A sideways look at Spanish football
(L-R) Mourinho, Vilanova, Oltra and new Deportivo boss Paciencia
In last year's final episode of la Liga, desperate viewers were left dangling by their Primera-loving pinkies, thanks to a whopper of a cliff-hanger served up by José Mourinho. The Real Madrid manager decided to respond to Florentino Pérez’s public plea for a quiet life by first dropping the World Cup-winning, Real Madrid-leading Iker Casillas for the match against Málaga, then promptly lost 3-2 to the aforementioned side to go into the festive period 16 points behind Barcelona.
In fact, things are so bad at the Santiago Bernabéu these days, that LLL is going to make a stylistic correction and note that from this day forward Madrid are "seven points behind Atlético", a more realistic target than Barcelona, who are now in a different footballing galaxy to everyone else.
The blog was contemplating whether Mourinho would shut up shop for the holiday period, feeling suitably chastened by recent results, but instead the Madrid manager made a special effort to note during the Globe Soccer awards (prizes largely given to Jorge Mendes clients and clubs - Falcao, Mourinho, Atlético Madrid - and Jorge Mendes himself) that everything that had happened in Málaga was a useful reminder that the only constant in football was that the coach still picked the team. How long this particular one will do so remains to be seen.
Barcelona actually had proper, real life concerns to handle with the health of Tito Vilanova, but the fantastically positive news is that an operation on the Barça coach on the 20th December was a successful one. Reports in the papers on Wednesday suggest the Catalan may even be back on the bench for Sunday’s derby clash against Espanyol, which would be a wonderful sight indeed.
It was a bad Christmas oop north in Spain with José Luis Oltra losing his job at Deportivo, with the club bottom-of-the-table and just two league wins from 17. However, LLL must admit that it was a little surprised to see that it was the first sacking of a manager by club president, Augusto Lendoiro, since 1997. “We understand that a change was necessary, the situation was irreversible,” revealed the portly president who deliberately waited until after the Christmas break to give the news to his former employee. “I’m still very surprised, it’s not normal at this club,” admitted the outgoing coach who lead Deportivo to the second division title last season, in the team’s single campaign in the badlands.
Deportivo have appointed a Portuguese manager to take Oltra’s place in the form of former Portuguese international striker and mastermind behind Sporting Braga’s recent success, Domingos Paciencia. The coach’s first two jobs were to defend his appointment by claiming that it had nothing to do with a certain agent who has a lot of influence at Deportivo having his way. “Have you seen the influence of (Jorge) Mendes with me? No, you are wrong,” said Paciencia to one particularly humbled hack. The second was to dismiss the notion that just because he was Portuguese, the footballers of the same nationality were going to be favoured considering there are seven of them currently in the Deportivo squad.
Aside from those rumblings in Galicia, everyone else managed to keep their jobs - even Michel at Sevilla - so it was a fairly happy Christmas all round for 19 managers in la Liga.
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