Legendary Costa Rican soccer player Paulo Wanchope was appointed Tuesday as the new manager of his former club CS Herediano, a day after the team sacked previous coach Javier Delgado.
The star confirmed he was planning to move into coaching in a recent interview with The Tico Times (TT, Feb. 8), but the opportunity has come earlier than expected.
The decision to fire Delgado was made despite the club’s standing at No. 2 in Group A of the “Verano 2008” tournament.
According to a report in the daily La Nación, CS Herediano President Aquil Ali “guaranteed” that Delgado’s job was safe the day before he was fired.
“Paulo is very familiar with the club and knows the team well,” said Noren Alfaro, a spokeswoman for the club.
Alfaro told The Tico Times that the team was unconcerned about 31-year-old Wanchope’s lack of experience as a coach.
“Everyone deserves an opportunity,” she said of the former striker, who played in two World Cups and scored 45 goals in 76 appearances for his country.
“We trust his experience and are confident that he can pass it on to the players.”
Wanchope held his first training session as coach on Wednesday. Afterward, he told the club’s Web site, “I am very happy and at ease as I already know the players. I played alongside most of them and am really very eager to get started with Herediano.”
Questioned as to whether his friendship with the players would be a hindrance, Wanchope replied, “The important thing is that we treat each other with respect.
“If that happens there will be no problems, and the closeness that exists among the group will help us.”
Contrary to expectations, Wanchope’s brother, also named Javier, has not been appointed as assistant coach.
Having started his career at CS Herediano, Wanchope made his name in English soccer, playing under such renowned managers as Harry Redknapp, Walter Smith and Kevin Keegan.
Increasingly hampered by knee injuries, he moved to Spain in 2004 and had stints in Japan, Argentina and the United States before returning to finish his career with CS Herediano in 2007. He finally hung up his boots in January.
Wanchope’s first match at the helm of Herediano will be away, against league rivals San Carlos on Sunday.