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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Wednesday January 7, 2004 6:20PM

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) -- Former Argentina midfielder Leonardo Astrada, who has no previous coaching experience, said on Wednesday he had accepted an offer to take charge at River Plate, one of Argentina's biggest clubs.

Astrada, 34, will replace Chilean Manuel Pellegrini, who resigned in December after 18 months at the helm during which the team won one Argentine championship and no international tournaments.

"I've accepted this possibility because it's a big challenge," Astrada told reporters at Buenos Aires airport after returning from a holiday in Miami.

The former midfielder, who made 33 appearances for Argentina, spent much of his playing career at River Plate where he retired six months ago.

River spent most of the Pellegrini era in the shadow of arch-rivals Boca Juniors, who last year won the Libertadores Cup -- South America's equivalent of the Champions League -- the World Club Cup and also one of the two league championships held every Argentine season.

River, on the other hand, won the other league championship, reached the quarter-finals of the Libertadores Cup and were beaten by Peruvian outsiders in the final of the Copa Sudamericana, the region's equivalent of the UEFA Cup.

"I want to repeat the successes of (former River coaches) Daniel Passarella, Ramon Diaz and (Americo) Gallego," said Astrada.

"Our main target will be the Libertadores and the domestic tournament."
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