The country where everyone's a manager

It’s that time of year again.

Over a million Argentines stop what they’re doing, bring out the form guides, the league tables, the season guide book, call up that mate who works at the Big Club to find out if the left-back is worth a punt, bring out the calculator, challenge mates to a Friend’s League, realise they can name the entire Godoy Cruz back line, decide on their team’s name, and take the plunge.

Oh yes, Argentina’s fantasy football – Gran DT – is back. 

Argie Bargy will be flying the FourFourTwo flag high, or at half mast if recent form is anything to go by, but here’s a guide to those who’ll have managers puzzling over late changes this week – and be watched closely throughout the season.

James Rodriguez (Banfield) $6m "It’s hard playing knowing that I’ll be at Udinese next season," the Colombian told ESPN radio on Friday. That said, he hasn’t found it so tough – the 18-year-old has already been one of the highlights this season.

Banfield, meanwhile, see his future differently: they claim the move to Italy is a total lie. If Rodriguez’ form so far this season is anything to go by, Udinese will be laughing if they got him for his Gran DT price.

Kiko Villalba (River) $4mArriving 15 minutes late in Argentina is widely regarded as impeccable punctuality that only the Swiss are capable of. Not so at River Plate. Leo Astrada dropped Ariel Ortega for arriving drunk and several hours late last week, which is reasonable enough.

This week, however, The Boss took things further. Seventeen-year-old prodigy Kiko Villalba rocked up 15 minutes late for training, and Astrada was having none of it: "Don’t even bother getting changed." Ouch.

Gonzalo Ludueña (River) $1.9m By dropping Villabla, Astrada needs to find a replacement striker – not easy. Having scored a miserly three goals in four games, River currently boast the club's worst attack in 16 years. Astrada has turned to Ludueña, so highly-rated that out of more than a million Gran DT managers a whopping 1,655 have him in their team.

Lucas Viatri (Boca) $4.3mThe man who (allegedly) puts the fear of God into the nation’s barbers when he goes for a trim has moved up from ‘squad player’ to ‘first choice.’ Abel Alves needs to stop the rot at Boca quick-sharp, so he’s going with two No.9s up front. Viatri is regarded as Boca's next Palermo. Can he produce the goods playing alongside the current Palermo?

Claudio Bieler (Racing) $5mOne No.9 who won’t be featuring this weekend is the man who was supposedly going to be The Academy’s saviour this season: Claudio Bieler. Instead, the job of salvador goes to new coach Miguel Ángel Russo, who needs to turn things around at Racing to avoid relegation. His way of improving things at the Cilindro doesn’t involve dropping Roberto Ayala, but it does involve dropping Bieler.

Pablo Lima (Vélez) $3.5m"If we win the title, I’ll run down the 9 de Julio butt naked," said the defender this week. Given that he plays for Vélez, who won the title a year ago, are top of the table, and have the best squad in the country, the Uruguayan clearly feels he’s up to the task of showing off his big tackle on the world’s widest avenue.

José Sosa (Estudiantes) $7.2mWith eight seconds gone, Estudiantes could be forgiven for expecting an easy win on Thursday night in the Libertadores Cup. Back from Bayern, the Prince had put the Pincha ahead in Peru, only for the hosts to come back and take the points, winning 4-1. At least Sosa his name in the record books for the fastest goal in the competitions history.

Pato Abbondanzieri – goneAs the históricos made way for the new generation, Pato Abbondanzieri took being dropped on the chin. He gracefully watched on from the bench, gave his replacement kind and assuring words, and told the press there was no problem. Days later, he was presented as the new No.1. At Internacional, in Brazil.

The Sack RaceThe only place you’ll lose face as a Gran DT is at the pub with your mates. Back in the real world, this is not the case.

Claudio Vivas has already won this season’s Sack Race, having lost three of the first four games at Racing. Miguel Angel Russo has replaced him, but the fans' favourite was Ángel Cappa. In an online survey, 42% of fans wanted him to take over.

It should be no surprise then, that as talk of Luis Zubeldía’s reign at Lanús is drawing to a close – it's now five straight defeats – Cappa’s name is also brought up. Watch this space.

Elsewhere, Abel Alves needs a win at Boca to avoid more "anonymous insiders" talking to the press about how bad his team talks are, how he’s a terrible man-manager, and how he isn’t picking the players who are performing best in training.

And finally, Julio Falcioni can do no wrong at Banfield. The champions won the clasico, are two points off the top spot and have won their first two games in the Libertadores. Safe.

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