mauricio Pochettino and Máxi Rodríguez.

Newell’s is based in the city of Rosario, in the Santa Fe province in central-east Argentina. It was founded in 1903 by Isaac Newell, who was an Englishman from Kent who was responsible for pioneering football in Argentina, and was a founding member of Liga Rosarina de Football, the original body that founded the sport in the country. Newell’s biggest rivals Rosario Central were also a founding member.

Newell’s are three-time champions of Argentina, with their most recent title coming in 1991, plus three additional titles when the Argentine league ran an Apertura and Clausura format. It’s also a two-time Copa Libertadores winner in 1988 and 1992.

Despite that historic success, Newell’s has fallen on hard times. They were relegated from the top-tier Liga Profesional de Fútbol in 2028 and only returned for one season in 2035. They now play in Group A of the second-tier Primera Nacional, in which they finished 13th then 6th in the last two seasons and now sit 11th of 18 teams after 18 of a 34 game season.

The club play at the 42,000-capacity Marcelo Alberto Bielsa ‘Coloso del Parque.’ It has good youth facilities, youth recruitment and academy coaching, and average training facilities. Unfortunately, the financial situation is pretty dire, with £5.8m of debt and spending £15,000 over the allotted wage budget. Lazaró’s new board want him to develop youngsters, sign players under 23 to sell for a profit and earn a top-half finish in the league. And, worryingly, he needs to repair the club’s financial damage.

Meet the Newell’s Old Boys squad

This was the first time that Lazaró’s entire squad was newgens, so no real-life players here! The best player at Newell’s is a fellow Colombian in defender Jhojan Arizala who, worryingly, was transfer-listed “due to the club’s perilous financial position.” Lazaró was beginning to think he’d made a massive mistake! Other key players look like right-back Jorge Rodríguez, midfielder Walter Pighin, centre-back Ayrton Ciccioli, 6ft 5in winger/striker Leandro Ramírez and winger Enzo Gutiérrez, while 32-year-old striker Emmanuel Pedernera could be their main goal source. And, even more worryingly, all their good players were transfer listed in hope of raising much-needed finances.

They also have plenty of exciting young talent, led by 18-year-old right-winger Diego Cabrera and 19-year-old left-winger Lautaro Arsenidis., who are definitely ones to build a team around There’s plenty more coming through the youth teams too, with the best prospect being 18-year-old attacker Agustín Ortiz López. They also have exciting 16-year-olds in centre-back Mariano Franco and winger Darío Fabris.

Transfer obliteration

The financial constraints forced Lazaró to sell players, but he vowed to get the most money possible. That saw sales of Pighin to Austin FC for £875,000, midfielders Danilo Boasso and Nahuel Gojmerac to O’Higgins and Copiapó for £350,000 and £375,000 and Rodríguez to Universidad de Chile for £250,000, then later Ramírez to CSA for £1.1 million. That saw them get the wage budget into the black but didn’t even touch the sides of the ever-growing negative bank balance.

Even more concerningly, a host of players’ contracts expired in six months’ time, Newell’s couldn’t afford their wage demands and teams began making end of contract bids. Lazaró had walked into a nightmare! However, this did give him an opportunity to promote and focus on youth.

Into Argentinian football

The media predicted Newell’s to finish sixth out of all 36 teams in both Premera Nacional groups. Of the five above them, only two are also in Group A. So it’s clear that Newell’s had been massively underperforming down in 11th in the group, a huge 15 points off automatic promotion and only eight points off relegation. Intriguingly, former top Argentinian sides Racing Club, Lanús and Quilmes are also in the second tier and eight of the 18 clubs in Newell’s group are former national champions.

Lazaró’s first game as Newell’s Old Boys manager was a midtable battle at home to Chacarita Jrs. They got a flyer as Pedernera scored one of the best goals of Lazaró’s time in management, wrapped up a hat-trick before half-time then hit a club and league-record fourth to seal a superb debut that Lazaró firmly didn’t expect! And he was particularly pleased with Cabrera getting two assists.

Old Boys then welcomed All Boys and Pedernera was on target again in a dominant 2-0 win. He scored two more as Lazaró got his first sight of Newell’s disgusting grey and red away kit in a 2-1 win at Unión de Santa Fe, led by two more Cabrera assists, and the only goal in a trip to Estudiantes (BA), who missed an injury-time penalty. In four games, Pedernera had scored eight goals – compared to 10 in his first 18 – which won him Player of the Month and Lazaró manager of the month.

Lazaró reached 800 games in management at home to Lanús and another Pedernera double led a 4-0 win that took Newell’s to a new club-record sixth successive win. That extended to seven before a trip to second-place Quilmes, whose keeper made a late wondersave and won player of the match to restrict Newell’s to a 0-0, so Lazaro was at least pleased with the performance.

It looked like a first defeat was following in a poor first-half performance at Almagro. But the exciting Ortiz López came off the bench to bag two assists as a Pedernera hat-trick inspired an amazing 3-2 comeback win! And they carried that form into a new club record 12-game unbeaten streak until a cruel 3-2 defeat at Belgrano.

That first defeat was immediately followed by another at Racing Club then at home to leaders Estudiantes (LP), who were promoted as a result. The defence then undermined a brilliant performance by Cabrera, who scored two and made the other, by conceding two late goals to draw 3-3 at Gimnasia y Tiro. But they did get back to winning ways as Arsenidis scored twice in a 3-1 win over San Martín – in which two 18-year-olds and a 19-year-old started in attack.

With three games remaining, Newell’s form under Lazaró had lifted them to sixth in the league and, if it hadn’t been for that sudden run of defeats, they could have been right in the promotion mix! But for now, Lazaró wanted to nail down at least a top-half finish.

Cabrera was becoming a real fans’ and manager’s favourite. The 18-year-old scored the opener and made a late third in a 3-1 win over Ferro, which meant he scored in four successive games and took him to six goals and two assists in the last six. But he wasn’t adding to that in the final game of the season, in which Newell’s did well to hold fourth-place Talleres to a 0-0 draw.

That ensured they finished fifth in Group A and eight of 36 overall, in a league that’s so big it doesn’t fit on one screen! But the important thing was the group, in which Newell’s only missed out on promotion by five points following a great run under Lazaró. Indeed, in 16 matches they picked up 33 points, which is very much promotion form.

Pedernera finished the season as the Top Goalscorer in the league with 28 goals in 34 games, had the most shots on target in the league (70) and had the seventh-most key passes, which seems unusual for a striker. But Cabrera was fourth for the most key passes per 90 minutes with 2.97.

Season Review

The star man during Lazaró’s half-season in Rosario was certainly striker Pedernera, who finished the campaign with 28 goals and five assists in 34 games. However, he scored 18 in 13 under Lazaró! The player Lazaró was most excited about was Cabrera, who got six goals and six assists in 13 games. Arsenidis chipped in with six goals and six assists, while centre midfielder Juan Navone led the way with seven assists and Gutiérrez, who became the club’s record league appearances holder with 375 during the season, got six assists but was largely disappointing.

But the big test now is going to be keeping hold of players for next season and beyond. Loads of players are out of contract in one month and all the rest only have another 13 months remaining, and Newell’s don’t have the finances to renew them. So this could be an interesting summer…

Can Lazaró address Newell’s Old Boys’ dire financial situation? And how many youngsters will he be forced to blood in 2038/39? Find out next time!

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