A soccer world gone mad
In a soccer world gone seemingly mad — thanks in no small part to inept leadership at many levels — here are a few observations and comments on recent developments.
— Carlo Ancelotti has been handed a $10.6-million check and has been told to go anywhere he cares to as long as it’s not Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea, in a mind-numbingly bone-headed move, has fired the Italian coach barely 12 months after he led it to English Premier League and FA Cup titles. The reason? He finished only second in the Premier League this year and managed to reach only the semifinals of the European Champions League.
That, according to Chelsea, was “short of expectations.”
It is stupidity such as this on the part of Russian billionaire and Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich and his underlings that makes the Blues a laughingstock. Their chances of landing another coach as demonstrably talented and personable as the 51-year-old Ancelotti are slim.
Perhaps they can lure Dutchman Guus Hiddink back to London, but what if they can’t?
If second place and a semifinal were not good enough in 2011, see how Abramovich and his cohorts like finishing even further down the English and European pecking order in 2012.
Meanwhile, Ancelotti deserves — and should soon find — a club and an owner more deserving of his talents.
— Jorge Valdano parlayed winning a World Cup with Argentina in 1986 into an influential role at Real Madrid. His utterances, no matter how misguided, were dutifully reported because of the lofty “director general” position he held.
Then along came Jose Mourinho, and the battle of wills was on. Last week, Valdano was turned around on his heels, pointed toward the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium door and given a shove.
Mourinho 1, Valdano 0.
The yearlong feud between the two was always destined to have only one outcome, and Valdano should have realized that. Mourinho, as coach, now has near-total control at Real Madrid, reporting only to Florentino Perez, the club’s president.
But unless Mourinho delivers more than such trifles as the Spanish Cup next season, Perez might see some merit in the extraordinary attack aimed at Mourinho last week by Massimiliano Allegri, who this season coached AC Milan to the Italian Serie A title.
“Every now and then, [Mourinho] is pathetic,” Allegri said on an Italian television show. “He continuously repeats the same things, and it becomes banal. I think he is very talented, but his arrogance hides insecurity.”
Just what sparked this is unclear, but Mourinho will no doubt soon be heard on the matter. Allegri had best keep his head down.
— What a vindictive little man Alex Ferguson is. Manchester United’s Scottish coach appears to think the media’s purpose is to do his bidding.
In the wake of the latest ludicrous scandal to embroil a Manchester United player — this time allegations of marital infidelity that veteran Welsh winger Ryan Giggs suppressed until it was broadcast to world by the British Parliament — Ferguson tried the cover-up ploy.
At a pre-Champions League final news conference in midweek, Ferguson was asked an innocuous question about Giggs’ influential role on the team. The question was about soccer and had nothing to do with Giggs’ affair.
But Ferguson bristled and, in an aside to a Manchester United media relations staff member that was picked up by the microphones, ordered the reporter, Rob Harris of the Associated Press, banned from the next news conference.
“The guy that asked the question about Giggsy … is he coming on Friday?” Ferguson asked. “Aye. Then we’ll get him. Ban him on Friday.”
As noted earlier, the soccer world has seemingly gone mad.
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