x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Around Europe: In time, removal men were expected

That Villarreal and Atletico Madrid fired their coaches came as no surprise to the men themselves, as Juan Carlos Garrido and Gregorio Manzano both knew lack of success would spell trouble.

After a poor start to the domestic season, Gregorio Manzano knew his time was over at Atletico Madrid.
After a poor start to the domestic season, Gregorio Manzano knew his time was over at Atletico Madrid.

SPAIN – Primera Liga

Villarreal and Atletico Madrid could wait no longer.

The two Primera Division clubs - coming off embarrassing losses in the Copa del Rey - dismissed their coaches as the Spanish league heads into its winter break.

At Villarreal, Juan Carlos Garrido was let go following his team's Copa del Rey exit at the hands of third-tier Mirandes, which proved the final straw on the back of a poor first half of the league season and their Champions League elimination. Jose Francisco Molina was selected to coach the team to the end of the season.

At Atletico Madrid, Gregorio Manzano was dismissed after they crashed out of the Copa del Rey with a loss to third-tier Albacete. Earlier this week a 2-0 defeat at home to Real Betis left the Rojiblancos 10th in the league standings. The club has offered the job to Diego Simeone, the former Argentina midfielder.

Garrido, 42, said his dismissal by Villarreal did not come as a shock.

"Whenever you have a very good year, the next year is very demanding," he said in a statement on the club's web site. "Therefore, this season has been very complicated, although it is clear that we have failed. I take my responsibility as leader of the group. It has not come as a surprise that this is over; it's something you could see coming.

"I accept my dismissal as the coach is always the main culprit. From the beginning, this has been a difficult year and throughout the year setbacks, such as injuries and other things, have cost us."

Villarreal went down 2-0 at El Madrigal on Thursday against Mirandes in the second leg of their fourth-round tie, going out of the cup 3-1 on aggregate.

The club released a statement confirming that Molina, their former player and current Villarreal B coach, would take charge of the team.

Villarreal also endured a terrible Champions League campaign, becoming the first Spanish side to lose all six group-stage matches.

"I take my dismissal because it was disastrous and shameful and unseemly, the way we lost against Mirandes," Garrido said.

"I have only words of gratitude to the club and its board for the way they have treated me all these years."

Garrido took up the first-team reins in February 2010, initially until the end of that season.

He guided the team to a seventh-place finish in La Liga in 2009/10 before clinching fourth spot and Champions League qualification in his first full campaign.

Villarreal also reached the semi-finals of the Europa League last season, where they were ousted by eventual winners Porto.

"I'm happy for all that Villarreal has given me because it has been my home for 13 years, and I have learned a lot here," Garrido said.

"I arrived in February 1999 and since then I have spent unforgettable moments in this club, such as promotions with the reserves, qualifying for the Champions League, [and] reaching the semi-finals of the Europa League.

"I leave with the feeling that I was very happy at Villarreal. I leave grateful and accepting the situation, trying to emerge stronger from this situation to be a better coach in the future."

Enrique Cerezo, the Atletico president, said the club has already made an offer to Simeone to replace Manzano.

"We sent him an offer and he's delighted to come here, but we still need to negotiate," Cerezo said.

"We're backing [Simeone] because he's everything we and the people want in this moment."

Simeone resigned from Argentine club Racing Club earlier this week, heaping further pressure on Manzano, who was expected to be fired regardless of Wednesday's result.

"We think it's a good option, especially due to the excitement and affection he holds, and he wants to come here," Cerezo said of Simeone, who was in the last Atletico squad to win the league in 1996.

Atletico were knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Segunda Division B team Albacete, losing 1-0 on Wednesday and 3-1 on aggregate.

Manzano found himself in the firing line following a poor start to the domestic season, but had hoped his side's Europa League success - they qualified for the last 32 as group winners - would appease disgruntled supporters.

Manzano, 55, was named as the Atletico boss for a second time in June, signing a one-year deal having also led the club to a seventh-place finish during in 2003/04.

ITALY – Genoa tabs Pasquale Marino

Genoa hired Pasquale Marino as their new manager after dismissing Alberto Malesani. The change came a day after an 6-1 rout by Napoli left Genoa tied for ninth, 13 points behind Juventus and AC Milan, heading into the winter break.

“When a squad gets humiliated on the pitch there’s nothing else to do,” said Enrico Preziosi, the Genoa president.

The team issued a statement saying Marino signed a contract to June 30, 2013.

“The club thanks Alberto Malesani, his assistant, Ezio Sella, and backroom staff, Paolo Aiello and Antonio Raione, for the work they have done,” the statement said.

Marino, who previously managed Catania, Udinese and Parma, becomes the 10th new coach in Serie A since August.

Midway through the season, the number of coaching changes is equal to half the clubs in the league, although Cagliari and Palermo have each made two changes.

Roberto Donadoni (Cagliari) and Stefano Pioli (Palermo) were fired before the season started.

