In the light of intense media speculation surrounding the future of Leonardo at Milan, vice-president Adriano Galliani has come out with a refreshing defence of their head coach, insisting the Rossoneri will do all they can to keep him. Across European football, the culture of sacking the coach at the drop of a hat is rampant. There is so much pressure around the top leagues in Europe that presidents, boards and supporters will demand the head of their football leader without much thought or hesitation – it can even be referred to as “the sack race”. A case in point is Real Madrid. Manuel Pellegrini, top man at the Madrid giants since last summer, finds his future a constant source of conjecture. One would assume he has done a poor job but this is not so. Real could possibly finish their La Liga season with a whopping 98 points, enough to win any league in any country, only a magnificent Barcelona side stand in their way. Their Champions League campaign was marred only by one poor 2nd half home display against Lyon. However, this is by no means the first time that Madrid have replaced a successful Coach. Italian Fabio Capello, spent two season-long spells at the Bernabéu, won the title twice, and, was sacked twice.
Calcio has a similar attitude towards dismissing their head coaches. None more so than the recent dismissal of Massimiliano Allegri at Cagliari. Allegri had taken over in May 2008 and led the team to a ninth-place finish, before making a good start to the current season, and playing an aesthetically pleasing brand of football. It is true that the form of his side seriously deteriorated in his last three months in charge. In fact Cagliari had only won two of Allegri’s last 14 games in charge. Amazingly however, a few weeks prior to his sacking, he picked up the Panchina d’Or award for being coach of the year. It was the second time as coach of Cagliari that he won the award, which is voted for by Serie A coaches themselves. Two years, two coach awards, a top nine finish with an unfashionable club, good football and, ultimately, the bullet.
Leonardo is in his third stint at Milan, the first two being as a player, winning both the scudetto and The Coppa Italia. Although Milan’s season has faltered, and they have received much criticism for their apparent inability to capitalise on mistakes made by city and title-rivals, Inter, it looks likely that the club’s hierarchy will give their Brazilian World Cup winner the opportunity to win the same trophies as coach. In fact it appears more likely that any parting of company will be down to Leonardo resigning, given the growing speculation about personal problems in his native Brazil. He himself insists that he is simply focusing on the present and any problems or newspaper theories should be left without comment. In the rampant culture of coaches being sacked at the drop of a hat, it is refreshing to see a major European power opt to stand by their under-fire coach. Only time will tell whether it pays off.