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Argentina eye Pochettino, Simeone to fill coach void

Mauricio Pochettino (left) and Diego Simeone are both attracting attention from the Argentine Football Association

Mauricio Pochettino and Diego Simeone are among men Argentina want to talk to about the national team coach vacancy following last month’s shock resignation of Gerardo Martino.

Armando Perez, head of an Argentine FA (AFA)Regularisation Committee, also plans to talk to Lionel Messi with a view to asking the team’s former captain to reverse his decision to quit international soccer.

The four-person committee, put in place by world body FIFA to get the AFA’s house in order, was due to begin work on Friday after being sworn in on Thursday.

“It will take charge of administrating (the AFA) which includes choosing a national team coach,” FIFA representative Primo Corvaro, who picked the committee members, told reporters.

Naming a new coach is a matter of urgency with 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay and Venezuela scheduled in early September.

The cash-strapped AFA has been in crisis since the death of former strongman Julio Grondona in July 2014 and reached a nadir last year when an election for a new president ended in farce with 76 votes cast by 75 delegates and a 38-38 result.

Corvaro said the committee would call an AFA presidential election by July 30, 2017 at the latest.

The crisis at competitive international level was exacerbated last month when Argentina lost the Copa America final on penalties to Chile, Messi said he was quitting the team and Martino resigned a week later, ostensibly over problems in naming a side for next month’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The committee was set to begin interviewing candidates for the head coach’s position on Friday.

Perez plans to fly to Europe next month because he wants to hear personally from Atletico Madrid’s Simeone and former Chile boss Jorge Sampaoli, now at Sevilla, their views on the national team. Both have said their ambition is to coach Argentina and would be popular choices.

Perez, president of first division club Belgrano, will not be visiting Tottenham Hotspur manager Pochettino, another former Argentina player widely regarded as a future national coach, in London but plans to talk to him from Spain about his availability, AFA sources daily told La Nacion.

His last stop will be Barcelona for talks with Messi and Argentina vice-captain Javier Mascherano.

“It would be gratifying for everyone to persuade Messi to desist from his decision (to quit),” Perez told reporters.

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