VÉLEZ CAMPEÓN 1998

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Luego de su notable paso por Newell’s Old Boys, Marcelo Bielsa emigró hacia el fútbol de México, donde dirigió dos clubes: Atlas y América. Llegado el año 1997, desde Liniers lo contactaron para continuar con un proceso que venía de logros estupendos. Con Carlos Bianchi como estratega, Vélez había logrado tres títulos locales y otros tres internacionales, que incluían Copa Libertadores e Intercontinental.

En el primer torneo del nuevo ciclo, a los de Liniers no les alcanzó para pelear hasta el final: acabaron en el cuarto lugar, por detrás de River, Boca y Rosario Central. Sin embargo, en el siguiente se vería una mayor adaptación al fútbol vertiginoso y dinámico pretendido por Bielsa. Para esto, también se debieron superar cortocircuitos entre el propio entrenador y los líderes de un plantel acostumbrado a ganar. Lo cierto es que el 31 de Mayo de 1998, Vélez se consagró campeón una fecha antes, tras vencer por 1-0 a Huracán.

“El Fortín” fue protagonista del torneo de principio a fin. Comenzó con cuatro triunfos consecutivos, incluido un partido bisagra ante Boca en La Bombonera (3-2). Recién en la octava fecha ante San Lorenzo -dirigido por Alfio Basile llegó la primera y única derrota en todo el certamen, pero la misma no impidió que el buen andar colectivo siguiera su marcha. El equipo se levantó rápido y fechas más tardes venció a Independiente (3-0), Colón (6-0) y Ferro (4-1), en lo que fueron tres de las goleadas más significativas del campeón.

Aquel plantel aún contaba con la experiencia y jerarquía de jugadores campeones del mundo: José Luis Chilavert logró que su valla sea la menos vencida del torneo, respaldado por Flavio Zandoná, Víctor Sotomayor, Mauricio Pellegrino y Raúl Cardozo. Otros con mucho protagonismo fueron Sebastián “Gallego” Méndez y Federico Domínguez, de importante presencia ya que Bielsa solía optar por un esquema con carrileros como el que luego utilizó en la Selección Argentina. En el mediocampo, resaltan los nombres de Carlos Compagnucci, Claudio Husain, Christian Bassedas, un joven Lucas Castroman e incluso cinco presencias del hoy jugador con más partidos en la historia de Vélez: Fabián Cubero.

Por supuesto, para ser campeón hubo que convertir con frecuencia, y Bielsa logró que su equipo alcanzara un promedio de dos goles por partidos. La máxima figura fue Patricio Camps, quien respondió cuando debió ocupar el puesto de centrodelantero -fue el máximo goleador con 10 tantos-, pero por su excelente técnica y pegada también podía jugar más retrasado y darle lugar en el área a jugadores como Darío Husain, Fernando Pandolfi y Rolando Zárate. Los dos extremos fundamentales para el juego vertical y de amplitud que pretendía Bielsa, eran Carlos “Lobo” Cordone y Martín Posse; éste último fue el artífice del gol del título ante Huracán, tras una gran jugada del primero.

Aquella obtención significó la quinta estrella local para Vélez, y sin lugar a dudas, el prestigio de Bielsa creció tras observarse una vez más ganador en un proceso corto y con un fútbol vistoso que involucraba a muchos jugadores en la búsqueda del arco rival. Su contrato con la institución de Liniers era por una sola temporada y no hubo renovación: emigró a España para dirigir al Espanyol, pero sólo dirigió seis partidos porque le llegó el llamado de la Selección Argentina, que venía de caer ante Holanda en los Cuartos de Final de Francia 1998, con Daniel Passarella como entrenador. El resto de la historia es bien conocida: desde su paso por la Albiceleste, Bielsa despierta amores y odios en todo el pueblo futbolero; Por su parte, Vélez debió esperar pero en la nueva década lograría agrandar sus vitrinas.

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1994. Si no rueda una pelota me siento incompleto. Cuando sea grande diré que vi jugar a Messi. Disfruto de leer y escribir.

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