TOKYO- Mexican Javier Aguirre has agreed to become Japan’s new coach following the resignation of Alberto Zaccheroni after his side’s World Cup flop, local media reported on Monday.
The 55-year-old Aguirre, who led Mexico to the last 16 of the World Cup in 2002 and 2010, will reportedly pocket around $2.45 million a year — more than twice what his predecessor was on.
The Japan Football Association (JFA) told AFP no formal decision had been made, but the former Espanyol manager could travel to Japan to be unveiled next month, according to the Nikkan Sports daily.
The two sides have reportedly reached a basic agreement on a four-year deal through the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which would make Aguirre the highest-paid Japan coach ever.
Italian Zaccheroni stepped down after Japan’s meek exit from the World Cup, where they were beaten by Ivory Coast, held to a goalless draw by 10-man Greece and thumped 4-1 by Colombia.
The JFA have had to dig deep after the Asian champions struggled in Brazil, sparking criticism of Zaccheroni’s tactics and selection, as well as key players such as Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa, who were disappointing.
Long-time target Jose Pekerman, currently in charge of World Cup high-flyers Colombia, and former Yugoslavia captain Dragan Stojkovic were among those also linked with the Japan job.
Zaccheroni, who guided Japan to a record fourth Asian Cup title in 2011, looked out of his depth at the World Cup, bereft of ideas as Japan were bullied by their more physical opponents.
Former Japan midfielder Daisuke Matsui, who helped the Blue Samurai reach the last 16 at the World Cup four years ago and played under Zaccheroni at the Asian Cup, told AFP: “At the World Cup, where it really matters, Japan were soft.”
JFA technical director Hiromi Hara said Aguirre’s ties to Spain, where he lives, made him the perfect candidate.
“We prefer someone based in Europe rather than South America,” said Hara. “It means when they’re off and go home they can also check in on the players based in Europe.”
Frenchman Philippe Troussier first put Japan on the map by taking them to the knockout stage of the 2002 World Cup as co-hosts, but they have struggled to push on from there.
Expectations were high for the 2006 finals with Brazilian Zico in charge of a so-called “golden generation” of players but Japan fell short, with star player Hidetoshi Nakata retiring from football in tears after their final game.
Takeshi Okada’s target of the semi-finals proved wildly optimistic four years ago, although Japan did make the second round where they were beaten on penalties by Paraguay.