Newfound job security for Liga MX coaching fraternity

Santos coach Gullermo Almada argues with Pachuca head man Paulo Pezzolano during halftime of a Liga MX playoff game in November 2020. (Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images)
Santos coach Gullermo Almada argues with Pachuca head man Paulo Pezzolano during halftime of a Liga MX playoff game in November 2020. (Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images) /
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Liga MX coaches
At 36, Puebla’s Nicolás Larcamón is the youngest coach in Liga MX. He took the reins last season. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /

Tenure short-lived in Liga MX

Guillermo Almada is now the dean of Liga MX coaches, if you define “dean” as the longest-serving manager at his current team. Longest-serving, yet the Uruguayan has been in charge of “Los Laguneros” for a little over two years.

The Santos Laguna head man took over in April 2019, succeeding Robert Siboldi (see list below) who was forced to resign after engaging in fisticuffs with a player just 11 months after leading the Guerreros to the Clausura 2018 title.

Pachuca manager Paulo Pezzolano is next in line. He was signed by the Tuzos on Aug. 20, 2019.

This makes it obvious that patience is in short supply in Liga MX boardrooms, but these two newbies are making GM’s reconsider their coach-selection process. Heading into this season, exactly half of the 18 Liga MX coaches are in their first job in the league.

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A 10th – Toluca’s Hernán Cristante – is a special case. He’s on his second job in the league, but only with Toluca. The legendary former Diablos Rojos goalie – a star of six championship teams in Toluca from 1999 to 2010 – was the “Los Choriceros” boss from 2016 to 2019 but coached nowhere else until he was re-hired in December 2020.

The Apertura 2021 managers

The 18 head coaches are listed in order of seniority, their age, their team, and date hired. (The nine with a bullet before their name are in their first Liga MX job.)

  •   Guillermo Almada, 52 – Santos Laguna – April 14, 2019

Almada has a well-earned reputation for developing youngsters. “Los Verdiblancos” were the youngest team in the league last season, and Almada took them to the Final. Pundits predict he’ll move on to greener pastures before long.

  •   Paulo Pezzolano, 38 – Pachuca – Aug. 20, 2019

Pezzolano was nearly fired last season after an 0-4-5 start. The Argentine steadied the ship and the Tuzos finish out 6-1-1, claiming the No. 8 seed and reaching the semifinals.

Diego Cocca, 49 – Atlas – Aug. 11, 2020

Cocca had brief cups of coffee with Santos Laguna (2011) and Tijuana (2018)

Víctor Manuel Vucetich, 66 – Chivas – Aug. 13, 2020

  •   Andrés Lillini, 46 – Pumas – Aug. 17, 2020

Lillini was UNAM’s academy director when Michel unexpectedly quite just days before the Guardianes 2020. The Argentine was promoted to the head job and led the Pumas to the Final where they lost to León.

  •   Héctor Altamirano, 44 – Querétaro – Oct. 27, 2020

“El Pity” coached in Liga Expansión MX before taking the Gallos’ job.

Hernán Cristante, 51 – Toluca – Dec. 1, 2020

Javier Aguirre, 62 – Monterrey – Dec. 7, 2020

“El Vasco” returned to Liga MX after 18 years abroad – mostly in Spain – and two stints as coach of Team Mexico, guiding El Tri to two World Cups.

  •   Santiago Solari, 44 – América – Jan. 1, 2021

“El Indiecito” arrived from Real Madrid where he was the director of the club’s top academy team, briefly serving as interim manager of “Los Merengues” for 17 matches during the 2018-19 La Liga season.

  •   Nicolás Larcamón, 36 – Puebla – Jan. 1, 2021

Larcamón is still the youngest manager in Liga MX, but he proved last season that he has the goods. The Argentine made a strong case for Coach of the Year consideration after leading a modest Camoteros team to a Top 4 playoff seed and a berth in the semifinals.

Juan Reynoso, 51 – Cruz Azul – Jan. 2, 2021

The former Cementeros defender was fourth choice during management’s desperate coaching search ahead of last season, but Reynoso led “La Máquina” to its first Liga MX title in nearly 24 years, earning Coach of the Year in the process. The Peruvian led underdog Puebla to the quarterfinals in the Guardianes 2020 in his only prior experience in Mexico.

Guillermo Vázquez, 54 – Necaxa – March 19, 2021

“Memo” is in his second go-round with the Rayos after leaving them in 2019 in hopes of finding a team willing to bankroll a bigger payroll. He guided the Pumas to the Clausura 2011 title and led Cruz Azul to the Clausura 2013 Final, but was ridiculed after the early application of a “prevent defense” cost the Cementeros the title.

Robert Siboldi, 55 – Xolos – April 19, 2021

Already with his fourth franchise, the former Liga MX goalie (Atlas, Cruz Azul, Puebla and Tigres) led Santos Laguna to the Clausura 2018 title. The Uruguayan sandwiched a terrible experience as head man at Veracruz with successful stints at Santos and Cruz Azul.

  •   Ariel Holan, 60 – León – May 11, 2021

Holan has the difficult task of replacing Ignacio Ambriz who led the Esmeraldas to two Finals, winning once. The Argentine won a league title with Chile’s Universidad Católica before proving a bit of a flop at Brazil’s Santos. earlier this year The core of León’s veteran team embraced Ambriz’s free-flowing system, but now must learn new tactics while also adjusting to considerable roster turnover. It didn’t go well in the season opener as “La Fiera” was trounced by Pachuca 4-0.

Ricardo Ferretti, 67 – FC Juárez – July 1, 2021

Miguel Herrera, 53 – Tigres – July 1, 2021

  • Beñat San José, 41 – Mazatlán FC – July 1, 2021

The young Spaniard began his coaching career in Saudi Arabia in 2012 before winning back-to-back titles in Bolivia (with Bolívar) and another in Chile (with Universidad Católica). His new team has only been in existence since June 2020 but that doesn’t mean ownership and fans will be patient. A first-ever playoff appearance is the goal. The new regime got off to a great start Monday night, handing holders Cruz Azul a 2-0 loss at Estadio Azteca.

  •  Marcelo Méndez, 40 – Atlético de San Luis – July 1, 2021

Méndez has had charge of three clubs in his native Uruguay, leading Liverpool FC to the first-ever league title in December 2020. That the Tuneros opened the Apertura 2021 in last place in the “Relegation Standings” is no surprise since the club had to fork over 120 million pesos after finishing last after the 2020-2021 cycle. Méndez is tasked with making sure ownership doesn’t have to spend big bucks again next May. To that end, a complete roster overhaul was carried out over the summer (17 new faces), and six starters sold off to help pay the relegation fine. A road win over the Chivas in the season opener was a good way to begin.