On the week of the Champions League final it is no coincidence that owners across several leagues have gotten a little agitated and shown their managers the door.
Kenny Dalglish parted ways with Liverpool FC and many suggested that it was because his side had cost a lot of money and only delivered a minor cup. That, of course, played some part, but it is hard to ignore league position. If Liverpool had finished 4th in the English Premier League Dalglish would still have a job. He finished 8th and was told to collect his things.
In modern European soccer the goal is to be on the biggest stage, because that is where most of the money is diverted to. Owners know this, particularly the ones that come in from out with the country they are buying a club in. They can be filled in on the unique histories, the traditions, the songs and the crowd quirks, but the modern owner only cares about what bottom line can be ripped from under a club.
That is why Fenway Sports Group have kicked out King Kenny and set a remit of a ‘younger manager’. They want a face for the brand and they want instant success. They can no longer hide behind the talismanic Dalglish who would have saved many blushes because the fans love him so, but so what: they were not prepared to wait another season.
This sack-as-soon-as-shake style of business is old hat in Europe. Fabio Capello was fired by Real Madrid after a league win. So was Roberto Mancini at Inter Milan. These men did not make a dent in the Champions League so their achievements, no matter how immodest, were not enough.
Heaven help the side who do not even qualify.
Arsenal are deluding themselves that this year has been successful, but they can afford to because they qualified for the Champions League. Tottenham Hotspur’s near meteoric fall from the top three was excused because they have Champions League qualifiers to negotiate…should Chelsea fail to win the whole competition on Saturday.
Look at Italy’s Serie A. They have had a record number of manager removals this term. The league is widely regarded as the major competition with the fiercest firing culture, has seen almost 20 managerial swaps by May. That is in 1 season…
To miss out on the Champions League even for one year means a significant drop in revenue. It is also harder to market a club to the rest of the world if they are not in the revered contest. It is not just about conquering Europe anymore; it is about selling your club to Asia, Africa, the sub-continent and the US. Glamour friendlies help, but not as much as playing on that shiny stage.
As for the players, they are acutely aware of the rewards that playing in the Champions League bring. For many who have missed out on qualification with their current club there will be a yearning to make lucrative moves soon.
Just watch how many offer themselves up at the EUROs this summer. Some will be like the doggy in the window, rolling over and juggling flaming torches for a chance of treats.