Xavier Martin |
Santiago de Chile, Jan 27 (EFE).- Winning three titles in a year is a feat for any club in the world; if, in addition, one is promotion to the first division after 35 years of ostracism and the other two make you a millionaire with a club philosophy and a different style of play, based on the concept of modern elite football, the feat is colossal.
In summary, that is the history of Club Deportivo Magallanes in the last four years, the first champion and founding team, in 1933, of the current Chilean soccer league, and which in 1986 played its last game in the highest category. It was at the historic Santa Laura stadium against the also historic Audax Italiano.
“La Academia” added its first Chilean Super Cup title last weekend, against the current league champion and the most powerful team in the country, Colo Colo, whom they defeated in a penalty shootout after drawing 1-1 in time regulatory.
The icing on the cake to a season in which they won, with more difficulties than expected, the second division championship, and the Chilean Cup, also on penalties, by defeating Unión Española, another top-class squad with a higher budget.
A rosary of sporting victories accompanied by a shower of millions: promotion to the highest category will almost double television rights, which will go from 2.4 million dollars to 6.1 million per season; almost triple.
While the cup, in addition to giving him access to the preliminary round of the Libertadores, brought him a fixed income of 400,000 euros, for the title itself and a minimum of half a million dollars in variables, depending on how long his itinerary is in the mentioned international tournament.
To this is added an amount still to be determined that the National Professional Football Association of Chile (ANFP) will give him for the Super Cup.
The brain behind this success is Cristian Ogalde, player representative and soccer man who has mentored the career of stars such as Claudio Bravo, former FC Barcelona goalkeeper and current goalkeeper for Real Betis and the Chilean national team.
And the mantra of this visionary, who began in the lower categories of the Catholic University of Chile and learned when landing in La Masía, the sports city of the Catalan team: “we are a club, not a team.”
A philosophy that is already part of the DNA of the great European and Brazilian clubs, but that in Chile, one of the weakest leagues in Latin America, is not in style.
While in modern elite soccer the youth academy is an investment, in Chile the directives of the teams, large and small, see it “as a heavy expense” within the framework of a business that is based on the purchase and sale of players, with substantial profits for the representatives, true motors of Chilean soccer.
And in the television rights, without even thinking about the fans and the exploitation of the jerseys and the stadiums, as is done in other countries.
“What we were clear about and what I was particularly clear about was that I did not want to establish a club philosophy based on results, but that we were going to trust what we wanted to do as a club and then how we want to play and with whom” , explains Ogalde to EFE in the precarious stadium in the capital’s San Bernardo neighborhood.
“It is a very close way of working, the way you work in Europe, where you work not with a team, but with the concept of a club, more globally and more in the medium and long term,” adds the manager, who has been working for more than three decades linked to soccer.
On his way to success as a manager, Ogalde first had to convince a group of investors to buy, for around 4.2 million euros, the “handful of carnations”, a historic club, much loved throughout the country, transversal between hobbies, from which the brand new Colo Colo emerged as a split decades ago, the only Chilean club with a Copa Libertadores.
And after they trusted an idea unknown in Chile: betting on a mix between home players, old figures in the twilight of their career and a coach, Nicolás Nuñez, with hardly any experience but a club man. He changed the grass for the benches in 2019, the year of his retirement.
«It has been a joint effort with Nicolás, whom I have known for more than 20 years. We knew exactly how we thought about the game philosophy we wanted to impose and that’s why we chose. We make better decisions regarding player selection. It was up to me to make the decision to choose the coach that was him and to support him under any circumstances, “he says.
For Núñez, in love with the touch football that characterizes teams like FC Barcelona or Manchester City, the opportunity was more than a gift:
«If there was something that I was clear about, it is that I wanted to play in a certain way. It is where the technicians can perhaps demand or where we feel that we can have power in a football idea and transmit it. Then, from the connection that they have had on the field and off, things like the ones that have happened this year arise », he explains.
“A lot of things have been connected. It is very difficult in today’s football for technical decisions to be respected, for the leadership to share them”, highlights Núñez who, like Ogalde, admits that the results have arrived earlier than expected.
“I think we have found the results ahead of budget. In two years we have seen reflected above all the growth of young players in a clear way, installed to compete and accompanied by results, which is also a very important part when it comes to sustaining projects, “he emphasizes.
youth and experience
Two exponents embody this philosophy: Manuel Vicuña, winger of the house author of a dream play in the Super Cup and Tomás Aranguiz, young engine of the team and cold executor of the penalty that gave the last title to the Academy.
At his side, Núñez has managed to put together a group of veterans such as the “mago Jiménez”, who played in Milan, or the captain Cesar Cortés, who at 38 seems rejuvenated, and who provided the necessary maturity in moments of doubt.
“It is clear that this is super nice too, because this club has always been said to be a family. And it is a family not only because of the players or because of how the dressing room is, but also with the fans. From all the time that I have been here I have always seen the same fans and that is also nice because after each game one can share a word with them or themselves with the president, with the coach, “explains Vicuña.
I think it has been six years of apprenticeship, which has taught me a lot as a person and as a player. And over the years you have to take out every good thing. And obviously, after six years, achieve promotion to the First Division. It is satisfying to finish in the best way”, comments Aranguiz for his part.
At this time, in which Magallanes even flirted with a second relegation to the third division, bad streaks and criticism were also combined, such as those Ogalde received for his status as manager and representative, although he assures that this has been put aside beyond to render the commitments contracted a priori.
Although the rain of millions won is a relief for the coffers and an incentive, the future challenges are great: the first, to build a stadium and its own sports city, for which land has already been purchased on the outskirts of Santiago.
Then face a different season, with a first-class league and international competitions, with almost the same squad, and without its own stadium.
A challenge that does not frighten a board of directors that took over the club four years ago with accounts in the red, without a sponsor or commercial development, and that the first thing they had to do was build a youth academy that lacked an identity, but also doctors, nutritionists, physical therapists, and even balls and clothing.
That is where the hallmarks of Magallanes came from, a veteran who has become the “rare bird” of Chilean football in all aspects: his blue and white elastic is made with plastic waste recovered from the sea.