Whatever the outcome of the UEFA Europa League final between Athletic Club and Club Atlético de Madrid, one thing is assured: Argentina's coaching success in continental competition is certain to continue.
Only three non-European coaches have won a major UEFA club tournament, all of them Argentinian, a record which will be extended in Bucharest tonight when former Albiceleste midfielder Diego Simeone and his ex-national team trainer, Marcelo Bielsa, sit in opposite dugouts at the National Arena.
Of the three men to have achieved the distinction, two did it with a Spanish team. Luis Carniglia led Real Madrid CF to victory in the 1958 and 1959 European Champion Clubs' Cup finals, while Alfredo Di Stéfano – who represented Spain as well as Argentina at international level – won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup with Valencia CF in 1980.
In between times, Helenio Herrera steered FC Internazionale Milano to glory in the 1964 and 1965 European Cups. While Athletic boss Bielsa and Simeone, of Atlético, are well acquainted, the latter is dismissive of the notion that his knowledge of his compatriot's workings will help Los Rojiblancos regain the trophy they got their hands on two years ago.
"The preparations before a final, the best plans you make, can often be put aside because a lot depends on the players in such a final," Simeone, who has been at the Atlético helm since December, told UEFA.com. "It's the players who play it, and we [the coaches] are standing outside."
A winner of the 1998 UEFA Cup with Inter, Simeone could also join the select band of people to have triumphed in the competition as a player and a coach.
Dino Zoff was successful in 1977 as a goalkeeper with Juventus – beating Athletic in their sole previous final – and in the 1989/90 edition in charge of the same side. Huub Stevens lifted the trophy in 1978 as a defender with PSV Eindhoven and then guided FC Schalke 04 all the way 19 years later.
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