Cruz Azul has new coach, front office in disarray

Robert Dante Siboldi was presented as the replacement for Pedro Caixinha amid front office shenanigans.

Cruz Azul emerged from a turbulent week with a new coach and a newly empowered board of directors. On Friday, Robert Dante Siboldi was presented as the new manager by Víctor Garcés and Alfredo Alvarez who exercised their authority to select the coach, resulting in the resignation of general manager Ricardo Peláez.

This came the morning after “a pathetic reality show” – to quote El Universal columnist Gerardo Velázquez de León – in which Garcés appeared on ESPN to announce Siboldi would be the new coach and was followed by Peláez declaring he was resigning.

Social media erupted with most Cruz Azul fans expressing dismay either because they had hoped that Antonio Mohamed would be named coach (he was Peláez’s choice) and voicing dismay at the departure of Peláez.

Cruz Azul presents their coach

At the team’s La Noria headquarters on Friday morning, Garcés waxed poetic with a meandering opening statement that raised eyebrows for its fatuousness – “God is perfect. Soccer is almost perfect … Soccer provides joy, but also disappointments and sadness. Soccer players put their jerseys on before each game, but fans live inside their jerseys.”

Later, during the question-and-answer session, he was much more coherent … explaining the philosophy of the team’s project and how Cruz Azul wants to approach the game.

Cruz Azul Siboldi

Ricardo Peláez resigned when he was not allowed to select the next Cruz Azul coach. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images)

In answering a direct question about Peláez’s resignation, Garcés went into a detailed explanation of how the board of directors and associate members operates. He was also called upon to explain the football club’s formal organization and registration with the league to clarify how the front office operates. This was a complicated summary of the organization’s murky evolution into a cooperative society. Left unmentioned were the front office scandals that have plagued Cruz Azul for the better part of a decade.

Team president Guillermo Alvarez just regained control of the club on Aug 28 after a lawsuit filed by co-op associates was blocked. With Alvarez’s return, Garcés immediately exercised his authority as club vice president and Peláez was muscled aside.

Focusing on ‘football’

As all this was going on, Siboldi sat on the dais composed and waiting to address any soccer questions that might be asked, although Garcés did weigh in at one point to insist neither he nor anyone in the front office would force Siboldi when it came to line-up choices.

One had to ask if Siboldi wondered what he’d gotten himself into, but when called upon he provided succinct answers, explaining his goals and strategies.

After presenting his coaching staff, he said his “first task is to meet with trainer and therapist to assess current status of players, then analyze how team has been playing and seeing if and how we can evolve toward the style of play we determine is best for the current roster.”

Cruz Azul Siboldi

Cruz Azul’s Pedro Caixinha greets Santos Laguna’s Robert Siboldi before a Feb. 25, 2018, match. Siboldi has now replaced Caixinha as Cementeros coach (Photo by Natalia Perales/Getty Images)

We are not here to criticize how things were done under the previous coach. We’ll identify positives and negatives. This is a very strong roster and we want to maximize the talent and create a positive environment for this team to grow and improve.”

The Uruguayan bounced back from a 20-game winless stint at Veracruz to land a prestigious job. Cruz Azul is considered one of Liga MX’s Big Four (along with América, Guadalajara and UNAM).

Before Veracruz, Siboldi, 53, coached Santos Laguna to the Clausura 2018 league title but was fired months later after getting into an altercation with a player. He also coached the Dorados of Sinaloa in second division for one season.

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Prior to that, Siboldi was a coach at Cruz Azul’s academy and managed two of their farm teams (Cruz Azul Jasso from 2006-2007 and Cruz Azul Hidalgo from 2007-2010). At the same time, he also served as interim manager for Cruz Azul at the end of the the Clausura 2009 season.

Back at La Noria

Siboldi was a goalie as a player and he wore the Cruz Azul jersey for 32 games during the 1993-94 season. He also played for Atlas, Puebla, the Tigres and the Uruguay national team.

“I’m very happy to be returning (to Cruz Azul) for a third time,” he said. “First as player, second as a coach and now. I am honored and proud to wear these colors again.”

Cruz Azul Siboldi

Milton Caraglio and his Cruz Azul mates must keep their focus on football if they hope to make the playoffs. (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images)

Siboldi said he will tell his players that they will challenge for the league title despite being in th place with only 10 points after 8 matches.

Garcés was then asked about the Peláez situation, providing him an opportunity to explain how we got to this situation. “The club statutes specify that the board of directors collectively selects new coaches and we never gave up that control to Pelaez,” he said, suggesting that Peláez believed it was his decision alone. “Our next general manager will have to accept the functions and obligations as laid out in the club statutes.”

Siboldi and the players must now move past the front office turmoil – the corruption and tax evasion allegations – and start preparing for their 10 remaining games in hopes of salvaging this season.