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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Jorge Almiron can be latest Argentina coach to shine in Spain at Las Palmas

Impressive job working at Lanus is why he has been targeted to help the Primera Liga side avoid relegation.

Jorge Almiron's success in Argentina has led to admiring glances from Las Palmas in Spain. Diego Vara / Reuters
Jorge Almiron's success in Argentina has led to admiring glances from Las Palmas in Spain. Diego Vara / Reuters

As the sun beat down in Lanus, 10 kilometres south of central Buenos Aires, on Monday afternoon, coach Jorge Almiron walked onto the field before his side’s game against Velez Sarsfield.

The 9,000 crowd, an attendance hit by an odd 5pm kick-off time, applauded their coach wildly and raised a flag showing his face.

They also sang ‘Ole, Ole, Ole, Jorge, Jorge’. Lanus’ previous match had been in the final of the Copa Libertadores in which they were outclassed over two legs by the Brazilian side and Fifa World Club Cup contenders Gremio.

Yet to reach the final of South America’s most prestigious cup competition was an incredible achievement for a club that had never claimed to be a giant of Argentinian football and which still has a homely barrio feel to it.

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Almiron, their 46-year-old coach, was a factor. An Argentine who played most of his club football in Mexico, he led Lanus to only their second league title in 2016, a domestic Bicentenario cup and the domestic Super Cup too.

Recently, Lanus beat their illustrious neighbours River Plate in the semi-finals to reach a first ever Libertadores final.

Richer clubs began to take notice of Almiron and Las Palmas offered him a first chance to coach in Europe.

The Primera Liga side, who have already dismissed two coaches this season, are desperate to stay up.

They do not have a big budget, they have injuries and are so wracked by internal politics that Quique Setien, their successful coach of the last two seasons, had enough and decided to leave for Real Betis last season.

Manuel Marquez and Pako Ayestaran have since taken charge. The dressing room is divided, players ignore instructions from their coach and the league table does not lie: Las Palmas are 18th, in a relegation spot with only three wins from 18 games and a horrendous goal difference of minus 21, the worst in the league.

They lost eight games in succession and Ayestaran’s record of 13 straight defeats as a manager, which carried over from his previous job at Valencia, was the worst in top-flight Spanish football history.

Before him, Las Palmas fired Marquez, who won two of the opening six games, in haste.

Their attempts to sign Almiron have also hit a problem since the Spanish Football Federation want proof he has been a manager rather than an assistant for five consecutive seasons.

It is odd that a lack of experience is cited as the reason not to employ a successful coach, but much is odd about the way Las Palmas operate.

Should Almiron get his chance in the Canary Islands as expected, he will be the latest Argentine to move to Spain, either as a player or coach.

From Alfredo di Stefano to Jorge Valdano, Mario Kempes to Lionel Messi, they have quite some record.

Mauricio Pochettino moved to Spain where he played and coached before moving to England, while Marcelo Bielsa was a success at Athletic Bilbao.

Barcelona turned to Tata Martino after his success in Argentinian domestic football, while Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone is the longest serving Argentine in Spain.

Sevilla boss Eduardo Berizzo, who announced last week that he has prostate cancer, is an Argentine.

Almiron has already proven that he has the talent to do well in management. A bigger worry is if he will get the time and support to do his job properly at Las Palmas, a club where the president’s influence is not always appreciated by the men employed to pick their team.

Almiron will not be in charge for Las Palmas’ game on Friday at Alaves, but with matches against Espanyol, Getafe, Eibar and Girona to follow, Las Palmas have a chance to pick up some points before it is too late.