April Round up – Goals, Gaffs and Guardiola

A Newcastle fan punches a horse (Image from Getty)May is the one of the most exciting months in domestic football. As the season draws to close, fans are poised on the edge of their seats waiting to see if their team is successful in winning the league, avoiding the drop or lifting the cup. For the first time since their famous win in 1997, Borussia Dortmund are looking forward to the Champions League final at Wembley on the 25th May, where they will face either Barcelona or fierce rivals Bayern Munich. The odds are firmly stacked against the Spanish side who trail 4-0 from the first leg but miracles do happen. Back in the Premiership, the fight for the title is over with Manchester United beating Manchester City to the post and picking up their 20th title, an english record. All eyes are now focused on the bottom of the table to see who will join QPR and Reading in the Championship next year. Newcastle, Wigan, Aston Villa and Sunderland are in a vicious dog fight with all four clubs desperate to avoid the drop.

On the Move - Mario Gotze  (Image from Reuters)

Champions League Final bound – Mario Gotze
(Image from Reuters)

Last month we took at look at two of those teams – Sunderland and Newcastle, focusing on two key stories, Sunderland’s appointment of controversal manager Paolo Di Canio and Newcastle’s recent slump which has left them dangling in the bottom half of the table. Di Canio got off to a flyer with unexpected wins against Everton and Newcastle before being cruelly brought back to earth with a bump by a rampant Aston Villa. Newcastle, who lost the Tyne Wear derby 3-0 have had a bad month, both on the pitch and off it. On the pitch, they crashed out of a winnable Europa League after defeat against Benfica then saw their domestic form slump as well picking up only 5 points out of a possible 15 during April. Off the pitch, the Tyne Wear derby was marred by the return of the english hooligan with Newcastle fans rioting after the match and one fan even punching a police horse. They were not alone in a month to forget for English football followers as fans of Millwall, Stoke, Bradford and Portsmouth all contributed to tarnishing the beautiful game’s reputation.

New Sunderland Boss Di Canio  (Image from Getty)

New Sunderland Boss Di Canio
(Image from Getty)

Also leading the charge in setting a bad example was Liverpool’s Luis Suarez who was banned for 10 games following an incident against Chelsea where he appeared to bite the arm of Branislav Ivanovic. The striker was slammed by his manager and the club for his actions before dramatically performing a U-turn and defending his actions, insisting it wasn’t worth a ten match ban. Very strange indeed. It could have been a lot worse for Liverpool, just look at AEK Athens who are now having to fight for survival without influential young midfielder Giorgos Katidis, now serving a ban for performing a nazi salute as a celebration. The incident which happened in March has not help AEK’s plight as they desperately tried to avoid the drop. However Sunday’s defeat in the final game, and a three-point deduction handed down for fan violence has resulted in AEK being relegated and dropping out of the Greek Super League for the first time in their history.

Suarez sinks his teeth in  (Image from SkySports)

Suarez sinks his teeth in
(Image from SkySports)

As AEK dismiss their manager following relegation, other teams across Europe are gearing up to follow suit. In a piece we called the six degrees of managerial separation, we predicted a chain of events that would start with Real Madrid and exiting manager Jose Mourinho and end back at Real with their new potential coach. See if you agree with us on our predictions. One manager who has already been confirmed is Bayern Munich’s new head coach, Pep Guardiola who has already started his revolution by signing Borussia Dortmund winger Mario Gotze. The player arrives for a record german transfer fee and kicks off what is sure to be a transformational time for the Bavarian club. Another club preparing for a transformational season is Cardiff City who led by Scot Malky Mackay celebrated last month with promotion to the Premiership. Cardiff will want to avoid the same fate as many promoted teams who find the move to difficult and end up back in the Championship after only a year. We looked at what Cardiff need to do to avoid the drop in their first season in England’s top division.

