Argentina’s Ricardo “El Tigre” Gareca, 56, a former coach of Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield, is the frontrunner to become Costa Rica’s new head coach for the national football team, known as “La Sele.”
According to statements by both Gareca and Eduardo Li, president of the Costa Rican Football Federation, or Fedefútbol, the Argentine and La Sele are close to a contract deal that would start in 2015.
Gareca arrived in Costa Rica on Sunday, and on Monday was given a tour of Project Goal and several local sporting facilities. He returns to Argentina on Wednesday.
“We have everything ready. We have a verbal agreement, and all that remains are a few contract details,” Li told the Argentine radio station América. Li added that a contract likely would be signed this week.
Gareca, meanwhile, told local media, “I was invited to get to know Costa Rica and the intentions of Fedefútbol directors in hiring me, of which I’m thankful. I am one of the options.”
That seemed like a bit of an understatement, as Gareca is strongly favored to be La Sele’s next head coach following the departure of Colombian Jorge Luis Pinto, who led Costa Rica this year to its strongest World Cup performance to date. Pinto was temporarily replaced by Costa Rica’s Paulo Wanchope. According to Reuters, one of Costa Rica’s conditions is for Wanchope to remain part of La Sele’s coaching staff.
If Gareca gets the job, one of his first challenges would be CONCACAF’s Copa Oro in June 2015.
Another candidate in the running is Argentine Miguel Ángel Russo, but Gareca seems to be in fashion these days South America (in Spanish):
“Coaching Costa Rica’s squad is a big responsibility,” Gareca said. “Leading any country is always a big responsibility, and Costa Rica has had an incredible World Cup. I accepted the invitation [to visit], and we’ll see what happens.”
Recommended: PHOTOS: Costa Ricans go wild celebrating World Cup upset over Uruguay
Gareca did not comment specifically about Costa Rican football, saying in press reports that, “I’m not going into details about Costa Rica beyond their great performance at the World Cup. Their tough play and the work of the coaching staff drew the admiration of the entire world. We all enjoyed watching Costa Rica play in the World Cup.”
Who is ‘El Tigre’?
Gareca was born in Tapiales, in Buenos Aires province, and began playing for a neighborhood club at the age of 11.
“My destiny was a football,” he said in a 2012 interview with Guillermo Salentino. “Every time I came home from school the first thing I did was play football. I lived in the street. We grew up in the street. As a kid, my dad and I were Vélez fans.
“Later, my dad would come watch me play in a club at the local church. I started as a goalkeeper and then moved to midfield. … My dad was my life; he influenced my career in sports and was the person who had the most faith in me,” he said.
Watch the full interview in Spanish:
Gareca played with the Argentine clubs Vélez Sarsfield, River Plate and Boca Juniors, and Colombia’s América de Cali.
He coached Talleres de Córdoba and Vélez, where he won the Argentine championship in 2009, 2011 and 2012. In 2011, he took his team to the semifinals of the Copa Libertadores and the Copa Sudamericana.
He also coached Universitario de Deportes in Peru, wining the national championship in 2008. His last job was at Palmeiras de Brasil, a team that fired him last August after only three months. His record at Palmeiras: four wins, one tie and eight losses.
Related: Snapshots from the Web of Costa Rica’s historic World Cup win