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Fiery Heinze Next For Five Stripes Hot-Seat

Former Manchester United and Argentina left-back looks set for Atlanta....

Velez v Defensa y Justicia - Superliga 2019/20
Gabriel Heinze pictured in September 2019 as manager of Velez Sarsfield.
Photo by Gustavo Garello/Jam Media/Getty Images

Former Argentine international Gabriel Heinze looks certain to be named the next Atlanta United head coach in the next few days.

So reports respected Argentine journalist Cesar Luis Merlo, the man who broke news of Pity Martinez’s move to Al-Nasr a few months ago, in collaboration with Hugo Balassone.

Nothing has yet been finalized, however the announcement is expected imminently.

Heinze is a no-nonsense coach, as he was a player who won national championships in England, France, Spain and in his native Argentina.

The 72 times capped Olimpic gold medal winner has played under celebrated coaches such as Ferguson, Deschamps and Bielsa, of whom, like the most successful coach in Five Stripes history Tata Martino, he is deemed a disciple.

Heinze’s been out of work for most of 2020 since resigning from Velez Sarsfield in March. He took over Velez midway through 2017/18 steering them to an eventual 14th place in the Superliga, and improving on that over the next two seasons; 6th and 3rd, achieving Copa Sudamericana qualification each time.

A fiery character as a player unafraid to challenge authority, he twice clashed with Sir Alex Ferguson, was described as a ‘nasty fucker in training’ by no less than Roy Keane and took part in unsavoury clashes at the end of the penalty shoot-out at the 2006 World Cup when Germany defeated Argentina, His particular head to head on that occasion involved confrontation with Germany’s general manager Olivier Bierhoff.

It was Heinze’s strong will that strained his relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. It had been tense even before he kicked a ball at Old Trafford, after choosing to represent Argentina at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Heinze was unperturbed by Ferguson’s warning that the situation ‘could deny him a career at Manchester United’, and the following year the £6.9m signing from Paris Saint-Germain won the Sir Matt Busby trophy for the club’s Player of the Year.

His performances at United frequently had Reds fans chanting ‘AR-GEN-TINA’, but they were less impressed when he had his second tete-a-tete with Ferguson in 2007.

After coming back from injury and failing to regain his place from Patrice Evra, Heinze attempted to force through a transfer to United’s bitter rivals, Liverpool, which escalated to a Premier League tribunal. But this time Ferguson got his way as the panel ruled in favour of United. Instead of Anfield, Heinze moved to Real Madrid.

Manchester United Training and Press Conference
Gabriel Heinze meets the man who took over his left-back spot at Old Trafford, Patrice Evra, before Marseille played Manchester United in a Champions League match at Stade Velodrome in February 2011.
Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

It is believed he eventually resolved his differences with Ferguson, Heinze admitting it was one of his few regrets as a player.

Heinze can be expected to show commitment to an expansive style at Atlanta. And, as in his playing career, his management style has shown a penchant for the impulsive clash, but also since moving on to the coach’s seat, a clarity of method and tactics, contributing to promotion for Argentinos Juniors and improving Velez.

Success in Atlanta may depend upon which side of this coin lands upwards.