Real Madrid, Liverpool, Juventus. Three of European and World football’s biggest, most prestigious names. For all three the 2009/10 season ended in failure and, worse, forced to watch their rivals garner unprecedented success. Not only were the failures very different, but the way all three have begun facing up to making the necessary changes could not be in more stark contrast.
“We were this close…”
Spanish giants Madrid had easily the best season of the three fallen giants, but considering the outlay in securing the arrivals of Ronaldo, Kaka, Benzema et al their fans still expected so much more. They also had to not only watch Barcelona narrowly win La Liga for the second year in a row, but city rivals Atletico Madrid won the Europa League trophy too.
Their seemingly endless wealth has seen them capture Jose Mourinho, fresh from leading Inter to the Champions League title for the first time in almost 50 years as part of a treble-winning season. With a few additions and Mourinho’s organisational skills, the leap from second to first is well within their grasp.
Watching Inter’s unprecedented success was especially painful for heated rivals Juventus, who suffered two humiliating European exits, as they floundered to a lowly seventh place finish in Serie A. Liverpool meanwhile suffered in the Champions League, going out in the Group stage and matching Juventus by coming seventh in the Premier League. Seeing Chelsea win their first league and FA Cup double would have added to the pain.
“Who said second???”
Juve’s rookie coach Ciro Ferrara, a former player, only just made it past the Winter Break. His replacement, Alberto Zaccheroni – brought in for his wealth of experience – actually fared worse and has also gone. In their place the new board, led by Andrea Agnelli, have opted for Luigi Del Neri, fresh from leading Sampdoria to a Champions League place.
Seeing an Agnelli back in charge of Juventus is a reminder of the financial backing the Turin club enjoys, while the rebuilding of the Stadio Delle Alpi continues apace, and on schedule to be ready for the 2011/12 season, the empty promise of a new stadium for Liverpool is as distant a dream as the league title the club has now gone twenty years without.
With Beppe Marotta – an experienced operator in the transfer market – also brought in, Juventus can look towards to the future with hope and renewed expectation as the club slowly rebuilds in a very different way to Madrid. Fans of Liverpool however will be most worried, as their club is falling ever further behind the teams above them in England.
Rafael Benitez has finally left, and the search for a replacement has begun. Given the trouble with the ownership and the level of debt escalating daily, what coach would really want the job right now, and of those, who could actually make more of an impact than the Spaniard?
“I dont think they like us round here!”
With the two owners barely on speaking terms, the debt standing around £350 million and an asking price set at a completely unrealistic £650 million a buyer may prove an even tougher challenge than the search for a new coach.
Three very different clubs, in very different positions, and three different futures. Madrid’s Galactico’s 2.0 project is about to get Mourinho’s “Special” touch, Juventus have gone back to their past in Agnelli and Liverpool need to act quickly. Not only have Tottenham Hotspur moved past them, but Manchester City’s vast wealth will surely see them become part of the elite.
Given the search for a coach, perhaps apt to let the last word fall to the great Vince Lombardi; “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”