Sampaoli and Simeone lead contenders to replace Bauza in Argentina
Argentina are on the hunt for a new coach after sacking Edgardo Bauza on Monday.
Bauza coaxed Lionel Messi out of international retirement after taking the helm in the wake of the Copa America Centenario final defeat to Chile but has lasted less than nine months in the job.
A 2-0 defeat – without the suspended Messi – away at Bolivia in World Cup qualifying last month left Argentina outside of the automatic spots for a place in Russia.
The result piled the pressure on Bauza, who managed just three wins in his eight games in charge.
Automatic qualification for the 2018 World Cup remains a distinct possibility for Argentina, but who will the Argentine Football Association (AFA) entrust with the job?
Although it was Bauza who got the job last August, Sampaoli was the man the AFA really wanted.
Despite having already agreed to take over Sevilla from the 2016-17 season, Sampaoli was offered the position after Gerardo Martino stepped down in the wake of the Copa America Centenario final defeat to Chile.
A sense of responsibility to fulfil his pledge to the Andalusian club forced him to decline, but one season later and with sporting director Monchi heading for the exit he may well feel more comfortable in making the move.
However, having led Sevilla into the knockout stages of the Champions League and on a title charge that has petered out in recent weeks, a sense of unfinished business could encourage him to remain.
Simeone has firmly established himself as one of the leading coaches in world football in the past few years, developing Atletico Madrid into a major force in Spain and in continental competition.
After guiding Atleti to Europa League and Copa del Rey glory, he broke Barcelona and Real Madrid's LaLiga hegemony by lifting the domestic title in 2013-14 – though two Champions League final defeats to Real Madrid in 2014 and 2016 will likely still sting.
While Simeone has said he would prefer to manage Argentina closer to the end of his career, a deal that saw him shorten his contract at the Vicente Calderon by two years means he will be available in 2018 – making him a significantly cheaper option than when the national team were last on the hunt for a new coach.
Gallardo was inexperienced when he took charge of River Plate in 2014 but had an immediate impact by helping his team to a 31-game unbeaten run that included the Copa Sudamericana title.
That secured River – relegated for the first time in 2012 – a return to South America's top table in the Copa Libertadores after an absence that stretched back to 2009, and the young coach delivered the trophy.
Although a league title continues to elude Gallardo, his pedigree has been noted in Europe with the likes of Atletico Madrid credited with an interest. With an exit from El Monumental set for the end of the year, the 41-year-old represents a simpler option.
After a largely unspectacular career mostly played out in Mexico, Almiron has carved himself a respectable managerial reputation.
The 45-year-old gained experience in his native Argentina with Godoy Cruz and Independiente before leading Lanus to the 2016 Primera Division title, crushing San Lorenzo 4-0 in the final.
A coach of less stature than those mentioned before, the AFA could look to him in a bid to avoid the pressure that a high-profile name could send back their way.
Bielsa is set to take the reins at Lille from next season, but his two-day stint at Lazio proves he has no qualms about abrupt changes in plan.
The AFA may well deem his fiery personality too difficult to get a handle on.