Aventuras Américas | Part 83 | Universitario #1: Returning To Peru

New to Aventuras Américas? Go back to the start in the job hunt stage or pick it up at 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, club 9 FC Edmonton, club 10 Newell’s Old Boys, club 11 Godoy Cruz, club 12 Flamengo and international teams Brazil and Colombia. Or dip into the start of the European leg of the journey at club 13 Wolfsburg, club 14 Liverpool, club 15 Barcelona, club 16 Sporting. club 17 AC Milan, club 18 Newcastle United, club 19 Paris Saint-Germain or club 20 Vasco da Gama.

Having overachieved massively at Vasco to take a clean sweep of the main three trophies on offer, Robinho Lazaró tendered his resignation to a troublesome-seeming incoming President.

So what now for the 83-year-old considered the second-greatest manager of all time? Well he was still keen to remain in management and was on the lookout for new opportunities while relaxing in the peace and quiet of his villa in the Colombian countryside.

But he ended up only spending a month or so in isolation as an intriguing challenge arose with a rival of one of his former clubs. Because Lazaró was heading back to Lima, in Peru, with Club Universitario de Deportes as, on 6 January 2068, he signed a one-year deal worth £7,000-per-week.

Universitario in 2068

Lazaró had played Universitario four times in the last two seasons with Vasco, which told him they remained one of the better sides in Peru. Indeed, the club is considered the second-favourite for the upcoming 2068 Liga 1 Movistar campaign, yet only finished 10th in the previous season.

The club is, of course, a fierce rival of Alianza Lima, with whom Lazaró lifted the Peruvian title and Copa Sudamericana way back in 2031 – which was so long ago that the Universitario board seemingly didn’t remember it happened. Universitario haven’t been national champion in 14 years going back to 2054 but was runner-up in 2065 and 2066. It also hasn’t won the Peruvian Cup in 29 years since 2039.

Universitario have average facilities, which were boosted slightly just after Lazaró’s arrival, but solid junior coaching and strong youth recruitment, as well as the impressive-looking 80,000-capacity Estadio Monumental. And it has some pretty sexy kits. They also have a solid bank balance of £25 million and a transfer budget of around £3 million.

Meet the Universitario squad

The best player at Universitario was centre-back Marcelo Rodriguez, who had a £1.4 million release clause so swiftly departed for San José. With him gone, the best players were full-back Gianni Sánchez, midfielders José Valverde and Darío Tomasín, wingers Juan Machado and Félix Díaz and striker Christian Gamarra, who has a terrible goalscoring record. And all those players are homegrown at the club.

The club also has a few decent prospects in 18-year-old striker Alejandro Vara, who scored 11 in 18 on loan last season and in his only Universitario appearance, 17-year-old midfielder Alonso Arroyo and centre-backs Claudio Barco (17), Piero Ruidíaz (19) and 6ft 6in Josué Huapaya (20).

Lazaró sold seven players for a £6.25 million profit and looked to strengthen with young talent, which was easier said than done. His first addition was midfielder Denilson Campoverde, who joined for £82,000 from Orense in Ecuador and looks like a great player for this level. However, Peruvian clubs can only name five non-Peruvian players in matchday squads, so Lazaró had to be careful of shopping abroad.

Tactically, Lazaró considered devising a new 5-3-2 tactic due to the club’s lack of natural full-backs, which would require converting wingers into wing-backs. But he was fairly skeptical of that approach, so decided to go with a variation on his 4-3-3 with a flat midfield. Half of the squad are 23 or younger and only two are 30 or older.

Lazaró returns to Peruvian football

37 years since lifting the Liga 1 Movistar title with Alianza Lima, Lazaró returned to it with Universitario. As a reminder, Peru begins with two nine-game Apertura Groups followed by the 17-game Clausura League.

Universitario began their Apertura Group with a trip to another rival Juan Aurich, who finished third last year, where they secured a solid 0-0 draw. Another rival clash followed in his first home game as they welcomed Sporting Cristal, which proved to be much more exciting as goals from Gamarra, right-back Jossimar Gutíerrez and winger Juan Sandoval secured a 3-2 win – after 34 shots to 10.

Tomasín tucked home a penalty to nick a 1-0 win at Cienciano then bagged a brace in a 3-1 home win over Alianza Atlético, which took Universitario top of the league. They maintained the top spot despite suffering a first loss 3-2 at Sport Boys and a 0-0 with rivals Municipal. That teed up a first Superclásico since Lazaró’s return, as he took his new side to his former club Alianza Lima. And he had the last laugh as Tomasín and Valverde strikes earned a deserved 2-1 victory.

A 22-day break followed before the final game of the Apertura group, in which Universitario faced a top vs. second clash at home to Unión Huaral. And a wild 3-3 draw was secured thanks to Gamarra’s 84th minute equaliser. That kept Universitario top of an Apertura group that wasn’t exactly high on quality.

That teed up a two-legged Apertura Final against Group B winners Sport Huancayo, who were Liga 1 runners-up last season. Universitario lost the away leg 2-0 but bounced back in style as a Machado brace led them to a 3-1 win that forced extra-time. Huancayo nicked in front in the 987th minute only for Machado to complete his hat-trick a minute later. Both teams had chances but Campoverde picked the ideal time to score his first goal for the club in the 107th minute. But Machado was the true hero with a hat-trick, two assists and seven key passes.

Strangely, winning Apertura doesn’t count as a trophy success so Lazaró couldn’t add any more numbers to his trophy haul. But his eyes were now firmly focused on strengthening his Universitario squad for the upcoming Liga 1 Movistar campaign.

Join us on Friday to discover how they fare in the main Peruvian league competition!

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