Two Mexican FIFA Managers Make History in The Motherland

Eric GomezAnalyst IJanuary 17, 2009

They both played in Spain at the same time. They both played for Mexico at the same time. They both managed Mexico. They both manage in Spain.

They're both different men, both successful, both managing that success with different attitudes.

Aguirre, upon classifying his Atlético de Madrid to the Champions' League for the first time in a decade, rejected a multi-year contract, stating that a manager's worth should be measured on a single year basis.

Sánchez, after winning his first game for Almería, stated to the press that he was only at the club in order to chase his dream of one day managing Real Madrid.

Oddly enough, Hugo Sánchez and Javier Aguirre only met as rivals once during their overlapping careers, in Spain, while Aguirre played for Osasuna and Sánchez played for Real Madrid. Aguirre's team won, 1-0.

Aguirre would go on to fracture two bones in his leg that season, effectively ending his career in Europe and forcing early retirement. Sánchez, on the other hand, would lead Real Madrid to five consecutive La Liga championships (by way of four scoring titles, maxing out at 38 in 1990 to equal the legendary Telmo Zarra's single-season record).

Today, Hugo Sánchez is considered the best Mexican football player ever. Javier Aguirre is widely considered the best Mexican football manager ever. By far, he is the one with the most global projection.

As managers of Mexico, both have left mixed legacies: they both led Mexico to the podium in their respective Copa América outings (Aguirre's team placed second, while Sánchez's was third—both managers beat Brazil in the group stage), and they both left the team after monumental collapses, Aguirre losing to the USA in the 2002 World Cup, and Sánchez failing to qualify the U-23 squad for the 2008 Olympics.

On January 18th, Aguirre and Sánchez will meet as rivals for the second time in their lives—oddly enough, in Spain—as they manage their sides with largely different objectives and pressures.

Aguirre, as manager of Atlético Madrid, has yet to record a victory for his squad this year, dropping two league matches and losing twice to Barcelona en route to early elimination from the Copa del Rey.

Despite a hefty budget only rivaled by Real Madrid and Barcelona, his team sits fifth in the league and face mounting pressure from fans, especially if a Round of 16 cross with AS Roma in the UEFA Champions' League goes awry.

Sánchez took the reins at Almería nary a month ago, inheriting a team just one handful of points away from the relegation zone and facing a strong challenge in his first foray into European managing.

For this weekend's match, pundits report an Almería on the upswing facing an Atlético potentially on the downswing.

Will Aguirre lead his troops into Almería and push Sánchez's team deeper into relegation troubles?

Or will Sánchez threaten to fracture Aguirre's managerial career by spiraling Atlético into harsher criticisms?

The humble, salt and pepper haired "Vasco" in Aguirre will take on the fiery, confident "Macho" in Sánchez resulting in a clash that will have not only Spain, but Mexico watching, too.