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61
Football / Luxemburgo on borrowed time
« on: March 20, 2005, 08:12:32 PM »

source: Times Online
Luxemburgo on borrowed time
By Matthew Syed
PRESIDENT TRUMAN HAD A SIGN on his desk that read: “The buck stops here.” Florentino Pérez, the president of Real Madrid, has a sign that reads: “The buck stops at the office down the corridor, round the corner and second on the left.” It is there that the head coach resides. But this is not a head coach in any conventional sense. Certainly not in the sense in which the term applies to, say, Martin Jol, a strong man who makes many of the big decisions that affect his team.

No, in the surreal world of the Bernabéu it is the president who calls the shots while the coach dodges the bullets. Vanderlei Luxemburgo is almost certain to become the fifth coach in less than two years to get a piece of lead through the brain. His transgression? Handing out orange segments that were sliced too thin.

The problem for Real is that Pérez, a construction magnate with a penchant for blue shirts and grandiose follies, knows as much about football as Rupert Lowe. Since being elected president, he has lavished transfer expenditure on the world’s most expensive players (hence the consecutive summer signings of Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and David Beckham for a combined cost of about £120 million) while leaving the boring defensive stuff to inexpensive youngsters emerging from the youth programme.

Pérez believes that “what is expensive is cheap”, a reference to the concept that star players more than repay the princely outlay by generating additional marketing revenues. After the signing of Beckham in the summer of 2003, Pérez ventured the following pearl of wisdom: “When you achieve that balance between the magnitude of the club and the magnitude of the players, the effect is frightening, isn’t it?” Yes, but not as frightening as the magnitude of your ego, mate.

The problem is that squeezing every marketing penny out of star players eventually takes its toll. This is why Real imploded so spectacularly towards the end of last season. One former Pérez mouthpiece said at the time: “We are tired, you can see it and it doesn’t help that we have to play the same players over and over again because the public come and want to see them in every game.”

Glaring inadequacies in front of Iker Casillas, the outstanding goalkeeper, finally forced through some defensive purchases over the past 12 months, but it has been a case of too little, too late. The virtuosity of Real’s galácticos has produced thrilling football in recent years, but with the prospect of a second consecutive season without silverware, the policy of Pérez has been exposed as a sham. And who will be made to carry the can? Yes, you guessed it. Responsibility without power: the prerogative of the eunuch throughout the ages.

The nightmare for Real is that when Luxemburgo, the latest eunuch, is dispatched into his already-prepared coffin, they will find it tricky to persuade a high-quality manager to take up the poisoned chalice. Considering that Real were voted the club of the 20th century this is a damning indictment of Pérez’s reign. Rafael Benítez is reported to be on the shortlist, but he is surely too virile to accept a job of such monumental impotence. One is reminded of Lyndon Johnson’s description of the vice-presidency: “It is not worth a bucket of warm spit.”

The travails of Real would normally warm the hearts of English fans, envious of the unrivalled historical successes of the Spanish giants, except for the fact that the revolving-door policy towards the coach has harmed two of England’s most influential players: Beckham, who at least played in all of last night’s 1-0 win over Málaga, and Michael Owen, who had to be content with just five minutes as a substitute.

Stability is, in general, an overrated phenomenon, but for the players at the Bernabéu it is becoming vital. One of the few responsibilities of the coach is to determine the method of training and the continual chopping and changing has driven some players to despair. Beckham, in particular, has enjoyed the vigorous training under Luxemburgo (in contrast to the approach of Carlos Queiroz) and is troubled by the looming prospect of yet another adjustment.

Shortly before Beckham arrived at the Bernabéu, Real dismissed Vicente Del Bosque, despite capturing two European Cups, two league titles, a European Super Cup and a World Club Cup in four seasons. “Del Bosque’s profile is a traditional one,” Pérez told a news conference at the time. “We’re looking for someone with more emphasis on tactics, strategy and physical preparation. Del Bosque was showing signs of exhaustion. I want to be sincere about this — our belief that he was not the right coach for the future.”

