As if the stakes weren't high enough ahead of Sunday's 2014 World Cup final between Argentina and Germany, it has now been revealed manager Alejandro Sabella will be managing his final match in charge of the Albiceleste.
Eurosport were one of the first media outlets to break the news:
BREAKING: Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella will step down after Sunday's World Cup final against Germany. pic.twitter.com/iy9omLnE35— Eurosport.com EN (@EurosportCom_EN) July 11, 2014
As reported by Ole (h/t to AS), the news was confirmed by his agent Eugenio Lopez, who said his client made the decision to step down after the World Cup final a long time ago:
He's off. Whatever happens, Sabella will be leaving the national side. If they're champion or not, it's the end of a cycle. At least that's what I believe. He might change his mind, but I doubt it. Alejandro's idea is different to the board's (who want him to continue). Cycles end. He was always going to finish the World Cup and say goodbye to the side.
Sabella took over as manager of Argentina in 2011, following the team's early exit from the Copa America. One of his first decisions was to make star striker Lionel Messi captain of the team, and his teammates have since rallied strongly behind who they consider to be the best player in the world.
Goal's Ed Malyon was hardly surprised by the news:
And @marcelosottile confirms something we've known for months, that Alejandro Sabella leaving Argentina job, even if they win World Cup.— Ed Malyon (@eaamalyon) July 11, 2014
Argentina haven't played like the offensive juggernaut people were expecting during the World Cup, and Sabella's decision-making came under fire after the opening match, as the team looked slow and uninspired.
But the defensive solidity of the squad has only improved throughout the tournament, and many of Sabella's decision with his substitutes have paid off in a big way. His latest call, to use Enzo Perez out wide against the Netherlands, was widely viewed as a stroke of genius.
Perez wasn't even expected to make the team two months ago, but Sabella's trust in the winger certainly worked out just fine, with him delivering a solid performance against the Dutch. The same can be said about Sergio Romero, who was unable to get off the bench with Monaco but has been flawless during the World Cup.
The Daily Telegraph's Juan Arango thinks former Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino is a strong candidate to be Sabella's replacement:
Immediately after Sabella's agent announces him stepping down. First person mentioned was Gerardo Martino. #ARG— Juan Arango (@JuanG_Arango) July 11, 2014
Sunday's challenge may be Sabella's toughest yet, as the German team has looked truly dominant at times during the tournament. Their 7-1 thrashing of Brazil was beyond impressive, and most pundits agree that Die Mannschaft are strong favourites going into the final.
Sabella has been on-point with his tactics so far, however, and his players would love nothing more than to see their manager off with a World Cup trophy and a parade around the streets of Buenos Aires.
The Albiceleste hardly needed more incentive to work as hard as they can ahead of Sunday's final, but Sabella's impending departure may just give the players that little extra push they need ahead of their match against the Germans.