Héctor Cúper: a new start in silence as Egypt coach

“He was 18, I went to look for him at his house. Someone told me that he was a great centre-back, so I went to his hometown. I meet him, I greeted him and he looked at me. He talked so few, something that impressed me. He talked only if it was necessary”. In 1973 Carlos Timoteo Griguol, one of the most well-known Argentinian coaches, did a trip of 80-kilometres from Rosario to Chabás, a little town in Santa Fe Province to find a good defender. That silent guy whom Griguol, then the young manager of Rosario Central, looked for was Héctor Raúl Cúper.

For him it was enough to give his teammates a look. They understood that something was happening. He didn’t need to talk.

Few seasons later, Cúper would become one of the key players of Ferro Carril coached by Griguol. Together Héctor and Carlos won the first two (and sole) national titles of the club, that in the 80’s dominated Argentinian sport in other disciplines. In these successful seasons Griguol formed first of all a group of men, then a football team. They were united and they hadn’t a spectacular style of playing, but Ferro Carril were well-organized and quick. The symbol of this side was El Cabezón Cúper. His career as coach, that was forged by his maestro teaching him verdolaga spirit, began very close to home, at Huracán, his last club as player.

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In 1992 Héctor Raúl Cúper started his long journey that would bring him all over world. In 1994 he reached a second place in the Clausura Tournament as Club Atlético Huracán coach and in 1996 under his management Lanús won the CONMEBOL Cup.
In five years Cúper prepared his European experience. Outside South America first Cúper’s spell was at RCD Mallorca. In 1998 he led the team based in the Balearic Islands to Copa del Rey final (lost to FC Barcelona) and to Spanish Super Cup triumph, reaching in 1999 also the third place in La Liga. That’s the best ever RCD Mallorca performance in Spanish first division. The Vermilions ended his season with 68 points, two points less than runners-up Real Madrid and one more than Valencia coached by Claudio Ranieri.
After this stunning campaign with Mallorca, Cúper was appointed exactly by The Oranges to replace the Rome-born manager. Two seasons in Valencia, two Champions League finals in a row. El Cabezón lost both. On 24th May 2000, in Paris, Valencia CF were defeated 3-0 by Real Madrid coached by Vicente del Bosque, one year later in San Siro the man from Chabás lived his first Italian disappointment losing on penalties against Bayern Munich.

Spanish goalkeeper Santiago Cañizares’ angry tears in Oliver Kahn’s arms is the imagine of a dream that in Valencia wouldn’t come back again.

Argentinian-born coach and his style of football left his mark in La Liga. Famous Spanish sports reporter José María García often repeated an expression that summarizes well Cúper’s coaching approach got from his mentor Griguol:

He is the opposite of his fellow countrymen. He uses more shovel than pick.

After Valencia spell former Mallorca coach moved to Inter Milan, where he lived another huge disappointment, losing in a crazy May Sunday afternoon of 2002 the Italian title that seemed already won.

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Cúper’s figure, unavoidably linked with that great but unsuccessful season, has been reevaluated by former members of that Inter team, who would redeem themselves under Mancini and Mourinho. One of these players Iván Ramiro Córdoba was very positive on Héctor’s spell in a interview.

He prepared the ground for something important. We have to give him so much credit, he did a great work. He gave us the awareness to be protagonists. And so it was”.

In 2004 Cúper came back home, to Mallorca. There the Argentinian manager was an idol. His spell ended in February when he resigned. Since then Cúper’s career stopped and fell into a kind of black hole.

Real Betis, Parma, Georgia, Aris Salonicco, Racing Santander, Orduspor, Al-Wasl. In six years and eight months he coached seven teams in six different countries.

Cúper has travelled all over the world, but these have been short-lived trips. They ended with resignations, dismissals or expired contracts. It seemed that in his hurry to regain his old prestige the Argentinian coach choose team with growing briskness. In the meantime Cúper was also involved in an Italian investigation on match fixing. It seemed the end of El Cabezón‘s career.
On 2rd March 2015 a surprising announcement: former Inter Milan manager was appointed as Egypt national team coach.

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In this new experience on Pharaons’ bench (his contract lasts three years) Cúper lost the 2017 African Cup of Nations‘ final but is close to gain a World Cup qualification that would be historical for Egypt. As usual, he’ll never give up.
Despite doubts of local media Cúper is showing that he has something to give to Football. In his first 17 matches on Pharaons’ bench, he collected 12 wins, two draws and three defeats. Althrough it’s more important that he gives back his football passion to young football generation that considers Salah, the ideal Aboutreika‘s successor, Cúper has been able to give new impulse to a team in crisis bulding a great group based on players born at the beginning of the 90’s (especially Salah and Elneny) and confidence on young talents, for example Ramadan Sobhy. The team, the same principle got by Griguol.

He did it with great effort, after a dark and difficult moment. He did it in silence, because as his mentor said, he doesn’t need to talk.