February 14, 2009
This past week we had one of the sadder days in the English Premier League this season. Two managers who were brought in to change their teams fortunes were quite brutally sacked by their chairmen and there are quite a few similarities between the cases of Luiz Philipe Scolari and Tony Adams.
They weren’t given enough time and the more interesting fact is that their former clubs’ chairmen were both Russian.
Tony Adams was perhaps the unluckier of the two, if there was a choice that one could make. Why he was given the entire January transfer window to bring in players of his choice only to get sacked after his team lost to Liverpool in one of their better performances is inexplicable.
The former Arsenal captain was always going to have a difficult time after succeeding Harry Redknapp. The one thing he wanted when he took over was that no one should leave his team.
That changed in a matter of days when both Lassana Diarra and Jermaine Defoe were sold, albeit for substantial sums of money. Oddly enough, that money wasn’t pumped back in to improve a now depleted squad and Adams has had to bring in the likes of Angelos Basinas.
He is no Lassana Diarra, is he?
As far as Scolari is concerned, he was always going to swim against the tide at Chelsea. His ex-team is in fourth position and only remain in contention in two competitions. He was always running the risk of getting compared to Jose Mourinho.
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The thing is, that Scolari had a squad that in many ways seems past it. Frank Lampard and John Terry have not performed anywhere near their respective capabilities. Scolari was given only £8 million to sign Deco, who himself looks like a player who is well beyond his peak.
Compare this to the money given to Jose Mourinho and even Avram Grant, and you can only feel sorry for the charismatic Brazilian.
Football clubs have become businesses. There is very little doubt in that, but you look at the top six teams in the Premier League and excluding Chelsea, who have a benefactor like Abramovich—five teams have lived within their resources and have had managers for at least two and a half seasons.
This season has been a bad one for Premier League managers as a whole. Seven teams have parted with their managers for one reason or the other, and this can only be described as disgraceful.
What the top brass at Portsmouth thought Tony Adams could achieve in 16 games, in the circumstances he was in, is something which is anybody’s guess. What Abramovich thinks of his Chelsea team is equally baffling—because everyone can see that the squad needs an overhaul.
Guus Hiddink might do well at Chelsea, but he’s also a human being. Roman Abramovich and Alexandre Gaydamak have to understand that football managers are not puppets. Neither are they androids who can make their team perform at the highest level in every single game.
One can only hope that common sense prevails among clubs and that they follow a sustainable model in terms of transfers of both players and managers.
Hiring and firing is never a good policy for any organization and if football clubs do really aim to run like businesses, the owners of those clubs should understand that it will take time to achieve any sort of success.
Any other form of success is only done for the short term—and Chelsea might well see that soon enough.
As for Portsmouth, their task of staying up this season with a new manager is going to be a very difficult one.
Time is considered to be a healer by many, because even the greatest defeats and the most pain suffered can be healed by time.
Now Scolari and Adams will have to spend that which was not given to them by their clubs through what will without a doubt be a very difficult time for them both.
January 19, 2009
The media has been buzzing for the past few days about the impending transfer of the Brazilian playmaker Kaka, from AC Milan to Manchester City—and as I write that sentence, I cannot believe that a player would want to make that switch.
I will try to take a completely objective view of the entire transfer: the financial, and the football factors.
ARE AC MILAN DOOMED IF KAKA LEAVES?
To put it very simply: no. Kaka is a fantastic player and epitomises AC Milan in many ways but players can be replaced. Figo left Barcelona for Real Madrid, and Juventus sold Zinedine Zidane to the Madrid based club not long after that when both of them were “indispensible” to their respective clubs and nobody saw them crash and burn after their respective sales.
AC Milan will be around a £100 million richer and will not only have the ability to compete in a deflated transfer market, but they have the likes of Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato who can replace Kaka—albeit only on paper.
Either way, Kaka’s loss will be felt by them for awhile but in the long run, nobody offers £100 million for one player and that is perhaps why AC Milan are contemplating Kaka’s departure.
AC Milan will also feel a sense of irony, albeit bitter, because they are not saints in any way in the transfer market—having tried to destabilize many a club over the past few years.
CAN MANCHESTER CITY COMPETE IF KAKA DOES ARRIVE?
It’s very strange how the word “compete” changes from league to league. As far as the Premier League is concerned, “compete” means being able to defend first and foremost and also possessing the ability to be up for a fight.
The English Premier League is also played at a slightly higher tempo than the Italian League and that, to a large extent, will take acclimatising to as far as the Brazilian is concerned.
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The transfer market has been used ostensibly in the past by clubs like Real Madrid - so what Manchester City are doing is nothing new. Chelsea did contemplate signing Ronaldinho in his prime for an amount of money not unlike the one suggested in this case, so this is not a change in any way.
But a club which has leaked goals 19 goals in 20 matches is hardly calling for a flamboyant player. A team which cannot defend, cannot win consistently even if it had Kaka and Lionel Messi in its ranks. The Premier League doesn’t allow such a cavalier approach to football.
If Kaka does move to Manchester City, it will turn heads for good or bad. Players will want to play with the likes of Kaka and Robinho, and that coupled with the monetary merits of joining the club will appeal to many players in the world who have quality.
The bottom line is that this signing is more ostensible than necessary.
WHY WOULD KAKA MOVE TO MANCHESTER CITY?
I don’t think that this particular question requires answering. If he does move, a lot of words like “ambition” will be bandied about but make no mistake - Kaka is facing a big decision as far as his career, and to a greater extent, his life is concerned.
It’s not everyday that some football club is willing to pay half-a-million pounds a week to a player. A footballer’s lifespan is around 15 years and to be fair, they do have the right to earn the money which is offered to them in those 15 years.
However, one cannot help thinking that Kaka would make a wise choice only if the move were happening the other way around (Man City to Milan). Why would a player of his class join Manchester City—a club which is fighting it out at the bottom of the Premier League table?
Kaka seems to be a down to earth person, and the signs he is sending out seem to suggest that he might not accept the deal.
He also cannot be guaranteed success at a club like Manchester City, and that could well make him stay at AC Milan.
It’s also worth noting that Robinho’s move to Manchester City made him look like a clown back home in Brazil. One might wonder what picture-perfect Kaka might look like back home if he does make a similar switch.
THE IMPACT ON THE PREMIER LEAGUE
The Premier League would certainly be boosted by the arrival of Kaka. But it’s interesting to note again, that the likes of Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini have been quiet throughout this transfer saga.
Manchester City have produced a lot of talented players like Micah Richards, Stephen Ireland and Daniel Sturridge—so how will bringing in a Brazilian for £100 million help the home-grown regulations?
On the footballing side though, I doubt if any neutral would be bitter by Kaka’s arrival to the Premier League—it will certainly make compelling viewing—as if it isn’t already compelling enough!
The transfer market will also be polarised to a large extent—and a Premier League with so much financial disparity is not a healthy Premier League in the long run.
At the end of the day, the two clubs and the player will make the move only if it suits them. One can only hope that the standards of football improve, but at the same time wonder how the sport is now witnessing a financial divide which might just spoil the fun in the bigger picture.