By Panos Bletsos
Ranieri, Mourinho, Scolari, Hiddink, Ancelotti, Villas-Boas, you name it. Roman Abramovich has hired and then fired some of the best tacticians world football has to offer – and he’s done it in less than nine years since taking over. So, do you think that the Chelsea owner is the worst possible employer for a football coach? Don’t kid yourselves, he barely makes the top-ten.
It’s been a couple of days’ hard work on my behalf tracking down the number of trainer scalps several club owners have had on their plates. And it goes without saying that if Hell exists in the religion of football it has to be Italy.
And I don’t mean the Agnelli family, whose members have sacked no less than 42 head coaches over the years. After all, this dynasty of industrialists has owned Juventus Turin since… 1923. But it is common place in the world of calcio: if something goes wrong, blame it on the gaffer. It’s no coincidence that the Italians even have a name for club owners or presidents who just love sacking: mangiaallenatori (he / she who eats trainers).
The headmaster of this school of football directors HAS to be the one and only Luciano Gaucci, whose exploits would take a book to list. Just for good measure, for the best part of the last two decades he was in charge of no less than four different clubs (Perugia, Viterbese, Catania and Sambenedettese), some of them simultaneously and he went about his business terrorizing coaches across the land.
Since the 73-year-old entrepreneur has gone out of circulation since going bankrupt in 2004 (and fleeing to the Dominican Republic), a number of starlets have been vying for his place. Eight of them feature in my mangiaallenatori top-ten, which is coming up.
10. Igor Campedelli (Cesena)
Celebrating his 38th birthday this week, he took over at lowly Cesena in 2007 and saw them climb two tiers up to Serie A in as many seasons. During this short period of time, however, he still managed to fire seven coaches, with unlucky Fabrizio Castori getting the boot twice. With the Seahorses all but dead and buried, Mario Beretta mustn’t be feeling particularly well either.
9. Roman Abramovich (Chelsea)
It’s funny, but it all started with an Italian, Claudio Ranieri, even though the Blues won 107 out of 200 games under him. Then it was of course the unparalleled José Mourinho, who guided Chelsea to six major titles within less than three-and-a-half years, but not the European Champions League. His successor, Avram Grant, came close, closer than anybody in 2008, but John Terry and Nicolas Anelka failed to convert their penalty kicks and… you know the rest. Luiz Felipe Scolari, FIFA World Cup winner with his native Brazil, recently described the Chelsea job as “hell”, the legendary Ray Wilkins only took charge for a single match on an interim basis (before being sacked in November 2010) and the wily Guus Hiddink delivered an FA Cup triumph, during a three-month loan from the Russian Football Union. Carletto Ancelotti adapted quickly and won three pieces of silverware, in stark contrast to Andre Villas-Boas. That makes eight managers gone in less than nine years, 10 trophies and more than USD 132 million in combined compensation fees.
8. Enrique Cerezo (Atlético Madrid)
In the summer of 2002, right after Atlético’s ascent back to the Primera División, an exhausted Jesús Gil y Gil decided to hand over the club to his right arm, the long standing vice president Enrique Cerezo. Gil, who had a nasty reputation of impatiently axing head coaches for fun, passed away in May ’03 and while the Madrid-based outfit’s control stayed with the family and his son, Miguel Ángel Gil Marín, Cerezo has been the one who runs Atlético over the past decade. Club icon Luis Aragonés, who’d later lead Spain to Euro 2008 glory, Gregorio Manzano (twice), Argentine Carlos Bianchi (three-times Intercontinental Cup winner), Mexican Javier Aguirre (2009 Gold Cup winner with his native Mexico) and Quique Sánchez Flores (who guided Los Colchoneros to both the Europa League and the European Super Cup in 2010) were among those ten shown the door, sometimes in awkward fashion.
Perhaps the only club to have won more international than domestic honours, Parma entered its era of decline after the Parmalat financial scandal at the end of 2003. The Tanzi family abandoned the club, which subsequently went into administration – and that’s when Tommaso Ghirardi came in. In January 2007 he bought Parma at an auction and began by sacking Stefano Pioli after only two matches. Another eight bosses followed suit, including Claudio Ranieri, Argentine Héctor Raúl Cúper and Francesco Guidolin.
