One of the biggest factors behind Ken Sasaki’s upturn in managerial success has been the identity that he developed early in his Coquimbo Unido years. This identity prioritises youth, promotes an attacking mindset and targets specific attributes when signing players. In the 2023 season, Sasaki has been forced into relying on youth by the transfer embargo imposed by the board during a takeover. And it just so turns out that you can win things with youth.
Colo-Colo Transfers | 2023 mid-season break
The last post ended prior to the mid-season transfer window where Sasaki would be targeting three signings to drastically improve the depth of the Colo-Colo squad. Three main positions were highlighted as being under-strength: left-back, central midfield and striker.
However, a horrible injury sustained by Dylan Gissi meant that Colo-Colo would need to bring in a centre-back as well. In order to abide by the limit of three transfers in the window, Sasaki would have to decide which position would be the least problematic.
- Tomas Lopez
Signed from: Talleres de Cordoba
Signed for: £825k
The first signing of the summer came in rather forced circumstances through Gissi’s leg break. Tomas Lopez was signed as his direct replacement and will likely line up alongside Gissi depending on how he recovers from the break. In the meantime, Lopez will look to form a solid partnership with Branco Ampuero at the back.
The high teamwork, leadership and bravery attributes of Lopez really highlighted him as a player suited to the identity Sasaki would be trying to implement at Colo-Colo.
- Nestor Cantero
Signed from: Olimpia
Signed for: £875k
Nestor Cantero came in for £875k from Paraguayan side Olimpia. He will be considered first-choice in centre-midfield and will hopefully remain in the spine of the side for years to come.
- Leonardo Campana
Signed from: Barcelona (ECU)
Signed for: £1.1m
The final signing Sasaki made during the mid-season break was Leonardo Campana. This signing was perhaps the most needed, especially when considering depth. Prior to Campana’s signing the only decent striker at the club came in the form of youngster Alexander Oroz. Campana adds the extra quality that could make a huge difference to Colo-Colo.
Review of the 2023 season
The early rounds of the Copa Chile take place in the mid-season break. Colo-Colo flew through the early rounds, beating Sasaki’s ex-club Coquimbo Unido emphatically, before losing in the quarter-final to Universidad Catolica.
One of the standout performances in the Copa Chile came from right-winger Marco Bolados who scored two hat-tricks! He scored four in the opening leg against Union Espanola before scoring three against Coquimbo.
After exiting the Copa Libertadores in the group stage, Colo-Colo fell into the knockout rounds of the Copa Sudamericana.
Colo-Colo met Uruguayan side Tacuarembo in the 2nd round. In the first leg, Vicente Pizarro scored the only goal to give Colo-Colo a 1-0 away win. This strong position was wiped out early in the second leg, but another goal from Pizarro and a second from Alexander Oroz helped to secure an aggregate win.
The 3rd round saw Colo-Colo drawn against one of the only remaining non-Argentinian or Brazilian clubs in Peruvian side Alianza Lima.
The first leg ended in a 1-0 defeat with Colo-Colo failing to perform under pressure. The Chilean champions were expected to win and Sasaki will not be pleased with their lacklustre performance. His anger must have inspired a performance in the second leg as Colo-Colo ran out 3-0 winners! A first-half goal from Bolados cancelled out Lima’s away goal before two goals straight after half time won Colo-Colo the tie.
The reward for winning the 3rd round tie was a quarter-final trip to Brazil
Colo-Colo travelled to Brazil for the first leg against Vasco da Gama. What followed was a tense 1-1 draw where Marco Bolados gave Colo-Colo the lead and what could be a crucial away goal.
The second leg was a more open game with both teams asserting their own dominance at different stages throughout the match. Colo-Colo led early through a Leonardo Campana penalty. This lead was carried to half-time.
In the second half, Vasco da Gama equalised before Bolados scored again to make it 2-1. This result would send Colo-Colo through to the semi-finals!
But, in a crushing, heartbreaking manner, Vasco da Gama scored a second goal that took them to the semis on away goals.
The Chilean league title is one that the board expect Sasaki to bring home. Yet with a rather youthful squad this would not be an easy task.
Colo-Colo won three of the first four games after the break with new signing Campana making an impact, scoring four (three of which were penalties). However a small slump with consecutive losses and a draw provided Sasaki with food for thought. An away game against Universidad de Chile followed and a loss here could really put a dent in their title ambitions.
Colo-Colo fought to a 4-2 victory which set them on a run of form that would secure them the league title! The league was secured with a 2-0 victory over Antofagasta. It was very fitting that star player Bolados would score the final goal before lifting the title.
Targets for the future | What’s the plan with Colo-Colo?
Consecutive titles was something Ken Sasaki had always envisaged when joining Colo-Colo. But two have won the first two titles in which he competed was not an idea he had imagined.
The first title involved an incredible comeback but a lot of the hard work had been done before his arrival. This season, however, was completely different. The setbacks created by the transfer embargo ensured that Colo-Colo went into the season with a lack of depth and a reliance on youth. It was Sasaki’s management skills that led the side to the title and he can take full credit for this years victory.
So what now for Sasaki and Colo-Colo? Continued domestic dominance is the obvious first goal, but beyond that Sasaki needs something more.
Only one Chilean club has ever won the Copa Libertadores – and that was Colo-Colo in 1991. It is Sasaki’s goal to win the Copa Libertadores with Colo-Colo. But Sasaki’s ambition does not end here. The end goal has to be the Club World Championships. To take Colo-Colo to the final of that tournament and win, most likely beating a European club on the way, would signal the end of his time with Colo-Colo.
Let’s hope progress can continue to be made towards this end goal!
Thanks for reading.