Central Park exploded. After four dates, National achieved his first triumph in the championship. People retired through the streets singing and remembering what had been the winning goal scored by him. “Morro” Santiago García. The image contrasted with what happened in a lonely hospital room. There, prostrate on a stretcher, Marcelo gallardo he was waiting for the moment to be transferred to the operating room.
Minutes before entering the surgical block, he arrived at the president of Nacional, Ricardo Alarcón. At the foot of the stretcher, he took Gallardo’s hand and said: “Marcelo look, we brought you to be champion”. The Argentine, who was extremely saddened by the rupture of the patellar tendon that afternoon against Bella Vista, looked at Don Ricardo and answered softly: “Rest easy presi that we are going to be champions”. And they took it away.
Recovery required several months of absence. Those doubts that had been generated when they hired him increased. It is that the arrival of Marcelo Gallardo to Nacional was under an atmosphere of criticism. Not everything was rosy.
“It was not easy to bring him there We received a lot of criticism when he came as a player because many said that we were bringing someone in the twilight of his career, someone who was retired”, Recalled the then president, Ricardo Alarcón.
Gallardo had closed the cycle at the club of his life, River Plate, after a talk with the coach. “(Ángel) Cappa was clear in what he told me. I had one more year of an agreed contract with Passarella that had not been signed but that in principle was going to be a reality. But at the end of the tournament I spoke with Ángel (Cappa) and he told me that there was not going to be a priority and I simply thought that the best thing for me, after some years lived at the club, was to end my bond with River and continue for another way ”, expressed the Doll in a note with ESPN.
After reaching an understanding with Nacional, the leaders went to wait for him at the airport. There, Alarcón shot a phrase that remained for history: “With the arrival of Gallardo we bet on champagne football”.
Marcelo limited himself to expressing: “I am happy with the possibility, not only because I come to a great team, a great one from America, but because it changes my aspect of life a little, at this point I prioritize the quality of life that this nice country that I like so much. Montevideo is a beautiful city ”.
THE HUMILITY OF A LEADER
After signing the documentation, the Doll was taken to Los Céspedes where they introduced him to his companions.
“When Marcelo arrived he came as the figure and it was of a magnitude that we did not think that the type was so simple. From the first day he showed that he was one more and he showed the greatness that he has and that led him to be a leader in silence, from the start”, Richard Porta told ESPN.
When he arrived, some players thought that the Argentine could have the air of a star taking into account his journey. “Sometimes you come up with ideas, but as a teammate you are a crack. Very humble, very sincere, I hit very good vibes right away and I got along very well with him ”, revealed today Cerrito’s winger, Julián Perujo, to ESPN. The team at that time was technically led by Luis González.
On August 25, 2010 Nacional made his debut equaling 1-1 with Wanderers. Gallardo did not play, nor did he on the second date where the tricolor lost 0-3 against Fénix. Just in the third, against El Tanque Sisley, the Doll entered in the 53rd minute for Matías Mirabaje. They matched 1 to 1. The beginning was not the best. The pressures increased.
On the fourth day of the Apertura, González did not hesitate: the Argentine started to face Bella Vista with an eleven that he formed with Rodrigo Muñoz; Christian Núñez, Alejandro Lembo, Sebastián Coates and Mauricio Pernía; Raúl Ferro, Marcelo Palau, Mauricio Pereyra and Marcelo Gallardo; Santiago García and Horacio Peralta.
That September 19 was fateful. Gallardo was removed from the court at eleven minutes with a ruptured patellar tendon.
Shortly after his injury, and after losing 1-4 to Cerro at Tróccoli, Nacional changed coaches. Juan Ramón Carrasco arrived. Gallardo was in Argentina.
“I remember that the first part of the recovery was carried out in Buenos Aires, surrounded by his family, but when he was enabled to begin rehabilitation tasks on the field, he came to Montevideo,” recalled his partner at the time, Porta.
ADHESION TO THE CAUSE
In Nacional they do not forget the image of seeing Marcelo Gallardo arrive on crutches to carry out the recovery work with the kinesiologist Walter Ferreyra and Dr. Carlos Suero.
Instead of going to Buenos Aires, He made the recovery with the club’s doctors and there we saw the adhesion and commitment because he went with his crutches and the cast to training. There we realized that we were in front of someone else ”, recalled the club’s vice-president, Alejandro Balbi.
