meDuardo Coudet was angry, increasingly angry and more drunk. The fact that Rosario Central had lost 4-0 in the first leg of the Conmebol Cup final was bad enough, but it was after two in the morning and he was still trapped inside an empty stadium, unable to escape from humiliation, he left with nothing to do but think about it. That and drink. His name came up with Pablo Sánchez, sent together to the anti-doping room. But no matter how hard they tried, no matter how much beer they drank, and it was a lot, they couldn’t provide a sample. Time passed and Coudet grew more and more nervous: he was going to have them.
This was not the place and it certainly was not the time, so Sánchez tried to calm him down. Let’s make a promise, he said: if we turn this around, we will spend the night inside the land, our land. Incredibly, Rosario won the second leg 4-0, claiming her first international trophy. in penalties. And, as the players celebrated in the locker room, preparing to hit the city, Sánchez reminded Coudet that they had a promise to keep. He went home and came back with a pizza, a flashlight, and a radio. Together they sat in the center circle in the dark wondering why they hadn’t thought of a better promise than this and waiting for the sun to rise, which always does.
Ask the fans of the Real Club Celta de Vigo. Twenty-five years later, the day Eduardo “Chacho” Coudet first sat on the bench as his sixth new manager in three years, he was the worst team in Spain, last in La Liga, having won only one game in 10. Since then, they are the best. Since Coudet took over, no one in Spain has won more, scored more or conceded less. Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Alavés led Celta to four consecutive wins (every game they have been on the field) and two points in Europe, a new dawn to rival anything in Rosario.
Chacho was a box-to-box midfielder who played for 10 clubs in 15 different stints, ending up in the US with the Philadelphia Union, where fans sang their own version of The Village People’s Macho Man and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. He won five titles with River and that 1995 Conmebol Cup with Rosario Central. He also played nine games with Celta back in 2002 where, as a local newspaper said, “he left a lot of weird haircuts and little football.” Or as he put it on the Cadena Ser radio station: “Sometimes I was close to the ball but I didn’t get to kick it very often. I hope to do much better here as a coach than as a player ”.
He has already done so and has only been here a month, the change was as immediate as it was unexpected. Especially since most did not expect anything at all. If Coudet was supposed to be good, he won the league with Racing Avellaneda and was the best when he left Internacional Porto Alegre to come to Spain, that was not Europe and he was not supposed to be that good that fast. “Chachismo is becoming a religion,” AS said, only there is tangible proof of this.
Four months after giving him a new contract, Celta had fired Oscar García after a draw with Elche. They had scored just six in nine games. Chacho took training, but sat in the stands when Celta was defeated 4-2 by Sevilla, his paperwork still not cleared. Since then, with him officially in charge, they have played five and they have won them all: they beat Granada 3-1, Athletic 2-0, Cádiz 4-0 and Alavés 2-0. They also beat Llanera 5-0 in the Cup; 16 scored, one conceded in five games, 11-1 in the league. Nobody in Spain has such a good record at that time. The team that scored six and won one in nine league games with Oscar has scored twice as many goals and four times as many wins in half the time.
“Suffering takes years away from you, but when you win it feels special,” said Iago Aspas the night they beat Granada, summing things up clearly. “When a coach leaves, it’s always the players’ fault too. You have that thorn in your side. But we find our level again. We’re still down there, but we lift our heads. There has been a reaction. Manager? He’s very energetic, he likes to push very high and he likes to have a lot of players with good feet behind the striker ”.
There is a video of a game where the fans scream “cold chest”- cold heart, someone who doesn’t care – in Chacho. “A cuckold, perhaps,” he replies, laughing, “but not a cold chest, Never. Not that. “Teammates recall practical jokes, one involves a full hazmat suit, a lot of noise, and even more energy and that character doesn’t change. He’s temperamental, to use his own word. More open, more charismatic, more direct , genuinely funny, Chacho has already gotten closer to the Celta players than Óscar.
There is also an idea and it is not negotiable. It’s the same here as in Argentina and Brazil and it’s very, very offensive. Almost the first thing Coudet told his players was that they had to go for it: let him go and he would take responsibility if it went wrong. That was familiar: Franco Cervi of Benfica will remember him yelling from the touchline to Rosario: “Face it, face it! If it goes wrong, don’t worry – blame me! “It was also welcome: the pressure was becoming overwhelming and, moreover, at some basic level, footballers still prefer to play football. However, doing so requires a leap of faith. And results.
“Make no mistake: the message is to play football well and to play well you need balls,” he says. “Balls is not being thrown, it is wanting the ball, playing it, combining with teammates.”
Celta have the players to do it – “good feet” as Aspas said – and everyone knew it already, but while Chacho’s diagnosis is not that different, the treatment is. Óscar looked for organization, to protect his team and minimize its weaknesses. I wanted them to sit deeper and bring the ball from behind. Chacho has gone the other way around, trying to get more out of his strengths, pressing from the front. And so far, getting everyone to the bar of the field, the central defenders and Tapia, the sitting midfielder, lengthening the field, has also been beneficial on defense: 335 minutes have passed without conceding. Meanwhile, they have 2.6 goals per game compared to 0.6 before.
Playing in a kind of 4-1-3-2, with both sides covering the entire band, Celta press relentlessly. The number of interceptions is greater; where they happen is also. If the first wave does not win the ball, there is usually a tactical foul. Despite all the apparent freedom, there is a structure, an order to everything. There are also lawsuits. The intensity is difficult to maintain, one player admits that when he gets home he can barely walk and just wants to sleep, but it is necessary and they are enjoying it. Everyone is watching. Probably no one is as fun as Celta right now. “It is not a momentary effort; It’s an idea and the fans will identify with us if we play like this, ”says Chacho. “If we step on the accelerator, we will surely suffer,” says Nolito.
The five attackers – usually Denis Suárez and then Nolito, Brais Méndez, Aspas and Santi Mina – are fluid, moving all over the place, with full-backs Lucas Olaza and Hugo Mallo beating both sides.
At his heart is Aspas, possibly the best Spanish footballer there is, playing freely, a man of whom Coudet says: “Everything he does makes something happen: not just goals and assists, but everything.” Everyone benefits, everyone plays a role. Against Granada scored Nolito, Miguel Baeza and Fran Beltrán; against Athletic they were Mallo and Aspas; against Cádiz, Nolito, Aspas, Beltrán and Brais. This weekend, in a game that was not easy at all, where the changes in the second half were on the defensive, seeking to safeguard an advanced advantage and where the second did not arrive until minute 10 from the end, Brais got both. It had cost him 59 games to get two goals; now he has three in two games, two in an hour.
When asked what the roof of Celta is, Coudet replied: “There is no roof.” But he warned: “If you lose two games, you will get in trouble again, so never look back.” However, it was hard not to, if only to see how far they had come in such a short time. Sure, it’s only four games, and they could lose at Getafe this week, but to put that in context: Celta haven’t had such a good streak in six and a half years. You could understand that they get excited, whatever happens. “Coudet makes magic”, cheered El Faro de Vigo. There was, the Marca headline said, “a party in Balaídos”, although there was no one. Like that night in Rosario.
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