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“The connection between Messi and Julián Álvarez could be like that of Maradona and Caniggia”

—Did you imagine that Julián Álvarez was going to be at this level, in Qatar 2022?

Let’s see, imagine that I was at this level in a World Cup, not really. He didn’t know how she was going to respond. Afterwards, when it comes to football, everything that Julián is performing doesn’t surprise me at all, because I know him. I had him for a long time in the minor divisions and I know what he can give. He still hadn’t touched his ceiling.

—You recently said that Julián Álvarez was one of the best appearances in recent times. Do you ratify it?

Yes, it is one of the best promises that has come out. She is showing it, and in a World Cup, which is the highest level of competitiveness. I think I was not wrong.

—During the World Cup, were you able to talk to him?

No, just a message before the start when the list was given and he was among the 26 called up, wishing him the best in the tournament. After that I didn’t talk to him or any of the boys with whom I had a relationship. Maybe I’m waiting for the World Cup to end to chat with him.

—Does the connection between Messi and Julián remind you of that of Maradona with Burruchaga?

It seems similar, let’s see, it could be like that of Maradona-Burruchaga, also like that of Maradona-Caniggia, and also like that of Maradona-Ramón Díaz. One can look for many similarities. The important thing is that in the little playing time they have had together, they have understood each other perfectly. That speaks of what a good player Julián is, because he immediately adapted to Messi.

It seems like they’ve known each other for a long time…

For Messi himself it’s good to have a player like Julián who is constantly looking for spaces for him, that deep ball, that breath helps him. Not only when the team attacks but when the team defends. Julián is a player who collaborates a lot with the team.

—And he also proves to be a combative player as in one of his goals against Croatia where he destroyed everything in his path…

Yes, he can do almost 60 meters with the ball, in a counterattack. It is its quality. In that situation and in that field position he is a very dangerous player.

—Is there a striker in the world who runs more than Julián Álvarez? He never stays still.

Yes, the truth is that I don’t know if there is one of that quality today: how he plays and how he runs. It’s beautiful and nice for a coach to have a player who not only plays well, but also collaborates and runs. Let him be the first defender of the team, trying to run all the rival defenders. Yours is worthwhile.

Julián Álvarez scored the 2-0 of Argentina vs.  Croatia for the World Cup semifinals.  (Photo: Getty)

—Julián Álvarez has four goals in his first World Cup. What is he for?

I don’t know what his ceiling is, I think he is still to give much more. He recently came to European football, to an important club (Manchester City) with a great coach (Pep Guardiola). Every day he is going to get stronger, he is quite young and can continue to progress. I who know him well tell you that he does not settle, he always wants more.

—How has the Julián that you led changed with the current one?

More matches, more serenity in game situations, more experience. In the last time at River Plate he was already a starter, he played all the games. The matches give you more peace of mind in the game.

—How is that first contact to summon Julián Álvarez to the youth team of Argentina under-20?

I called Julián for the South American in Chile in 2019, when I took charge of the national team in 2018. We had to make a quick list, because we had to play the South American in a month and I saw him in the lower ranks playing in the fifth and sixth for River Plate. From the first summons he stayed.

What qualities did you see in him?

What we talked about before: not only the individual technique, but the sacrifice. Continuously looking for the possibility of free spaces. It is a player that gives you variants to play with different systems. In my national teams, I have used him as a winger, on the outside, a midfielder, he can play as ‘9’.

—If Marcelo Gallardo launched you to fame and Guardiola to the first world of football, what could be said about you?

Nothing, that we collaborate and put a grain of sand so that Julián grows sportingly in the national team. Afterwards it is all his merit, logically, Gallardo did his thing at the club, because he had it on a day-to-day basis, when we had it prior to a summons. I believe that we all collaborate, as Gallardo was, as Guardiola is now and as he touched me at the time.

—How does the average Argentine feel today?

The Argentine people are very happy because they feel very identified with this team. Beyond Argentina, all South Americans have to feel happy, because South America has not had a champion team for a long time. The Europeans have taken a bit of advantage over us and today it’s Argentina’s turn. We are one step away and hopefully it can be done after a long time.

Julián rubs shoulders with the Norwegian Haaland.  (Photo: EFE)

—The dream of every football fan is for Lionel Messi to win Qatar 2022, is he on track to do so?

It is the dream that every soccer fan has, not only the Argentine, but in many parts of the world. Let’s see, he doesn’t have to win the World Cup to show that he was the best in the last 15 years, but it seems that sometimes being a champion validates you. Now he is the best, and hopefully I can crown him once and for all.

—Do you feel that there is a lot of pressure for Argentina to win the World Cup?

Argentina has not been world champion for a long time and was close in 2014. Today they are in a final again, and beyond the rivalries we may have, it is important for the world that South America becomes strong again.

—How do you describe the human side of Julián?

He is a very quiet boy, very introverted. I don’t know if they often charged him. For me he was one of his favorite players. He did not come to the Olympic Games, because at that time River Plate needed him for the Copa Libertadores. They bothered him because he was my favorite player. He was always low profile, quiet. A great guy.

Source: Elcomercio

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