Others were Gian Piero Gasperini (Inter Milan), Pierpaolo Bisoli (Bologna), Marco Giampaolo (Cesena), Sinisa Mihajlovic (Fiorentina), Massimo Ficcadenti (Cagliari), Eusebio Di Francesco (Lecce) and Devis Mangia (Palermo).


GERMANY – Petr Jiracek signs on at Wolfsburg

Wolfsburg acquired midfielder Petr Jiracek from Czech champions Viktoria Plzen and signed him to a long-term contract until 2016.

Terms were not disclosed, but Czech media reported the transfer sum could reach €4 million (Dh19m).

Jiracek was a key player in Plzen’s first Champions League campaign this season. They finished third behind Barcelona and AC Milan in the group stage and earned a spot in the Europa League.

He was also a first-choice player for the Czech Republic national team and helped them qualify for the 2012 European Championship.

Also Friday, Hertha Berlin named Michael Skibbe to replace Markus Babbel, the coach who was removed after a fall-out with general manager Michael Preetz.

Skibbe, 46, moves from the Turkish club Eskirsehirspor for a two-year deal.

“Hertha belongs in the upper third of the Bundesliga,” he said. “They have played a very strong season so far.”

The team are currently 11th, headed into the winter break.

Babbel’s former assistant, Rainer Widmayer, has also left the club.

For Skibbe, the move marks a return to the Bundesliga after former jobs as coach of Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and Eintracht Frankfurt.


FRANCE – PSG coach may be on his way out ... or maybe not

Paris Saint-Germain say they are in talks with Antoine Kombouare amid speculation that the league leaders have already decided to dismiss their coach.

A day after PSG moved three points clear at the top of the table, reports claimed sporting director Leonardo had told Kombouare he would be replaced.

PSG responded by issuing a statement on their website: “PSG and its coach, Antoine Kombouare, would like to specify that they have started amicable discussions that should soon be concluded, and will allow each [party] to preserve their interests.”

Kombouare’s position has been under scrutiny since Leonardo met with former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti in Paris last month.

The club’s Qatari owners have spent €82 million (Dh393m) on players this season as PSG seeks its first league title since 1994.

PSG beat St Etienne to take a three-point lead over Montpellier before the winter break.

After a PSG goal, midfielder Mathieu Bodmer clenched his fist and looked at Kombouare, and the coach responded the same way.

“I’m happy here and I want to carry on, but I’m not the one who decides,” Kombouare said after the game.


HOLLAND – Replay of Dutch Cup game being considered

The Dutch federation said it will decide soon whether to replay a Dutch Cup match between Ajax and AZ Alkmaar that was halted this week after a fan ran on to the field to attack Alkmaar’s goalkeeper.

Esteban Alvarado deflected the attack but was given a red card for kicking the supporter. AZ Alkmaar left the field in protest and the game was stopped in the 36th minute with Ajax leading 1-0.

The federation rescinded the red card, saying Alvarado’s reaction was triggered by the attack, and said his reaction will not result in a ban.

But referee Bas Nijhuis was acting according to the rules when he sent the goalkeeper off, the federation said.

The fan is in police custody along with 25 others arrested during and after the match.

Jeroen Slop, the Ajax director, said the supporter, 19, had already been banned from the stadium for a year, but managed to sneak into the cup match with a ticket purchased by a friend. Ajax has changed the sanction to a lifetime ban.

Slop apologised for the security lapse, and he said AZ had accepted the apology.

The country’s justice minister, Ivo Opstelten, got involved, saying “jerks and nuts don’t belong on the field”. He said Gertjan Verbeek, the Alkmaar coach, was right to walk out under the circumstances.


SCOTLAND – Lennon hints at move for Kris Boyd

Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager, refused to rule out a bid for former Rangers striker Kris Boyd, the league’s all-time top scorer, who terminated his contract with the Turkish club Eskisehirspor following a dispute over unpaid wages.

“He is a proven goalscorer,” Lennon said. “I don’t know how much football he has played of late, but he is a player with a great record. Any player like that would interest me.

“With regards to that question [would it be a problem that Boyd played for Rangers], no, I can’t see it being a problem.”

Lennon was asked about reports that CSKA Moscow have entered the race for Maritimo’s Baba Diawara.

“It might turn it into a bidding war, but I never said I was in for Diawara,” he said. “He is just a player who has come to our attention over the course of six to eight months, and we have watched him a few times.”

Lennon also said left-back Emilio Izaguirre is ready for first-team action after recovering from a broken ankle sustained in August.

“He had 90 minutes in a bounce game and came through it fine,” Lennon said. “He looks OK physically, and he looked happy. He will be in contention for the weekend.”


Inverness CT v Aberdeen, 4.30pm

St Mirren v Rangers, 4.45pm (UAE TV: OSN SPORTS 1 & 2)

Hearts v Motherwell, 5pm

Celtic v Kilmarnock, 5.30pm

Dundee Utd v Hibernian, 5.30pm

Dunfermline v St Johnstone, 5.30pm