Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti is a superb manager with an excellent resume. In a coaching career that has spanned more than two decades, he has won the Mexican league with three different teams, being named best manager in one of those tournaments, taken a fourth team to the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup title, won the Copa MX and came closer than any other man to winning the Copa Libertadores with a Mexican team (an honor he shares with José Luis Real). And none of that will matter after the weekend.
Ferretti stepped in as the interim manager after Miguel Herrera was fired hours after leading Mexico to a Gold Cup victory. With Herrera given the boot for an airport altercation, Mexico needed a manager ahead of the CONCACAF Cup, and it needed one fast. Without any mutual love between the Federación Mexicana de Fútbol and a coach, Ferretti stepped in as the interim for two September friendly matches, Saturday’s playoff and a subsequent friendly this window.
Fans of Tigres, the club he currently coaches, will keep tabs on Ferretti as he leaves the job he has said on multiple occasions he has no interest in taking over long-term. But apart from those with a vested interest, few will remember Ferretti beyond what he does with Mexico.
Club soccer in Mexico gets you through the weekend, but the national team is tops, especially for Mexican-Americans who support El Tri – fans who will have to deal with their American neighbors and co-workers if things don’t go as they hope Saturday. For that reason, Ferretti’s decision not to be a candidate for the permanent job is good for his sanity, but not his legacy.
His legacy with the casual Mexican fan (read: the majority of Mexican fans in a country with more than 120 million people, where soccer is the most popular diversion) will be dictated by what happens in Saturday’s playoff. The average Mexican is unlikely to remember what happened in the two friendly matches in September, and even the most ardent fan will probably forget about the friendly against Panama that follows.
Lose to the United States? With the added caveat that it comes in a one-off playoff? That’s something the fans will never forget. It’s not that Tuca would have to sprout another mustache or shave his current one and try to sneak out of the country under the cover of night. Fans won’t be quite that riled up. They will, however, be very disappointed and will have an easy scapegoat. Mexico won the Gold Cup and lost the playoff. What was the difference? The coach.
Of course the legacy contest also could mean Ferretti goes down a legend. In the world of Mexican soccer, where even the managers with the most questionable records generally manage to find more new jobs than a stimulus package, Ferretti will be set as long as he pleases. His club record already means he won’t have trouble finding employment should he and Tigres part ways. If he leads Mexico to a rivalry win, he’ll be remembered even by directors as a top manager.
For the fans, Ferretti will be the man who guided El Tri from a time of turmoil after Herrera’s firing fired into a time of triumph. The new manager, potentially but not officially Juan Carlos Osorio, will be held against the Ferretti standard – which, depending on the result of the Panama match, would be an undefeated tenure.
It isn’t fair to a coach that has done so much in the domestic game, but Ferretti will be forever remembered by the decisions he makes and how his team performs Saturday.
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