In his 1844 work The Corsican Brothers, Alexandre Dumas details the story of two conjoined brothers who, after being separated at birth, could still feel each other’s emotional and physical distress.
It has become a common trope in popular culture that twins have a unique bond, one that comes as a result of their shared time before birth. Whilst the actuality of twin telepathy is hard to know, it may perhaps go some way to explaining the shared career path of the Barros Schelotto twins; Gustavo and Guillermo.
Born in La Plata, Buenos Aires, both brothers began their careers at Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata, the club where their father Hugo was president. Guillermo, a clinical striker, and Gustavo, a hard-working central midfielder, were seen as great hopes for Gimnasia, two players who could take the team to the next level.
Having made their debuts within a few months of each other in 1991 and 1992, the pair helped lead Gimnasia to their first major trophy in over six decades. To celebrate their centenary year, the Argentinian Football Association had created a one-off trophy between the top-flight clubs. Gimnasia reached the final against River Plate and the match, played at their home stadium, ended in a 3-1 victory, a goal by Guillermo sealing the result at the very end.
The twins nearly went one better in 1995, with Gimnasia one victory away from being crowned Argentinian champions for the first time since 1929. All Gimnasia needed was to match San Lorenzo’s result, but a 1-0 defeat at home combined with a 1-0 win for San Lorenzo saw the Barros Schelotto brothers miss out on a first league title.
Despite this disappointment, their performances at Gimnasia – particularly Guillermo’s hat-trick in a 6-0 victory at Boca Juniors – left an impression on Argentina’s biggest clubs. Quickly River Plate made their move to bring the brothers in. This deal was subsequently cancelled by River legend Enzo Francescoli, due to a personal dispute between himself and Guillermo. River’s loss would become Boca’s gain, with Xeneizes signing both in the summer of 1997 on the recommendation of Diego Maradona.
Once again, Gustavo had to wait a little longer than his brother to make his breakthrough, coming two months after Guillermo. Guillermo’s debut could hardly have gone better, coming off the bench to score the winner in a 2-1 victory over Newell’s Old Boys. Gustavo’s introduction to the first team at Boca was more gradual, with the midfielder struggling to cement a regular place.
The arrival of Carlos Bianchi helped both players become firm fan favourites alongside winning league titles and a Copa Libertadores in 2000, but Gustavo still struggled to get consistent game time. A big-money move to Europe presented itself and, upon transferring to Villarreal, the brothers would be playing at separate clubs for the first prolonged spell of their career. Such a move ultimately meant they would never feature together in the same team again.
For Gustavo, the career he led after leaving Boca was an unsettled one. Unable to make a significant impression in Spain, he returned to Argentina with Racing Club. Here he won the Apertura, but never managed to find a settled home for the rest of his career. He would move onto Rosario Central and return to Gimnasia before spending brief spells in Peru and Puerto Rico. Gustavo was never quite able to reach the heights of the success at Boca, retiring from football in 2007.
Whilst Gustavo was struggling to rediscover the early career form that saw him talked about in the same breath as his brother, Guillermo was forging his legacy at La Bombonera. Having not had his head turned by the bright lights of European football, Guillermo was the mainstay of a Boca revival at the turn of the century. With the 2000 Apertura and Copa Libertadores secured with the help of Gustavo, Boca continued on their path to success, winning the Libertadores twice more in 2001 and 2003, although injuries impacted how much influence Guillermo had over those successes.
Regardless, Guillermo established himself as one of the all-time greats in Boca’s storied history, finishing with a record of 87 goals in 302 matches and four Libertadores titles. A brief, but storied, spell in MLS with Columbus Crew followed before a final year back at Gimnasia, during which he played without wages.
After retiring in 2011, there was perhaps a sixth sense between the twins telling them they had unfinished business together. In 2012, Guillermo was approached by Lanús to become their new manager. Guillermo accepted the role, recruiting Gustavo as his assistant. Following a decade without his brother at his side, the Barros Schelotto’s were back together.
Both having been more attack-minded in their playing styles, they set about creating a tactical style in the same manner, with the brothers seeing immediate results. The pair led Lanús to just their second continental championship, the 2013 Copa Sudamericana. This success earned the pair a move to Europe with Italian side Palermo, but their time in charge would only last a month as UEFA decided their coaching badges were not up to the required standard.
Being unable to stay at Palermo would prove to be a blessing in disguise, with a return to Boca presenting itself a few weeks later. La Bombonera proved to be too enticing for the pair, providing a chance to bolster their own legacies. The Barros Schelotto-led Boca managed to win two league titles and reach the final of the 2018 Libertadores, against arch-rivals River Plate.
The final has become etched into legend, with the first leg postponed due to torrential rain and second due to a fan attack on the Boca bus. River ultimately prevailed, winning the rearranged second leg in Madrid 3-1 after extra time.
It would prove to be the last game for the pair as the management team of Boca, with a move to LA Galaxy ultimately providing a fresh challenge. The legacy left by Gustavo and Guillermo at the Galaxy is still being forged, but their impact on the history of Boca Juniors is undeniable.
Although Gustavo has spent the majority of his career living in the shadow of his twin, their connection is undeniable and, as their managerial career grows, the dependency on each other becomes more apparent. Los Mellizos, the twins from La Plata, have forged their own legacies and cemented their place as one of the greatest sibling double acts in football.
By Michael Gallwey @michael95angelo