By Rex Gowar
BUENOS AIRES, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Ricardo Gareca, the longest serving coach at one team in the Argentine top flight, has decided to leave Velez Sarsfield after winning four trophies during five years in charge.
Gareca, 55, told sporting manager Christian Bassedas, the former Velez, Newcastle United and Argentina midfielder, of his decision in a three-hour meeting late on Monday.
"...Ricardo Gareca communicated his decision not to continue as coach of... Velez Sarsfield after five years of maximum success and despite the board's offer to renew his contract," the club said on their website (www.velezsarsfield.com.ar).
The ex-Argentina striker, who took charge in January 2009, won three league crowns and the grand final between the 2012/13 season's two champions - his 'Inicial'-winning Velez and Newell's Old Boys, who won the 'Final' title.
Gareca, whose side finished joint second to San Lorenzo in the 2013/14 season's Inicial championship that ended on Dec. 15, had hinted last month he wanted to try new pastures.
His successor looks likely to come from reserve team coach Hector Almandoz or former Velez striker Omar Asad, who has coached San Lorenzo and Mexico's Atlas.
San Lorenzo also face the rest of the season under a new coach after Juan Antonio Pizzi decided to accept an offer from Valencia. Sports daily Ole has reported that he has signed a pre-contract agreement and is travelling to Spain on Thursday.
The Saints, whose obsession is to win the Libertadores Cup in 2014, have all but completed the capture of Edgardo Bauza as his successor, to take charge on Jan. 2.
Bauza, like Pizzi a former Rosario Central player, has the pedigree having turned LDU Quito into the first Ecuadorean side to win South America's elite club trophy in 2008. They lost that year's Club World Cup final 1-0 to Manchester United.
San Lorenzo, who lifted their 11th league crown, are the only one of Argentina's so-called Big Five clubs never to have won the Libertadores.
"Paton" (Bigfoot) Bauza, 55, has won league titles in Peru with Sporting Cristal and Ecuador with LDU as a coach and in Argentina as a player for Central.
He is the fourth highest scoring defender in world football with 108 goals in 499 matches, behind Ronald Koeman, Daniel Passarella and Fernando Hierro, according to the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS).
Pizzi stunned the Saints by deciding to break his contract and take up an offer from Valencia, where he was a striker.
He spent the better part of his playing days in Spain, his adopted country who he represented at international level, having also had spells with Tenerife and Barcelona.
Pizzi decided at first against taking the Valencia job, which is vacant following the sacking of Miroslav Djukic, but he was persuaded to reconsider his decision by the club's new sporting director, former Argentina captain Roberto Ayala.
He would be the second Argentine coach to join a Spanish side this season after Barca's Gerardo Martino. (Reporting by Rex Gowar; Editing by Ken Ferris)