Football can be a cut-throat business for managers, as chairmen and the fans want to see immediate results and great football being played. In the modern game it is expected that a few managers will be packing their bags at some point in the season, and this is true from the teams battling relegation, those jostling in the middle of the table all the way through to the teams fighting for top spot. This is particularly true in the Premier League, where chairmen seem to be particularly trigger happy and there are usually three or four high profile sackings each year. We are now fast approaching Christmas, and the vultures have been circling around a number of stadiums up and down the country so far this year. There have been periods where the likes of Manuel Pellegrini, Arsene Wenger, Brendan Rogers, Alan Pardew, Harry Redknapp and Mauricio Pochettino have all been under pressure, and it seems inevitable that a few axes will be wielded in the next few months.
There have been a number of bizarre manager sackings in recent years, and this seems to reflect the idea that it is easier to blame a manager for performances than it is the players. One or two poor performances can apparently warrant a sacking in today’s day and age, which has seen a number of talented managers lose their jobs for what is often not their fault. Some managers have even found themselves jobless after successful seasons and high points totals, but the chairmen want to take the club in a different direction, so axing the man at the helm is the way to do this.
Who will be next is the big question? Has Arsene Wenger’s reign come to an end? Will Liverpool sack Rodgers despite nearly winning it all last season? Or will Daniel Levy hit the self-destruct button again and see Spurs go through another manager? Alan Pardew seemed most likely earlier in the season, but a sudden string of excellent performances (including beating Chelsea) has transformed their season. This goes to show that patience can go a long way in football, and if more faith was shown in managers then maybe teams could play with more consistency.
Here are the top 15 bizarre manager sackings in recent times. As you can see, there are a few teams that are notorious for their ruthless approach.
15 Louis Van Gaal (sacked by Bayern Munich in 2011)
Van Gaal faced the sack towards the end of the 2010-11 season, despite winning Munich the league title in the previous campaign, as well as taking them to the Champions League final. He was sacked with immediate effect in April, as Bayern were struggling to qualify for the next Champions League competition. Van Gaal was set to leave at the end of the season and see out his two-year contract, but the decision was made before the end of the season to attempt to salvage their campaign.
14 Andre Villas-Boas (sacked by Tottenham in 2013)
Another Spurs manager dispatched by Daniel Levy, AVB’s dismissal is a prime example of how little time managers get to implement their system. In his first season in charge, AVB earned Spurs their highest ever points total – 72, and missed out on Champions League football by just one point. They then lost Gareth Bale, and spent big on seven new signings. Spurs faltered at the start of the next season, struggling to find an identity whilst implementing so many new faces into a system. Their struggles were punctuated by ugly defeats to Manchester City and Liverpool, 6-0 and 5-0 respectively, with Levy wielding the axe after the Liverpool defeat. Although the performances were ugly, Villas-Boas was not given the time he needed and Spurs have continued to struggle under Sherwood and now Pochettino. As Gary Neville reacted, “Prime Ministers and Presidents get 4-5 years for a reason!”
13 Frank Rijkaard (sacked by Barcelona in 2008)
Rijkaard was, perhaps, a victim of his own success, as he steered Barcelona to the 2005 and 2006 La Liga titles, and also won the Champions League in 2006. Rijkaard was unable to bring any trophies to Barca the next two seasons, and was consequently sacked. His replacement, Pep Guardiola, obviously enjoyed tremendous success during his time at the Catalan giants, but Rijkaard’s hard work laid a lot of the groundwork for this success. The Dutchman is often forgotten for this, but in addition to a few trophies he also brought an attractive, entertaining style of football to Camp Nou.
12 Avram Grant (sacked by Chelsea in 2008)
Avram Grant only saw out eight months of a four year contract with Chelsea, despite his team making it to the League Cup final, the Champions League final and second place in the Premier League. Grant had also only lost two Premier League matches. Second in each competition was clearly not good enough for Chelsea, who terminated his contract. Grant went on to have a torrid time in English football, as he stepped down from a role at Portsmouth and was then sacked by West Ham.
11 Felix Magath (sacked by Bayern Munich in 2004)
As this list demonstrates, even winning silverware won’t stop some chairmen from axing managers. Felix Magath is a prime example of this, as he was dismissed by Bayern Munich in 2004 despite the German manager winning back to back league and cup doubles (the first time that his had happened). He was sacked in January 2007, with Bayern sitting fourth in the Bundesliga. Magath has recently been removed as manager of Fulham after a disastrous start to their campaign in the Championship following relegation last season, which is certainly better grounds for dismissal than those he faced in Munich.
10 Sam Allardyce (sacked by Blackburn in 2010)
Allardyce has made his living by stabilising teams, and although he may get some stick for the style of play he delivers, he also keeps teams from relegation. He took over the Blackburn Rovers post in December 2008, changing their fortune and keeping them afloat in his first season. He then guided them to a very respectable 10th place, particularly impressive for a team that looked doomed to be relegated not too long ago. The club was soon taken over by the Venky’s Group, who sacked Allardyce despite Blackburn sitting in 13th place, as they wanted “wider plans and ambitions”. This stunned many, including Sir Alex Ferguson who stated it was “absolutely ridiculous”. It has been a serious nose diver for Rovers ever since, who are now battling in the Championship.
