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elpresidente On December - 21 - 2011

Target On: Gregorio Manzano

Goyo Manzano, if we look back on his achievements and stop with his last few weeks in charge of Real Mallorca in 2010, was a successful and well-respected coach looking to parley that magical season where the Andalusian coach had the minnows in a Champions League place for much of the season into a significant pay-day. He had earned it. Mallorca on the other hand couldn´t afford his salary let alone give him a raise. He would wait, the offers would come, this was not the first time around the block. Sevilla would soon call. They were looking for someone to motivate their players as Antonio Álvarez had lost the dressing room. The disciplinarian Manzano though would clash with his charges and never quite fit in with the hierarchy at the club. It was José María del Nido´s club and his sporting director Monchi ran it, looking for ¨Moneyball¨ deals, holding out for the highest price to sell and buying on the cheap. It was a club built for width and direct play and Manzano wanted more possession and incisive passing. Sevilla was never going to be a good fit and while they didn´t renew his contract, the parting was amicable.

He could have taken some time off, but Atlético Madrid were desperate. The new season was about to begin and they had just been turned down, if reports were true, by both Joaquin Caparros and the man who would replace him Marcelo Bielsa at Athletic Bilbao. Adding insult to injury when hot commodity Luis Enrique turned down Atléti and you get the picture as to how far down the line Gregorio Manzano was when he was hired for the Vicente Calderon. It was only a one year contract, he was fourth in line, and he inherited a club wracked by infighting both in the locker-room and at board-room level. It was only ever going to end this way. It explains to some extent how poor his record has been.

Half a season gone and they are closer to relegation than they are to bitter rivals Real Madrid at the top of the table. The have a decent home record, third best in the league, but their away form is atrocious, last in Spain and they´re getting worse. They have 2 wins, 4 draws and 4 losses in their last 10 games and their highest scorer is a fullback (Filipe Luis). This is a club that had turned the corner, had faced down their Patético Madrid image, and won the Europa League two years ago. As is usual, the center could not hold and they lost their goalkeeper David DeGea to Manchester United, Diego Forlán to Inter Milan and Kun Aguero to Manchester City, but most importantly Quique-Sanchez-Flores who changed the outlook around the Manzanares at least for a little while. Manzano could have done something given time or at least some input into who they bought, but the club are back where they were when they sold Fernando Torres; misplaced parts all around with a system that puts no one in the best place to shine: Radamel Falcao Garcia looks lost, Diego looks ill-suited for a system that isn´t tied to his ability to create in midfield, and new keeper Thibault Courtois is talented but is quite often left on an island behind their aging defense, and I won´t even go into the fractured relationship he´s had with arguably Atléti´s best player José Antonio Reyes. Suffice it to say, that Goyo Manzano has been ill-suited to lead Atlético Madrid.

Manzano will take the blame, the coaches often do, and to a certain extent he deserves it. He failed in his ability to motivate and to game-plan effectively, but he is not the reason why the colchoneros are reeling. The press in Madrid have been reporting for a week now that Manzano would get until the Copa del Rey match midweek before getting fired and not once has the club come out and contacted him. They have been questioning his ability to lead Atlético Madrid since early October he says, ¨and not once did anyone come to support his work.¨ As Manzano says, it was going to a difficult job no matter what, but the club´s management is ultimately at fault. They sold their best players. They bought inadequate replacements and most importantly they could not or would not get out of the way of the man they settled on to lead them. Its why the search for a replacement is so problematic.

Does anyone think that Rafa Benitez will come out of self-imposed retirement for this headache? After his tussles with dysfunctional management in Valencia, Liverpool and Inter Milan would he return for this? Would Luis Felipe Scolari after his Chelsea troubles? The most likely candidate is Diego Simeone. The managerial star around El Cholo has faded a bit, and he is six years away from the turf at the Calderon, but if anyone can he mobilize the troops, gather the fans and stand-up to management, well I can´t think of anyone else. Maybe, but Im not holding my breath.


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