Atlanta United today announced it has agreed a two-year contract with Gabriel Heinze to become the third head coach in club history. He’s quickly established himself as one of the top up-and-coming coaches in world football, highlighted by his most recent two-and-a-half-year stint at Velez Sarsfield. During the 2019-20 season, Heinze impressively led the third-youngest team in the 24-team league to a third-place finish. Heinze will be formally introduced to the media during a press conference via Zoom on Monday, Dec. 21.
“This is a milestone moment in Atlanta United history, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome Gabriel as our next head coach,” Club President Darren Eales said. “We cast the net widely for this important hire, and Gabriel quickly emerged as the No. 1 candidate. Gabriel is one of the top coaches in South American soccer and we are delighted that he chose Atlanta United. Whilst his resume speaks for itself, Gabriel’s playing philosophy and commitment to youth development closely align with our ideas at Atlanta United, and we are happy to welcome him as we move into our club’s next chapter.”
Following an illustrious playing career that included time at Manchester United, Real Madrid and Paris St. Germain, Heinze retired from the pitch in July 2014 and began working as a manager in the Argentine Primera Division with Godoy Cruz. In the summer of 2016, he took over Argentinos Juniors in the second division in Argentina. In the 44-match season, the former star center back led the team to a record of 25-6-13 (88 points) to secure promotion for his side. That Argentinos Juniors team finished the year with a +37-goal differential.
“I’m excited to be taking on this new challenge with Atlanta United,” said incoming Atlanta United head coach Gabriel Heinze. “I believe that my football philosophy is aligned with the vision of the club and their structure and facilities are world-class. I can’t wait to meet the players, the staff and the fans and get to work in 2021.”
Following his time with Argentinos Juniors, Heinze made the move to Velez Sarsfield and took over one of the youngest teams in the Argentine topflight. After guiding the team to a mid-table finish in his first season, Velez Sarsfield improved to sixth place the following campaign. That gave the club qualification to the Copa Sudamericana for the first time since 2013.
The club’s ascent up the table continued into the 2019-20 season, despite having a squad that averaged just 23.5 years in age (third youngest in the league). Heinze led Velez Sarsfield to a third-place finish, the club’s highest finish in the topflight since 2013-14. One of the club’s many signature wins of the season came on Sept. 22, when Heinze led Velez Sarsfield to a 2-1 away win at the Estadio Monumental against River Plate.
“Since we launched Atlanta United, our objective has been clear to play an aggressive, attack-minded style of play,” Vice President and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra said. “Gabriel fits that mold and has a dynamic playing style that aligns with the identity of our club, which is what we were specifically looking for in our next head coach. We’re excited to get him into Atlanta and to get to work on a promising 2021 season.”
Heinze’s playing career began in 1996 with Newell’s Old Boys in his native Argentina. The talented center back only stayed for a season before making the move to Europe to Real Valladolid in Spain. Over the next 15 years, Heinze played at some of the biggest clubs in the world including Paris St. Germain, Manchester United and Real Madrid.
The Argentine made more than 440 appearances across his career in Europe, with over 150 of those coming in Ligue 1 in France, 98 in La Liga, 52 in the Premier League and 41 in the UEFA Champions League. He scored 26 goals during his time in Europe and won seven major trophies, including league titles in England, Spain and France.
Following his tenure in Europe, Heinze returned to his first professional club Newell’s Old Boys in 2012 and played his final two professional years in his native country. He helped the club win the 2013 Torneo Final, giving the star defender four league titles in four different countries.
Heinze was a fixture in the Argentine National Team for many years. His debut came in 2003 and he finished with 73 total caps. He played in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, reaching the Quarterfinal stage in each one. He helped Argentina reach two Copa America Finals in 2004 and 2007. In 2004, under the guidance of one of his mentors Marcelo Bielsa (currently Leeds United’s manager), Heinze helped Argentina win the Gold Medal at the Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. He scored in the opening match, while Argentina did not concede a goal in the entire tournament.