Teó Gutiérrez and how to play in the Libertadores
The Colombian is a player brimming with on the field talent and at age 26 should be reaching his peak. And playing at Racing Club, one of the 'big five', should be enough to warrant continued attention for Teó, despite a failed attempt in Europe while playing for Trabzonspor of Turkey (8 goals in 23 matches) in 2010/11. And if 2011/12 had gone like the 2011 Clausura, where Gutiérrez scored 11 in 16 for Racing, he would have once again generated interest across the ocean. It wasn't to be.
Racing, while under pressure to gain some distance for the promotion, were not only doing well but challenging for the top of the table. Gutiérrez had other plans on his mind – if not plans, some sort of thoughts that weren't related to helping. While bagging 6 goals, he mistakingly believed seven yellow and two red cards to be his real purpose on the field. The worst came in a stupid expulsion for pushing the referee during the Boca-Racing clasico. The match was the last serious challenge of Boca's undefeated championship and Gutiérrez's red card was the moment that really took Racing out of the match.
First came the pictures. In Argentina, big club players drive big expensive cars. So it was quite comical to see Teó walk out of Independiente's stadium to a common taxi, probably waved down off the street. Teó had been kicked off the bus – both literally and figuratively. Then came the news why. Following a heated argument with his fellow teammates Teó pulled out a gun, a paint-ball gun, in the dressing room. Understandably nobody felt comfortable sharing a bus with Teó.
At the same time that the Mario Balotelli experiment at Manchester City seems to be coming to an end, teams would be wise to think deeply about their ability to harness the capabilities players with known concentration problems. Racing for the moment has given up on the Teó experiment.
You would think that pulling a gun, even a paintball gun, on fellow teammates would be enough to end one's competitive career. Yet somehow, the incident appears to be a 'step up' for Teó, at least till the end of the season, because he will be playing in the prestigious Copa de Libertadores for Lanús. While not necessarily a historic powerhouse, Lanús has recently had decent form and one would think decent management.
If given such power, I would generally side on cautious and long-term management of players. To me a 'professional' footballer should respect the position and opportunities they are given, which come from the thousands of hard-working supporters who make football 'valuable' in a dollar-and-cents kinda way. Introducing the Balotellis and Teós of the footballing world into a relatively stable dressing room can be a disaster. I also find it insulting.
But from the perspective of Lanús, I presume, Teó is seen as a high quality – but relatively cheap given the circumstance – reinforcement for the Libertadores. Until now, being a smaller club has meant Lanús has had to choose between the league and the cup, electing to keep the best players rested for Libertadores ties while their league form suffered. Bringing in Gutiérrez might be a solution to this problem but comes at high risk. For the moment Lanús players have decided to welcome Teó. Hopefully Lanús, for the whole team's sake, is only giving him this one chance.