After many different sources have confirmed Hugo Sánchez as new Cruz Azul head coach after Robert Dante Siboldi’s departure, it has left many wondering whether the club is taking a step in the wrong direction. While the “Pentapichichi” was instrumental in that RE-peat Pumas squad back in 2004, that’s about as good as it got in his coaching career to date. Let’s have a closer look at his story.
After an illustrious 21-year playing career, Sánchez called it quits in the summer of 1997, after spending his last semester with Atlético Celaya. Just under three years later, he began his coaching career with the team he loves more than any, Pumas. After leading them to the semis in the Verano 2000, he was let go the following season midway through due to conflicts with the front office. About a year later, he made his return to the UNAM squad, becoming the club’s fourth head coach in that season alone, only this time he was back for a much longer spell; just over four years to be exact. During that span (9 seasons) he took his squad to four Top 3 league table finishes, as well as two Semi-Finals appearances and their well known two consecutive league titles during 2004. This is considered a highly successful run in Liga MX. He also won that year’s Campeón de Campeones trophy, as well as the Santiago Bernabeu trophy by defeating Real Madrid by a final of 1-0.
After being let go by Pumas in late 2005 due to a second consecutive low-performance season, as well as a short, unsuccessful seven-game stint with Necaxa in late 2006, Hugo was hired as the Mexican NT head coach following archnemesis Ricardo La Volpe’s departure after the 2006 World Cup in Germany. His NT debut came in February 2007 with a friendly loss to USA. His most impressive victory as NT head coach came in the 2007 edition of Copa América, when Nery Castillo gave a stellar, ground-breaking performance to defeat Brazil in the team’s cup opener. However, Mexico never looked a solid, compact squad under Sánchez. There was visible disarray by players on the pitch, and proof of that was Mexico’s Gold Cup Final loss to USA, as well as the Argentina thrashing in the Copa América SF. And after his utter Preolímpico squad letdown, failing to qualify Mexico to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, he was let go by the FMF in March 2008.
His next stop was Europe. He was signed by Spanish club UD Almería on December 22, 2008, after the club’s bad start to the season. He won his debut by a 1-0 score, and eventually led his team to safety after fighting for relegation the entire season. However, after a poor start to the following season, Sánchez entered a wretched stretch, losing 7 out of 10 league matches, as well as suffering Copa del Rey elimination in that span. Finally, on December 21, 2009, he was let go by the club.
A two and a half year hiatus was next before returning to Mexico for one more coaching stint, this time with Pachuca. It was announced in the summer of 2012 that Sánchez had become the club’s new head coach. After a subpar season finishing 13th overall and of course missing the playoffs, Sánchez was let go the week following the regular season’s finish.
In summary, Hugo Sánchez’s coaching career has been mostly short-lived, with a few bright spots here and there, but mostly ineffective. Either his teams simply don’t respond, or do so for a short period to only falter soon after. In Cruz Azul’s currrent state, with no club president, as well as no new team signings to go along with two player departures (Daniel López and Jonathan Borja), and a club filled with disarray, a guy like Sánchez doesn’t seem fitting. Now, I could be wrong, as he proved he could take a bad club such as Pumas and make them competitive to the point of RE-peating. The problem is, he failed to even come close in all of his other stints. Cruz Azul doesn’t need competitive; it needs championship-contender status. Will he prove to be the right guy if confirmed as head coach?