President Alarcón added: “In that recovery he was always surrounding his colleagues, present every day in Los Céspedes. Even though he couldn’t do anything, he was very supportive. “
The beginning of the second part of the year was not easy. Nacional started tumbling. On February 5, 2011, he drew 1-1 with Wanderers, then lost with Fénix 1-2, four days later he made his debut in the Libertadores, losing 0-2 to América de México. Until on February 27, Carrasco called him in the 77th minute of the match against Bella Vista. Nacional won 1 to 0. It was his official return to activity. But the return to sporting life occurred on March 5 when the Bag faced Miramar with the head of his coach on the guillotine.
Nacional lost 1 to 0 and Carrasco sent him to the court in the 60th minute. At 77 the tricolor equalized with a goal from Viudez, at 83 Charquero scored the second and in the discounts Gallardo scored a great goal.
Carrasco was not shy about acknowledging Gallardo’s ability after the Argentine saved him with a brilliant performance against Miramar.
THE DOLL DOORS INSIDE
The then forward Richard Porta, today coach, and the full back Julián Perujo, who today defends Cerrito, shared the concentration with Marcelo Gallardo in his passage through Nacional.
“Marcelo lived on the Rambla in Pocitos and he came to look for me. Did he have mate? No … I was wearing the mate. What Marcelo did appear two by three with the hot croissants, ”Perujo recalled in a talk with ESPN.
The side revealed that Gallardo never let him pay for gasoline. “I had a car and he wouldn’t let me pick it up. I tell you more, when he was injured I went to look for him sometime in my car, but then I ended up driving his car ”.
Perujo says not to forget the talks on the trip. “The Doll was already received as a coach and he had things clear in every way”.
Richard Porta contributed that Gallardo got used to drinking mate with Uruguayan yerba.
“When I went to visit him in Argentina, in his office in River he has a kitchen, and he had Uruguayan yerba, he had Canaries. Drink mate with yerba from ours ”.
Porta added: “At the rally, from day one, it was a pleasure to hear it. Together with Julián Perujo we listened to him and he told things that he wanted to tell. We asked him something about the World Cup and he told us about his preparation, the same about his time in France. Many say when I played, I this, I the other, Marcelo the opposite. If you didn’t ask him, he wouldn’t tell you anything. He liked to talk more about his family, he asked you how your life was, he never put it in the first person. When he started talking, it was wonderful, ”recalled the current alternate coach at Defensor Sporting.
“I had never left here, in fact I just went to play in Argentina, and in the concentration I liked to hear him talk about his experiences abroad. One of the things I remember was when he told us why he returned to River at the time when he was a figure in Europe and decided to return to the club where he was born ”.
Porta added that Gallardo “never raised his voice, never said anything, never set guidelines and when he began to speak there was silence, everyone listened, that marked his leadership as a player.”
In Los Céspedes they do not forget the Doll. The people in the internal kitchen, those who prefer anonymity, revealed to ESPN that during the recovery time Marcelo observed everything in Los Céspedes, the club’s training and concentration place. He analyzed Nacional from the inside.
He made friends with Yudith Tejo who was in charge of tidying the rooms and with the cook Carmen Amaral. “Marcelo cared about all of us, he asked me about the grandchildren,” Amaral said in an institutional video.
At lunchtime, Gallardo was one of them. He waited for his turn when the soup was served to him with a ladle or when the tray of salad was passed to him. “El Muñeco used to eat the milanesas with puree, the noodles with tuco, he never had problems with food. He always showed that he was spectacular, ”recalled Porta.
He also created a relationship of affection and respect with the props officials.
“He never asked for anything special, he wore the clothes they gave him. The time he was injured was spent observing how Nacional handled himself. Salty observer. He knew who was who in Nacional. He always asked us”Recalled one of the club’s props in a talk with ESPN.
What started as a nightmare, with bad results that led to a change of coach, with a very serious injury, long months of recovery and doubts, ended up becoming a dream. Nacional, hand in hand with the brushstrokes of Marcelo Gallardo, ended up winning the Uruguayan Championship.
June 12, 2011 was not another day in the Doll’s life. It was weird. He shared the happiness of the championship with the bitter feeling of goodbye.
“That afternoon an event was recorded that was really shocking. In the middle of the festivities all the players went to look for Marcelo, gave him the cup and then threw him in the air. It was a great joy, a great idol was retiring from active football ”, declared President Alarcón.