Football: Argentina pick twice Libertadores winner Edgardo Bauza as national coach

Edgardo Bauza gesturing during the Argentina First Division football match between San Lorenzo and Huracan.
Edgardo Bauza gesturing during the Argentina First Division football match between San Lorenzo and Huracan.PHOTO: AFP

BUENOS AIRES (REUTERS) - Argentina, still reeling from the shock resignations of captain Lionel Messi and coach Gerardo Martino, have chosen Edgardo Bauza as their new coach, the Argentine Football Association said on Monday.

Bauza guided LDU Quito (2008) and San Lorenzo (2014) to Copa Libertadores success and steered Brazilian club Sao Paulo to the semi-finals of South America's top club competition last month.

With 2018 World Cup qualifiers at home to Uruguay and away to Venezuela coming up next month, the 58-year-old is expected make convincing Messi to go back on his decision to quit international football his first task.

"Bauza is (the man chosen as) coach of the national team," interim AFA chief Armando Perez told a brief news conference in Buenos Aires.

"He's coming to Argentina on Friday (to sign)," added Perez, who heads the 'Regularisation Committee' put in place by world body Fifa last month to administer the AFA and organise elections by mid-2017.

"We know there are a lot of problems to deal with at the AFA ... but first we had to resolve the matter of the coach."

Bauza, expected to sign until Russia 2018, has little time to decide on his squad for next month's qualifiers.

The 10-nation South American group is tight, with Argentina in third place with 11 points from six matches, two points behind leading pair Uruguay and Ecuador and one ahead of Chile and Colombia, with Brazil and Paraguay a point further back.

The top four teams after 18 matches go through to the Finals in Russia while the fifth-placed team go into an inter-continental playoff for one more berth.

Had the timing been better, Argentina would probably have gone for a higher-profile coach like Atletico Madrid's Diego Simeone or former Chile trainer Jorge Sampaoli.

But the pair, as well as Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino, are tied to their present jobs by buyout clauses the cash-strapped AFA has no means of paying.

Former central defender Bauza comes highly recommended and has built a reputation as being one of the top coaches in South America.

The AFA has been harshly criticised for its performance since the 2014 death of Julio Grondona, who had ruled it since 1979, and has been held partially to blame for the resignations of Messi and Martino.