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Monday, 18 March, 2002, 09:37 GMT
Menotti goes back to his roots
Argentina captain Daniel Passarella celebrates after winning the 1978 World Cup final
Menotti led Passarella and co to World Cup glory
By BBC Sport Online's Tim Vickery

One of the senior statesmen of world football goes back to work this week, at the very club where his journey began.

At the age of 63, Cesar Luis Menotti is taking over as coach of ailing Argentine club Rosario Central.

Best known as the chain-smoking figure who coached Argentina to victory in the 1978 World Cup, Menotti was born in Rosario.

As a boy he watched Rosario Central from the terraces.

I was tired of seeing great footballers of Rosario not given an opportunity
Cesar Luis Menotti
As a young man Central was his first professional club, where he won all his international caps and developed his game as an elegant midfielder.

And in the prime of his working life, his Rosario roots were crucial as he brought Argentina to the top table of world football.

Menotti was appointed national team coach in October 1974.

At the time, Argentina had never punched their weight in World Cups.

Admittedly, their golden age had come in the 1940s, when the world had more important matters on its mind.

Subversive message

But in the post-war era Argentina soon fell behind, their players intimidated by the speed and power of the Europeans.

Backed by home advantage, Menotti took Argentina to victory in 1978.

Some shine has been taken off the triumph by persistent rumours of manipulation by Argentina's military dictatorship.

Very much a man of the left, Menotti has spent hours justifying himself, claiming that his team were a clean, attacking side who were sending out a subversive message about real Argentine values.

In plain football terms, however, there is no need for such arguments. The facts speak for themselves.

Mario Kempes celebrates scoring for Argentina in the 1978 World Cup final
Menotti got the best out of Kempes and co
Before 1978 Argentina had seldom been a World Cup power.

Since 1978 they have always been a force to be reckoned with.

That is Menotti's legacy.

In the years leading up to the World Cup Menotti drummed into his players the need to play at a faster rhythm.

If they could move the ball around at speed, then their technique could tip the balance against the Europeans.

He brought the Argentina team into the modern age.

Key to his achievement was the fact that he cast his net wider by easing the domination which Buenos Aires had always exerted.

Not one of his squad came from the giant Boca Juniors club, South American champions in 1977 and '78.

One of Menotti's first initiatives was to pick a team drawn entirely from the provinces, with the aim of unearthing talent for the senior national side.

Well travelled

"It was an idea that had gone round and round my head ever since I was a kid," he wrote.

"I felt it as a revenge against all the football injustices I had lived through.

"I was tired of seeing great footballers of Rosario not given an opportunity.

"Now, for the first time, players from the provinces had a chance."

And the result was that "this time it was truly an Argentina team".

Since leaving the Argentina job, the road of football has taken Menotti to Spain and Italy, Mexico and Uruguay, as well as several spells in Buenos Aires.

Now the road takes him home.

His best days may be behind him.

But if Rosario's latest generation can't learn football from Menotti, they would be well advised to find another trade - and then try to marry the boss's daughter.

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