Going in the right direction - Cardiff win promotion  (Image from BBC)

Going in the right direction – Cardiff win promotion
(Image from BBC)

Also making the news last month was the never aging story of Nigerian footballer Taribo West, who Serbian officials are now pursuing over allegations that he lied about his age to gain a contract with Partizan Belgrade. It would appear that he is not the only player to have done this with other players from the same region reported to have done this. Two players who don’t need to do this just yet are Esbjerg’s Youssef Toutouh and Utrecht’s Mike van der Hoorn who made the news in April but for different reasons. Toutouh took the plaudits in April with a stunning effort against high-flying Randers whilst Van Der Hoorn felt the heat due to a clumsy error in Utrechts 6-0 defeat at the hands of AZ Alkmaar. Both players have exciting careers ahead of them so we are sure this won’t be the last time we hear from them. Also featured a crazy Bulgarian coach ripping up a referees cards, a goal from a goalkeeper, Bebeto’s resignation from the CBF and a look at Hamburg’s tactical woes in what proved to be a busy month. May is likely to throw up more interesting stories so please keep checking the blog and enjoy!

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Six Degrees Of Managerial Seperation As We Gear Up For A Summer Of Moves

Six Dregrees of Managerial Seperation (Image from Sunsetplayhouse.com)All aboard the managerial merry go round once more as speculation of this summer’s biggest moves reaches fever pitch. Josep Guardiola was the first coach to nail his flag to the mast and declare where he will be taking up this summer. The new Bayern Munich coach ended months of rumours and Chelsea whispers by signing on with the Bundesliga Champions in November of last year. The Spanish coach is unlikely to be the only high profile coach to switch jobs this summer in what is gearing up to be an intensive few months of change. It starts and ends with Madrid, with their high profile coach Jose Mourinho starting the ball rolling in what looks to be six degrees of managerial separation.

Chelsea Bound - Jose Mourinho  (Image from Getty)

Chelsea Bound – Jose Mourinho
(Image from Getty)

Mourinho to Chelsea

It’s no secret that Benetiz is leaving Chelsea in the summer and an even bigger secret that Mourinho is on his way back. Talk of other coaches like Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp and Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini are nothing more than smoke and mirrors, strategically placed so that when the former Portuguese coach makes his entrance at Stamford Bridge, it is as dramatic as possible. Jose the great, the special one is back at the bridge which calls an end to Benetiz time, much to the delight of a large section of the home support. Whilst Mourinho hasn’t taken the formal step to announce his return, he has been publically saying his goodbyes in Spain. Roma looks to have gotten his man, after the two made up following their very public spat which lead to Mourinho leaving England in 2007. PSG could throw a spanner in the works by offering Mourinho a more lucrative offer but whilst it would be appealing to the Portuguese maestro who wants to win the league in as many countries as possible, he has unfinished business at Chelsea that will draw him back. He wants to deliver the Champions League title which he promised Abramovich several years ago and despite the Russian billionaire getting his hands on the trophy last year thanks to Roberto Di Matteo, another one courteously of Mourinho would be welcomed.

Benetiz would be welcomed back at Liverpool  (Image from Getty)

Benetiz would be welcomed back at Liverpool
(Image from Getty)

Benetiz to Liverpool

Benetiz deserves more praise for what he has done at Chelsea than he is given. Sitting third in the league, hot on the heels of a faltering Manchester City, and in the semi finals of a very winnable Europa League competition, Benetiz has done well under harsh conditions. With the home fans breathing down his neck with distain due to his previous history with Liverpool, Benetiz has kept his composure and managed to steer a wayward Chelsea ship towards port. Additionally he has done what most Chelsea bosses have failed to do, by reigniting the fire of Fernando Torres. Still half the player he was at Liverpool, Torres is at least now firing in the goals with 17 goals in all competitions, much to the delight of his biggest fan, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. Benetiz will step aside in the summer for the returning Mourinho but he may not go that far with a trip up the M4 and back to Anfield on the cards. A legend in the north with Liverpool fans, due to delivering the Champions League trophy against all odds in 2004, Benetiz return to the red side of the city would be much welcomed. After a poor season under Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool fans just want to get back to winning ways and competing for the major honours once more, which is exactly what Benetiz can give them.

Rodgers return to Swansea?  (Image from Getty)

Rodgers return to Swansea?
(Image from Getty)

Rodgers to Swansea

Rodgers to be fair hasn’t done a bad job at Liverpool, but unfortunately his idea of time versus the clubs owners is likely to be different. Rodgers would love to have five to ten years to restructure the club and breed a new batch of talented youngsters much in the way that Arsenal have but investors won’t hang around to see this. The Fenway Group which has the controlling stake in Liverpool, need quick results and trophies to boot as success brings new money and expansion opportunities for the club. Rodgers has brought through some youngsters this year as part of his plan but his poor tactical calls and inability to bring in silverware will see the coach depart in favour of a manager who knows every blade of grass at Anfield and is a crowd favourite. It comes hardly as a surprise given that Rodgers wasn’t Liverpool’s first choice (Roberto Martinez holds that honour) but will be bitter sweet for the Northern Irishman. After picking himself back up, he is likely to look for an opportunity in the same division to prove he is not a failure and that chance may come in the form of an old friend, especially if Laudrup departs Swansea for a bigger club. Rodgers would relish the chance to restart where he left off a year or so ago, even if it’s seen as a backward step in his career.

