x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Redknapp's first job at QPR is to plug leaky defence

the division's second most porous defence is in need of an overhaul, something previous incumbent Mark Hughes failed to manage, writes Duncan Castles..

Harry Redknapp has been installed as the new manager of QPR.
Harry Redknapp has been installed as the new manager of QPR.

Strange things happen in football. In a week in which Queens Park Rangers were deciding if the time had come to dismiss Mark Hughes, a story emerged that Ukraine Football Federation wanted to appoint Harry Redknapp as national team coach.

It appeared an unlikely career choice for a 65 year old who once rejected Newcastle United on the basis the club in the north-east of England was too far from his south-coast home, yet by Saturday morning QPR had replaced Hughes with Redknapp as manager.

A multimillion pound Premier League contract with a West London club proved a far better fit.

When Redknapp takes charge next week - having adeptly avoided responsibility for yesterday's 3-1 loss at Manchester United - one of his principal tasks will be to repair the division's second most porous defence. Therein lies another odd tale.

That Hughes was dissatisfied with his central defenders was evident in his varying selections. Ryan Nelsen and Anton Ferdinand started more matches than the other options, yet one is clearly past his best at this level and the other has rarely convinced there. Ideally, neither would have been regulars.

During the summer window Hughes first attempted to bring Ricardo Carvalho back to the Premier League, from Real Madrid, then persuade Michael Dawson to move across London from Tottenham Hotspur. Both declined the invite, and thus ensued a tortuous attempt to sign the Portugal international Rolando.

Here was a robust but technical able defender in his mid-20s who had just gone to the European Championship.

He had been a first choice for Porto throughout his four seasons there, winning trophy after trophy.

And Porto were willing to let him leave for a surprisingly reasonable €2millon (Dh9.4m) loan fee with a €10m option to buy. Problem solved? Not quite.

An intelligent and strong-minded individual, Rolando was not keen on joining a small club that only just avoided relegation to the Championship. He did not appreciate the pressure exerted by Porto technical director Antero Henrique to leave for QPR, nor the threats from coach Vitor Pereira that he should not expect to be a starter if he refused to leave the club.

Nor did he appreciate the calls informing him that Mohamed Afzal, a Portuguese-based agent registered in the tiny African state of Guinea-Bissau, and Kia Joorabchian, Hughes's controversial representative, wanted him to meet the QPR manager to discuss a move.

Though both clubs pursued the transfer until deadline day, Rolando dug in his heels and stayed put.

"I didn't go to QPR for two reasons," Rolando explains.

"First, I don't go anywhere on loan. If I leave Porto I want to leave for good because it is difficult for a player who has been a first choice for four years and is a Portugal international to come back to a club after that club has sent him away on loan. Second, with all respect to QPR I didn't consider them to be a team for my level."

"What I find hard to understand is why Porto rejected an offer of €8m from Roma at the beginning of August and then told me to move to QPR for a €2m loan fee and an option of €10m. This I find hard to explain."

Hard to explain, easier to see the results.

Paying for his strength of mind, Rolando has been exiled to Porto's reserves. Paying for his adviser's presumption, Hughes is unemployed.

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