Unlucky Jardim a victim of time and circumstance at Monaco

There’s little room for sentiment in football, but the sacking of Leonardo Jardim by Monaco a fortnight ago suggests there’s often even less room for sense.

Third, third, first, second – Jardim’s Ligue 1 record after he arrived at the club for the 2014-15 season. With a record like that, a manager should be given the benefit of the doubt during even the most concerning of slumps. Shouldn’t he?

But let’s not mess about – this has been such a slump. When the Portuguese was shown the door, Monaco had won just one of their first nine league games, losing five and drawing the others. And they’d also lost both of their Champions League outings timidly, making an early exit almost a certainty.

Results to put any manager under pressure, for sure. But in the context of Monaco’s recent history, Jardim was not just any manager. For one thing, the title win he oversaw in 2016-17 was the first the club had won in 17 seasons.

Not only that, his Monaco have been the only side to dethrone PSG since they began their Qatari-fuelled domination of French football back in 2012. And they did so with a swagger.

In fact, one of the greatest frustrations of the current era is that the domination of the super-rich clubs of the European scene has prevented sides like Monaco’s brilliant title-winning outfit from reaching their potential.

They were a scintillating, powerful, attacking side that cut a swathe not just across France, but Europe as well. Such was their quality, and the speed with which Jardim had developed them, that a Champions League trophy was a realistic goal had they been allowed stay together.

But Jardim’s work in the seasons before the title win when he guided the club to back to back third place finishes also deserves mention.

The former Sporting CP manager had joined Les Monégasques just as billionaire Russian owner Dmitry Rybolovlev was abandoning his plans of going toe to toe with PSG financially.

Instead, focus was switched to one that favoured buying, developing and eventual selling top young talent. That they did so with impressive success not only on the balance sheet, but also on the field of play, owed much to the managerial intelligence and flexibility of Jardim.

In those first two seasons, Monaco were functional and unlovely not because Jardim believed wholly in that approach but because he recognised it had to be that way with the players available to him – and with the constant turnover in playing personnel he had to deal with.

But in the summer of 2016, there was stability. Few ins and outs, and time to work with the burgeoning talent of Kylian Mbappe, Fabinho, Thomas Lemar, Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva and Djibril Sidibe. Time to blend them with the quality and experience of Falcao, Moutinho and the newly arrived Kamil Glik.

The result was a phenomenon. But sadly, that Monaco side was dismantled over the next three transfer windows, to the massive financial gain of the club, yes, but also to the detriment of Jardim and the rest of football.

Last season, Jardim did well to guide them to the runners up spot in Ligue 1, but the departures of Fabinho, Lemar and Moutinho in the summer was one pull of the rug too many. Players have come in – but they’re simply not at the same level as those who exited.

With time, the Portuguese would surely have worked his magic again. But rather than stick, the Monaco hierarchy panicked and decided to twist, sacking him and handing former player Thierry Henry his first managerial role.

The logic, however, is puzzling. If Monaco felt Jardim, with all his know how, wouldn’t turn things around, what has made them think the inexperienced Frenchman will?

On the evidence of his three games in charge, a defeat at Strasbourg and draws with limited Bruges and Dijon sides, little has changed. If they were hoping for a new manager bounce, they haven’t got it.

But its early days. And with the likes of Falcao, Sidibe, Glik, Jemerson and Subasic still at the club, alongside the developing talents of Golovin, Youri Tielemans and Rony Lopes, the resources are there to mount a recovery.

Logic and sentiment suggest that Jardim should have been given more time to try. But as we know, football isn’t always overflowing with either.

Author Details

Paul Little

Freelance football columnist. European Football with the Irish Daily Star. Hold the Back Page podcast regular. Family and Renaissance Man. Dublin born, Wicklow resident.

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