The Argentine Football Association (AFA) has agreed to part ways with coach Jorge Sampaoli after Argentina crashed out of the World Cup in the round of 16, it announced on Sunday.
After a full day of negotiations on Saturday, the two sides agreed on Sunday to rescind Sampaoli’s contract. Sources told ESPN Argentina the agreement includes a settlement of $2 million for the coach to leave his role, significantly less than the AFA owed on his original contract.
The decision will end Sampaoli’s tenuous 14-month stint within the organisation and plunges the team into further uncertainty. Sampaoli had been hired from Sevilla in May 2017 to provide stability after the sackings of Gerardo Martino and Edgardo Bauza.
AFA president Claudio Tapia said before the tournament that Sampaoli, 58, would remain in charge even if Argentina “were eliminated in the first round of the World Cup,” but according to local reports, tension increased between the federation and the coach in discussions regarding the team’s direction.
That included Tapia’s instruction that Sampaoli, in order to prepare for the future, should take control of Argentina’s under-20 team for an upcoming tournament — a task Sampaoli believed was beneath him. The AFA said a coach for the U20 tournament would be announced on Tuesday.
Trainer Jorge Desio and video analyst Matias Manna also left their roles with Argentina.
Argentina, the 2014 runners-up, needed to defeat Ecuador on the final day of CONMEBOL qualifying to reach the World Cup. They continued those struggles in Russia, only reaching the knockout stage after defeating Nigeria in the closing minutes in the group stage, before losing to France in the round of 16.
Off the pitch, there were widespread reports throughout the World Cup that there was a disconnect between Sampaoli and Argentina’s players — which Javier Mascherano had to deny during a news conference.
Sampaoli’s departure also casts a cloud over the international future of Lionel Messi, who already retired after the Copa America Centenario in 2016, only to be coaxed out of that decision less than two months later.
Messi, who will be 35 at the time of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, felt significant pressure to win the tournament this year, his mother said shortly after it began.
Argentina will play friendlies against Guatemala and Colombia in the United States in September. Candidates to replace Sampaoli may include Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone, Tottenham Hotspur’s Mauricio Pochettino, River Plate’s Marcelo Gallardo and Peru’s Ricardo Gareca.