In his quiet, understated way, Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella tried his best to be an accommodating guest. Having spent time at Sheffield United and Leeds United (“it made me a better person too”), he spoke in English, occasionally seeking help in translation and even translated a question from Spanish.
Sabella’s media conference was low on theatrics and high on intent, markedly different from those of Diego Maradona in the World Cup.
Going into his first game, Sabella avoided talking about his formation but didn’t shirk from calling Carlos Tevez “a little bit fat” before saying the door isn’t shut for him. Or on Juan Roman Riquelme who has a muscle injury.
Sabella explained why he is nervous and excited at the same time, saying “everybody looks after football in Argentina.” In another context, he didn’t shirk from pointing out that English fans are a lot more patient. Beginning here on Friday he hoped would be a long journey, one that would culminate with “another (World) Cup” in 2014. “It is very important to make a good team, establish confidence between the players and me. You can say our World Cup campaign begins on Friday,” he said.
He lavished praise on Lionel Messi calling him the world’s best player but taking the question on why the genius can’t reproduce his Barcelona form with the national team, patiently said: “They (Barcelona players) know each other for 10 years and are the best team in the world. It is impossible to make a comparison. Players of the national team assemble three-four days before a game and this makes things difficult. Also, everything, from the pitch, the team to the weather is different for the national team. We play in altitude in Colombia and Bolivia, for instance and there is more violence. In Europe, the referee takes more care of you.”
Sabella said he would try and make Messi feel more comfortable when he has the ball. “We are looking at one or two players who can make a good understanding with him.”
Sabella said it is inevitable that teams will now have to travel “far away from his country to play” which “is not ideal but a reality.” Ditto, the artificial turf at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan which “is not normal for us”. But Argentina would try tto play their normal game, he said.