6. Luca Campedelli (Chievo)
Luca has absolutely no relation to the aforementioned Igor Campedelli. In family terms, that is, as these two namesake Italia club owners simply love to throw trainers out of their way. Igor has sacked seven bosses in five years, while Luca, who took over the family business by succeeding his father Luigi, has fired 13 since 1992, including Gigi Delneri twice. Of course, they have won nothing and always settle with Serie A survival – which they’re really good at, no matter the man in charge.
5. Massimo Moratti (Internazionale)
It’s like father, like son here as well. Of course, Massimo did not assume the club leadership straight from his father Angelo, the man behind Inter’s 1955-’68 Golden Age. Moratti senior passed on in 1981, but his fourth son took over from Ernesto Pellegrini in February ’95. He’s been there ever since, with a two-year break (2004-’06) which ended when the one and only Giacinto Facchetti passed. He did celebrate 16 major titles under his reign, but to achieve that he was forced to fire 17 head coaches in as many seasons. It’s an impressive-looking list, which includes the likes of underrated tactician Gigi Simoni, Romanian mastermind Mircea Lucescu (the brain behind Shakhtar Donetsk’s rise to fame), the great Marcello Lippi, 2006 FIFA World Cup winner with the Azzurri, Héctor Raúl Cúper and Rafa Benítez. Most of them (and several others) failed to deliver, but there were of course the exceptions of Roberto Mancini and Mourinho.
4. Enrico Preciozi (Como & Genoa)
Another Italian – what else? But not just anybody. Selling toys for a living, he deals with head coaches like they were toys too. He was first involved with lowly Como in 1997 and by the time he acquired Genoa, in June 2003, he found the time to axe 9 trainers in six years. Old habits die hard and he’s followed the same path at the Rossoblu, with 11 victims in less than nine years. The hit-list includes names such as that of Roberto Donadoni, Serse Cosmi, Francesco Guidolin and even Gian Gasperini, who led the side from Serie B to Europa League football in just three years. And to think that Preciozi at one time called him “my own Alex Ferguson.”
Now nearly 72 years old, Pozzo bought Udinese in July 1986, in troubled times as they were heavily involved in a betting scandal. Even though the Udine outfit has never claimed a major trophy, slowly but steadily they have combined on-field success with extremely profitably player sales. However Pozzo, who has handed over the presidency to Franco Soldati, has not hesitated parting ways with big-name coaches, such as Bora Milutinović, Alberto Zaccheroni and Luciano Spalletti – a total of 25 in 26 years. In 2009 he also acquired Spanish side Granada and has found the time to sack another two trainers. That makes a grand total of 27...
2. Maurizio Zamparini (Venezia & Palermo)
To be honest, I thought that he would deservedly earn top spot, but I was wrong – we have a tie. Zamparini entered the world of football in 1987 and stayed with Venezia, whom he helped clinch three promotions all the way to Serie A, until 2002, working with no less than 26 trainers! And it’s the same story all over again in Palermo, as he’s sacked another twenty-one. In whole, the toll rises to 37.
1. Massimo Cellino (Cagliari)
The Mangia-allenatori definition. He became the owner of Cagliari back in 1991, when the team boss was a certain Claudio Ranieri. Over the years, head coaches have come and gone – no less than 37 of them! Cellino’s... menu includes dishes such as Uruguayan Óscar Washington Tabárez (who led the Celeste to Copa América glory last year), Giovanni Trapattoni (the man who won every single UEFA competition as well as the Intercontinental Cup with Juventus) and a certain Massimiliano Allegri, who was snapped up by Milan immediately afterwards’
To summarize it all, I have to say that I only included the five major European footballing countries and that I’ve focused on people rather than clubs. If I hadn’t, this top-ten would be pointless, as no one can match Catania’s record: they have had 67 (yes, sixty-seven) different coaches since 1971.
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