Familiar friend Ferretti the obvious interim for Mexico, but not the right man for the future

The Tigres manager is an excellent choice to lead El Tri in the short-term, but the FMF should continue to look elsewhere for a good long-term fit

Tuca Ferretti is back at the helm of the Mexico national team.

It’s no surprise to see the full-time Tigres boss take over El Tri on a part-time basis. It was not long ago that the former midfielder came in like the cool substitute teacher and helped Mexico beat the rival United States in the 2015 CONCACAF Cup. The stakes are even lower this time around. With Tuca stepping in on a temporary basis and the United States also undecided on a full-time manager, the Sept. 11 meeting in Nashville will have far less gravitas than Tuca’s previous stint in charge.

He’s the perfect interim manager, a familiar friend to the Mexico national team who knows the players in the system well. He’s the longest-tenured coach in the league for a reason. You have to survive in Liga MX. He’s done that by winning at every stage. In his current spell with Tigres, his teams have won four league titles plus a Copa MX crown.

Tactically, he has his style, wanting his team to keep the ball and patiently find the best course of attack. His teams are balanced. The outside backs can get forward but often don’t. Tuca doesn’t necessarily prepare his teams to go out and play the most beautiful football, but he knows how to set them up to get a victory. That’s a valuable skill in the international game where sometimes the options are limited.

Off the field, he represents Mexico well. While he may have a temper, he’s also a gentleman. Ladies first in the press conference followed by the most senior members of the press corps (damas, then canas), often leading to Tuca snapping “Quiet, you’re not the oldest one here,” in a news conference when a young upstart tries to get in an early question.

That he is such a perfect fit for the job on a short-term basis has fooled some into thinking Tuca is the right man to lead Mexico into the next cycle. As an interim coach, Ferretti is a great choice. He gives Mexico stability, and the fact that he’s expressed a lack of interest for the job should be a plus. Yet, many of Mexico’s decision-makers are hoping to seduce Ferretti into taking over long-term. They should remember a few of the drawbacks to naming Ferretti to the job.

For one, he has a good thing going at Tigres. Ferretti is happy in northern Mexico, working for a team he knows well. The volatility that comes with the Mexico job may not fit him well.

“Do you know how many excellent managers, much better than me, there are in the world?” he said at a Tigres news conference Monday. “They have to pick someone better than me. They’re going to find one.”

Everything indicates that Mexico is going to put the press on and try to woo Ferretti into the job long-term. The federation should aspire for someone better than Ferretti. While he’s totally worthy of leading the national team, he’s right that the job would be better for someone else.

Ferretti has shown a reluctance to develop young players. Juan Carlos Osorio, who managed Mexico from Nov. 2015 until leaving after the World Cup this summer, has planted the seeds for Mexico’s next manager to continue developing an exciting new generation of players. Ferretti won’t even agree to play youth players to comply with Liga MX’s youth regulations. It seems unlikely he would be interested in watering the seeds Osorio has planted, which could lead to them withering and not blooming to full potential.

Mexico also can find a more tactically ambitious manager. Osorio was critiqued – often fairly – for his experiments, but he also motivated top players like Hirving Lozano and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez to find another level and understand the game in a different way. That’s why both praised him to the level they did when he left. It’s easy enough to imagine Ferretti drawing up a plan to top Honduras in qualification, but tough to see him putting together the kind of scheme Mexico used to beat Germany in the World Cup.

Ferretti is the man Mexico needs now, but not the one they need next year. He seems to know that. Hopefully Mexico’s directors become clued in as well and continue to search for a coach who can continue the positive transformation El Tri started to go through in the last cycle rather than simply keeping up the status quo. 

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