The name Isaac Newell may not mean a lot to many people but he was a pioneer, in the very literal sense, of football in Argentina. Newell had an adventurous spirit and in 1869 at the age of just 16 he boarded a ship headed for a recently reunified Argentina. In 1884 he founded a school, the Colegio Comercial Anglicano Argentino, in Rosario, Santa Fe. In the same year the first football and set rules arrived in the country and football would go on to play a big part in life at the school.
Football began to rise in popularity in Argentina thanks to participation at schools like Colegio Comercial Anglicano Argentino and clubs and societies set up by British ex-pats. In 1891 the first football league outside of the British Isles was formed, the Association Argentine Football League. The first Primera Division matches were played on 12 April 1891 featuring Buenos Aires FC vs St Andrew's and Old Caledonians vs Belgrano FC. The league only lasted one season but two years later a new league was formed with the same name, this would eventually become the Argentine Football Association.
In 1900 Newell made his son Claudio and his daughter-in-law Katie directors of the school. It was Claudio, who in 1903 founded Club Atletico Newell's Old Boys. From 1905 Newell’s played in the local Liga Rosarina alongside Rosario Athletic, Rosario Central and Atletico Argentino. In 1939 they were admitted to the Primera Division of the Argentine Football Association. Newell’s have won the Primera Division championship six times, on two of those occasions (1991 and 1992) they were managed by one of their own old boys, Marcelo Alberto Bielsa Caldera.
Marcelo Bielsa had a brief and not particularly successful playing career, starting at Newell's Old Boys in 1977. He only played 25 times for Newell's but when he retired from playing in 1980 he began a coaching career at the club. Starting coaching the youth teams he became first team manager in 1990. As well as the two Primera Division titles Bielsa also took Newell’s to the Copa Libertadores final, losing to Sao Paulo on penalties. Bielsa is regarded as somewhat of a revolutionary at Newell’s. The Rosario clubs version od Don Revie or Howard Wilkinson. He is held in such admiration that their stadium was named after him in 2009.
Newell's Old Boys made Marcelo Bielsa and he rejuvenated them. The passion Bielsa still shows for Newell’s is clear and the fans still see him as a god, a crazy one but nevertheless a god. His style of football and philosophy were developed whilst coaching at the club and this is a philosophy that has gone on to influence managers such as Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino.
Marcelo Biella is not Newell’s only famous and influential export of course. Gabriel Batistuta, Ever Banega, Walter Samuel, Américo Gallego, Jorge Valdano, Gabriel Heinze, Roberto Sensini, Mauricio Pochettino and Maxi Rodriguez all came through the clubs youth teams. Then there is perhaps their most famous export of all, Lionel Messi. The five time Ballon d'Or winner spent six years playing for Newell’s youth teams before his move to Barcelona in 2000. The likes of Racing Club and Boca Juniors may make the headlines, many people have probably not heard of Newell’s Old Boys but their influence on world football, whether you realise it or not, runs deep.