From the home of Mourinho, Ronaldo and Xavier
In a rather surprising turn of events, Carlos Carvalhal has been appointed as the new manager of the Lions.
Carvalhal – who was sacked from CS Marítimo earlier this season after a poor run of results – succeeds Paulo Bento and will have the tough task of putting Sporting back on track.
Everything seemed to hint that André Villas Boas would be at the helm of the club, but Sporting were unable to reach an agreement with Académica and ultimately had to look elsewhere.
President Eduardo Bettencourt had suggested his preference was a young, Portuguese manager, and in the 43-year-old he has found just that.
Hit or miss?
Despite his relatively young age, Carvalhal already possesses a lot of experience in the top flight, having managed several Liga Sagres sides.
He first rose to prominence when he led Leixões – then a third-tier side – to the Portuguese Cup final and would later work at Setúbal, Belenenses, Braga and Marítimo with mild success.
The new Lions manager can also boast having a piece of silverware in his trophy cabinet: a Carlsberg Cup with Setúbal in the 2007/08 season.
The major problem with this signing is not Carvalhal per se, but what the move signals to both the club's supporters and players.
First of all, Carvalhal has only signed until the end of the season (with the club having the option of an extra season).
Secondly, it is a tad strange that the club decided to make the first official announcement at almost 3am.
And last but not the least, he was not the first choice, which is even worse considering that the first option was a rookie manger with just four games under his belt.
All the points above seem to indicate that there’s no real confidence or enthusiasm towards the new manager.
To me, that’s like dating a girl you’re not sure you want to date!
While it has been debated whether the club should make a final push for the title this season or plan ahead for the next one, the club strategy is not very clear.
On one hand, if they wanted to prepare for a serious assault in the 2010/11 season, then Carvalhal should have signed for one and a half seasons.
But if Champions League football is the one thing that will trigger the one-season extension in the contract, then I believe the club should have brought in a manager with more credentials.
For now, Sporting supporters are waiting to see how the team will react on the field so that they are able to answer an already-nagging question: is Carvalhal an improvement on Paulo Bento?
Two weeks ago few would have said so.
The first test
Carvalhal won 4-1 on his debut against minnows Pescadores da Caparica in the Portuguese Cup, but his first real test will be this weekend when Sporting host fierce rivals Benfica.
Should the Lions lose, they will be trailing the Eagles by 14 points, which would virtually end any title hopes they may have.
Likewise, Carvalhal will instantly endear himself to the Sporting faithful if he claims a commanding win in the derby.
So, in just one match, the new Sporting manager can become a hero or a zero.
For the sake of his career, let’s hope he doesn’t fall at the first hurdle.
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