Rising Star - Michael Laudrup  (Image from Getty)

Rising Star – Michael Laudrup
(Image from Getty)

Laudrup to Man City

Laudrup’s stock has risen considerably after an impressive debut season in the Premiership with Swansea. The former Danish international led the unfancied welsh outfit to their first major trophy in their 101 year history with victory in the League Cup and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by England’s top four. City, much frustrated with the lack of silverware this season, look to have lost patience with Roberto Mancini, despite the Italian coach thinking otherwise. If he is to go, City have options of who they can turn to including Ajax’s Frank De Boer and Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini but the smart money would be on a somewhat surprise move for Laudrup. Working on a limited budget, Laudrup has built an impressive team and bought wisely which to big spending City, who have repeatedly paid over the odds for players in the past, may be appealing. His style of attacking football and ability to mix up the formation of his team with little disruption would also interest city’s owners who have watched in wonder as Mancini tinkered badly and lost vital games and ground this year. They could face a fight with Madrid, who could turn to their former player as Mourinho’s replacement but Laudrup is likely to want to remain in the UK after two spells as a manager in Spain.

Not a successful season for Mancini  (Image from Reuters)

Not a successful season for Mancini
(Image from Reuters)

Roberto Mancini to PSG

Mancini knows that this season was not good enough and probably knows that he will not be coaching Manchester City next year if he is truthful. So where next for the pragmatic Italian? Heading back to Italy is an option and with former clubs Sampdoria and Lazio a likely destination, especially after somewhat disappointing seasons. But having already won Serie A with Inter and with both clubs unlikely to be challenging next year for honours, Mancini looks destined to go to another league. That league may be just across the water in France to take on another multimillion dollar rebuilding operation in PSG. Despite a quarter final appearances in the Champions League and the French title on its way, it’s not been a great year for current coach Carlo Ancelotti. The former Chelsea boss has watched in horror as his team of superstars crashed out of two domestic cup competitions this year, most recently to lowly Evian in the Coupe de France. Whilst these cups meant little to the owners, it was expected that PSG would storm to the domestic treble this year which has not happened. Rumours of a rift between Ancelotti and Technical Director Leonardo have risen recently although the club vehemently denies it. If the rumours are true, PSG are unlikely to favour anyone but the Brazilian who is seen as the focal point of the PSG forward movement. Ancelotti is smart enough to know when to leave than to fight a battle he will never win.

Off to Real for Ancelotti?  (Image from PA)

Off to Real for Ancelotti?
(Image from PA)

Carlo Ancelotti to Real Madrid

Ancelotti’s reputation as a winner (titles in Italy, England and now France) make him a compelling option for many clubs. But for one in particular, Ancelotti’s managerial style could be seen as a refreshing change to their last coach. Madrid would welcome Ancelotti with open arms and embrace his low key style, which will be in harsh contrast to the style of the exiting Mourinho. Ancelotti would welcome the challenge as well of adding the Spanish title to his resume and at a time when Barcelona look considerably shaky, it may be the perfect time for the 53 year old coach. Only an ailing father back home in Italy would potentially block the deal from happening but if Madrid owner Florentino Pérez sees Ancelotti as the coach he wants, we are sure a Real owned private jet will be made available at all times if the Italian needs to head home quickly.

Whilst the above is not an exact science and requires only one owner to offer a curveball into the mix to throw the whole thing off, it’s a calculated risk that the coaches involved will be moving on to new clubs starting at the end of May. Other coaches like David Moyes (rumored to be off to Schalke), Neil Lennon (to Everton as Moyes replacement) and potentially Barcelona looking for a new manager with Tito Vilanova rumoured to be stepping down again as he continues his fight against cancer, it could be one of the busiest summers for managerial moves in recent history. Over to you Jose to get the ball rolling.

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