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Sabella: Alejandro Javier (Alex)

1980-1982 (Player Details)


Born: Buenos Aires, Argentina: 05-11-1954

Debut v Aston Villa (h): 16-08-1980

5’8” 10st 13lb (1981)

Sabella started with River Plate and graduated through their Junior teams in the early 1970s. He rose to become the understudy to Norberto Alonso and was soon proficient enough to duplicate his style with the emphasis on individual technique and short passes. River Plate won its first title in eighteen years in 1975 and Alonso was feted as the architect of their triumph and was a firm favourite of their supporters. Sabella had to bide his time but in 1976 he got his reward when Alonso was transferred to Olympique Marseille. But Coach Angel Labruna and the fans were unhappy with with Sabella's perceived individualism and slowness, which had earned him the dual nicknames majo (the magician) and pachorra (sloth) because of his perceived slowness during play, though he could become a fast dribbler and passer given the right situation. Labruna bought players to rectify it. When Alonso returned to River Plate, Sabella was again relegated to the bench. In 1978 charismatic Sheffield United manager Harry Haslam travelled to Argentina in order to sign an Argentine player. Initially a £180,000 bid was made for Argentine teenage sensation Diego Maradona, but that was rejected by his side Argentinos Juniors. Having gone to all the effort of travelling to Argentina, Haslam felt he couldn't come back to England without a skillful Argentine player and he eventually settled on the twenty-three-year-old River Plate midfielder for a fee of £160,000. He made his debut for the Blades in a 1-2 defeat by Leyton Orient at Bramall Lane on 19th August 1978. He played for United until 1980, but unfortunately his superb ball control did not result in the number of goals that were expected, as he only managed eight League goals in seventy-six appearances. He was a crowd favourite, who marvelled at his individual skill which stood out in a poor Sheffield team. After relegation to the Third Division, Manager Harry Haslam agreed a fee of £600,000 with Second Division club Sunderland. However, Sabella had ambitions to play in the First Division and refused to go. His final appearance for United came with a goal in the Sheffield and Hallamshire County Cup Final victory over Sheffield Wednesday on 8th May 1980. During the close season he was finally sold to Leeds United for £400,000. He played for Leeds without much success between 1980 and 1982, as the club struggled for the most part and Manager Jimmy Adamson tried to use Sabella to add flair to his otherwise dour style of play. While he often showed signs of individual brilliance, which again endeared him to the Leeds fans, he struggled to adapt to the English conditions of weather and style of play. Lack of success saw the exit of Adamson. His replacement, former Leeds favourite Allan Clarke, did not have room for Sabella in a system with the emphasis on defence and high work-rate. In December 1981 he started looking for an Argentine club, and was sold to Estudiantes de La Plata in January 1982 for £120,000, having spent just eighteen months at Elland Road. His new club had spent a decade of mediocrity after their glory days of the late 1960s and early 1970s when they had won three consecutive Copa Libertadores titles and had also beaten Manchester United in the final of the 1968 Intercontinental Cup. Under Coach Carlos Bilardo, the team reached the semi-finals of the 1982 Nacional tournament, but Sabella was injured in the first Semi-Final match against Quilmes. However, together with Marcelo Trobbiani, Jose Daniel Ponce, and Miguel Angel Russo, he made up the solid midfield of the Estudiantes team that went on to win two back-to-back championship titles, with Sabella playing an important part in helping the club to win their first silverware since 1971, in the form of the Argentine league championships Metropolitano 1982 and Nacional 1983. He played one hundred and forty-nine league games for Estudiantes, scoring ten goals. When Bilardo was put in charge of the Argentina National Football Team, Sabella had competition for his place from veterans Alonso and Bochini, and younger players like Carlos Tapia and Jorge Burruchaga. But an even larger shadow was cast by the king of 1980s play-makers, Diego Maradona. In total, Sabella played four times for the national team, playing in the Copa America 1983 but was not in the final squad for the 1986 World Cup. Towards the end of his career he a short loan spell with Grêmio of the Brazil Serie A, in 1985, where he played ten games, without scoring, and after returning to Estudiantes he had short spells with Ferro Carril Oeste in Argentina and Irupuato of Mexico before retiring. He scored twice in twenty-seven games in Argentina in 1987-88 and did not find the net in thirty-one games while in Mexico in 1988-89. After retirement, Sabella became a coach, but he worked mostly as field assistant to Daniel Passerella. The duo coached the Argentina national team, Italian side Parma AC, the Uruguay National Football Team, Mexican club Monterrey, and Brazilian side Corinthians. In 2006, they returned to River Plate, and they took the club to third place in the Apertura tournament. On 15th March 2009 he became coach of Estudiantes de La Plata. He guided them to winning the Copa Libertadores in 2009. Sabella came within minutes of leading the club to the World Club Championship, but was denied by a late equaliser by Barcelona's Pedro and then an injury time winner from Lionel Messi.He was due to take over at Al-Jazira in the United Arab Emirates but Argentina's quarter-final defeat by Uruguay in the Copa América led to a change of mind. He was appointed coach of Argentina to replace Sergio Batista, who was sacked after the country's disappointing exit from the Copa America. Sabella had been tipped to take over from Diego Maradona after he parted company with the national team following the 2010 World Cup. His appointment was made official in August 2011 and his first step was to appoint Lionel Messi as his captain. Argentina reached the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil with ease and showed excellent form in the Brazil winning all their Group matches and never being headed by any team until the final. It had been twenty-four years since Argentina had reached the semi-finals and in that year they had lost 1-0 to West Germany in the final. After drawing 0-0 with the Netherlands, after extra-time, in the Semi-Final they had gone through by winning the penalty shoot-out. But history was to repeat itself as after extra-time they went down 1-0 to Germany. Sabella had said on the eve of the Final, that, no matter what the outcome of the Final would be, he would stand down as the Manager of Argentina. He officially resigned on 30th July 2014.

League 22/10
F.A. Cup 20
League Cup 20