9 Nigel Adkins (sacked by Southampton in 2013)
It is unfortunately common for managers to battle to get their side promoted to the top tier, and then lose their job when their team begins to struggle amongst the big boys. This seems particularly cruel, and especially for former Saints manager Nigel Adkins, who impressively took Southampton from League One through to the Premier League with successive promotions. Under Adkins, Southampton played 124 and won an impressive 67, but was sacked after coming from behind to draw with Chelsea in January 2013. Southampton have gone on to cement themselves as a solid Premier League team, but it seemed harsh to axe the man that earned two consecutive promotions just half way through the 3rd season.
8 Fabio Capello (sacked by Real Madrid in 2007)
If you are a manager, you would think that your job is pretty safe if you lead your team to the title. Unfortunately for Capello, he found out this was not the case in 2007 when he faced the sack just 11 days after lifting the La Liga trophy. Not only this, but this was the first silverware that Real Madrid had won in 3 seasons, which was their worst run in 53 years. The reason for his sacking? Capello’s tactics were not entertaining enough for Real Madrid. Capello was just 1 year into a 3 year contract.
7 Leonardo Jardim (sacked by Olympiakos in 2013)
Life seemed to going well for Jardim early in 2013, as his Olympiakos team were sat 10 points clear at the top of the league and were unbeaten, and they had also progressed to the last 32 of the Europa League. It seemed like smooth sailing, but Jardim was then inexplicably sacked in late January. Despite being unbeaten in the league, the owner had criticised the team for their defensive play in the weeks leading up to the sacking. Hardly grounds for dismissal, but Olympiakos have developed a reputation like Spurs, Real Madrid and Chelsea for their revolving door policy when it comes to managers.
6 Chris Hughton (sacked by Newcastle in 2010)
Chris Hughton did a fantastic job of turning Newcastle round and turning them into a stable, reputable club since he took over in 2009. His reward? The sack in December 2010. Hughton took the reigns of a struggling Championship club, and guided them to promotion before a very solid start to Premier League life. Hughton’s Newcastle were sat 11th in the table when he was fired, an impressive position for a newly promoted side to hold near Christmas. Hughton was much loved by the fans for what he had achieved, so it seemed bizarre when he lost his job and was replaced by Alan Pardew.
5 Manuel Pellegrini (sacked by Real Madrid in 2010)
Manuel Pellegrini found himself out of the job in 2010, as Real Madrid cleared the pathway for Jose Mourinho to take charge. Pellegrini may not have won any trophies that year, but he did lead his team to an incredible 96 points. This included winning 18 of their last 19 games, and finishing just three points off Barcelona. There is no shame in a season like this, but Real Madrid had decided that Mourinho was who they wanted at the helm the next season. Pellegrini went on to prove his worth at Malaga and now Manchester City.
4 Carlo Ancelotti (sacked by Chelsea in 2011)
Abramovich was quick to wield the axe after a trophy-less season for Chelsea in the 2006-07 season, despite Ancelotti steering Chelsea to a double in the previous campaign (his first), where they won the Premier League and F.A Cup. Big clubs like Chelsea expect to win trophies each season, but a double in one year and none the next proved not good enough for the Blues. Ancelotti was axed in ruthless fashion too, sacked within an hour of their final game of the season.
3 Harry Redknapp (sacked by Tottenham in 2012)
In 4 years, Harry Redknapp turned a Spurs team who were 4 points off the bottom of the table into a pulsating side who earned their first ever Champions League qualification, and reached the quarter finals in an unforgettable run. One of the greatest turnarounds of all time, Redknapp was then alarmingly dismissed in 2012. The club’s ambition that season was to get in the top 4 to qualify for the Champions League, which they did, but in a cruel twist of fate Chelsea surprisingly won the Champions League and ripped away their spot. Redknapp was sacked and Spurs have never fully recovered, losing key players and consequently their swagger which once made them a breathtaking attacking team.
2 Roberto Di Matteo (sacked by Chelsea in 2012)
Despite Chelsea’s track record, which this list demonstrates, the sacking of Di Matteo still stunned fans around the world and seems incredibly harsh. Di Matteo took over as caretaker following the dismissal (yes, another one) of Andre Villas-Boas, and during his eight months in charge he won the Blues their first and only Champions League title and the F.A Cup in 2012. You would think that such an accomplishment warranted the former Chelsea player a full season in charge, but he was cruelly sacked by Abramovich in November 2012.
1 Vicente Del Bosque (sacked by Real Madrid in 2003)
Winning six trophies in four seasons sounds like a job well done, right? Not to Real Madrid, who sacked the legendary Spanish manager just one day after he guided his team to their 29th league championship. During his tenure, Vicente Del Bosque won Real Madrid two European Cups, two league titles, a European Super Cup and a World Club Cup. It is said that his relaxed, anti confrontational style resulted in disciplinary problems within the ranks. It was for this reason (and the trophies), however, that Del Bosque was a much loved figure by the players and the fans.