Which ranks a perfect ten on the Richter scale of gross ingratitude. Since that time, Beckham has played under Queiroz, José Antonio Camacho, Mariano García Remón and Luxemburgo. Soon he will be under his fifth coach in less than two years, a rate of promiscuity that would leave a harlot blushing.

The time will come when the ritual slaughter of the coach at the high altar of boardroom folly will be seen for what it is. After all, to lose one coach might be considered unfortunate, but to lose five smacks of staggering ineptitude. But do not expect the man who is ultimately responsible to own up just yet. These days, Pérez is good for one thing and one thing only: passing the buck.

62
Football / Dtool, help me out here ...
« on: March 10, 2005, 08:41:22 AM »
 :-[ HU let go another coach, yet not doin' anything about the soccer coach. Wha' really goin' orn? When was de last winnin' season for Tucker? :o

63
Football / Henry explains his sulky skills
« on: March 09, 2005, 12:01:06 PM »
<I>source:</I>The Times
March 09, 2005

Henry explains his sulky skills
By Nick Szczepanik
The Arsenal forward explains that his brooding body language is all part of a relentless pursuit of perfection
IF ARSENAL get the result they need against Bayern Munich this evening, Highbury will be a sea of ecstatic faces. The exception may be that of Thierry Henry. Even if he scores a hat-trick, the France forward may be mulling over one he missed and yesterday he admitted that his quest for perfection has given us the wrong idea about the happy man behind the somewhat sulky mask.

“It seems like I’m upset when I’m on the pitch, but it’s the way I am,” he said. “If you ask the guys in the dressing-room, I’m always taking the — I won’t say the word — but it’s true that on the pitch, you don’t often see my teeth. I’m not there to have any laughs.

“It started when I was young. I was 11 or 12 and I used to score goals and my Dad would say, ‘You didn’t [create] any.’ I created some and he said, ‘You didn’t score.’ People who know me know that I’m never satisfied with myself. It is the way I was educated. I’m not crying about it, but I came from a hard area and the only way out of it was for my parents to be hard on me.”

Henry added that on the occasions when his body language can appear moody, it is usually out of frustration with himself, although he said: “It kills me when the game is not played as it should be. It does my head in, but when I go back in the dressing-room I apologise to the guys.”

His team-mates, though, are surely ready to forgive him, appreciating his reluctance to regard himself as the superstar that others paint him. “It’s not a one-man show,” he said. “The first goal I scored against Portsmouth [on Saturday], when Lauren gives you a ball like that, I stayed calm and went to say ‘thank you’ to him. I hate strikers and I really hate it when people give them a goal and they go to the other side to celebrate like they did something amazing.

“The only person I’ve seen winning games on his own is Diego Maradona. I don’t remember anyone else taking a team from beginning to end. Obviously you remember the World Cup in 1986. He played on his own. Apart from him, I’ve seen great and amazing players, but they were playing with great players around them. I always say the same: without my team, I’m nothing. When we beat Inter 5-1, everyone was amazing, not just me. I didn’t take the ball from my penalty area alone. I’m there to finish the job of my team.”

Not that he is ducking his responsibilities. “No, that’s my job,” he said. “But [Ruud] van Nistelrooy missed three goals at the weekend and he got hammered. He’s the most natural finisher in the world, but it can happen. We’re all human beings.

“I know that people expect me to score, but you have to be objective about how things are on the pitch. People know that from time to time I can change the situation of the game, but sometimes at Highbury that first goal can be very difficult because the pitch is really narrow.”

A 2-0 win would see Arsenal through and this evening Henry will be reunited with Dennis Bergkamp, whom he described as “the best player I’ve ever had as a partner”, but it will still be amazing, to borrow Henry’s favourite word, if they progress.

“The most important thing is to win [the competition],” he said. “I went to a semi-final with Monaco, but everyone has forgotten about it. They remember who was in the final. If you turn things round against Bayern Munich but don’t go through to the end, it doesn’t mean anything.”

64
Football / Yokohama FC loses Spann's debut
« on: March 05, 2005, 08:33:08 AM »

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