With 30 minutes to go and 2-0 down to Bayern Munich, Manchester United needed a spark. Sat on the bench, down the aisle was a bit of inspiration named Carlos Tevez – but that’s not what he wanted to be at that particular moment. The gesture arrived from manager Roberto Mancini for the Argentine to prepare to enter the fray. Uninterested in fighting for what he presumably saw as a lost cause, El Apache declined his mandatory invitation. Mancini raged when the time came after defeat was secure – for as the man at the helm, his word was gospel for City’s warriors.
At the time, Mancini had lost the battle. Eventually, he won the war. Tevez was suspended and fell out of the fold for months. Mancini had asserted his position, and it was Tevez taking the heat for the incident as City went on to win the title. It wasn’t the forward who ultimately spelled the end for the Italian at Eastlands, much as he likely desired a new boss in place. Attempting to wield power of influence, the stronger position fell to Tevez’s rival.
Not always does it turn out that way. Fractious relationships between footballers and managers are as frequently occurring as scurrilous agents conspiring for a payday. As footballers themselves are the ones who bang in the goals and send supporters into frenzies, their sentiments matter – and sometimes the gaffer can pay the price.
It is, however, often unwise to paint all in a category with the same brush. While many coach killers accomplish ends with dubious motivations at hand, others can finish off the man in charge without necessarily meaning to. Underperforming signings and star names falling on hard times are not looked on with kind eyes through the lens of a manager, and can prove their undoing.
Without further adieu, following are the top 15 coach killers in world football – some still active, and some having walked away from the game in the contemporary era.
15. Ali Dia
While Ali Dia’s name should be absolutely nowhere near anything that contains the words ‘top’ and ‘football’ in the title, one almost has to admire his swindling skills. In 1996, Southampton boss Graeme Souness received a call from the legendary George Weah – or so he thought – alerting him to the supposedly talented Dia. Weah’s imposter informed Souness that Dia was his cousin, a former Paris Saint-Germain and Senegal international. The Englishman – somehow not caring to verify any of these details, or the identity of “Weah” – believed he had hit the jackpot and signed Dia to a short-term deal. Spoiler alert: a friend of Dia’s had placed the call, and the Dakar native was in reality an awful footballer who could hardly get a game for a non-league club. Souness only managed to discover this when he actually put Dia on the pitch in a Premier League encounter with Leeds United. Dia’s contract was terminated days later, and Souness vacated his post as Southampton avoided relegation by only a single point. Let’s just say Dia made Souness look a bit foolish.
14. Mauro Zarate
Soon after Mauro Zarate arrived at Lazio on loan in 2008, an impressed Claudio Lotito – the club’s highly controversial president – declared the striker to be of higher quality than Lionel Messi. Not only was Lotito, a character with a penchant for putting his foot in his mouth, patently wrong, but little did he know that Zarate would turn out an adversary. Lotito bowed to the Argentine’s wish to see head coach Davide Ballardini fired in February 2010, even with Zarate in astonishingly poor form, according to WorldSoccer.com. Chaos followed. West Ham boss Sam Allardyce was sent spiraling into a fight with the Hammers hierarchy over the past summer after Zarate was signed against his wishes, threatening his job. Now on loan at Queens Park Rangers, the Argentine was sent away after openly feuding with Allardyce. Given that Zarate has two years left on his West Ham deal and is known to be a favorite of owners David Gold and David Sullivan, don’t be surprised to see fireworks when the 27-year-old returns to east London in the summer.
Perhaps Mido was a braver pugilist than footballer – he reportedly once threw a pair of scissors at Zlatan Ibrahimovic while at Ajax and survived to see the sun rise the next day. As it turns out, the Egyptian was every bit as bonkers as the incident suggested. During his time at Marseille, he faxed the Egyptian FA to say he’d be unavailable for the 2004 African Cup of Nations, then reversed his position and launched a tirade at manager Marco Tardelli for leaving him out of the squad. Mido was barred from international duty and signed by Roma in the summer. By November, rumors already suggested the Giallorossi were considering offloading him as the club ran through four head coaches over the course of a disastrous season. Meanwhile, Tardelli was sacked from the Egypt post and Mido reinstated after issuing a public apology. Later, the striker would row with Tardelli’s replacement – Hassan Shehata – at the 2006 African Cup of Nations, with Shehata coming out on top after Egypt won the tournament. It’s no wonder why Mido was shifted around among no less than 11 clubs over the course of his career.
12. Nigel Reo-Coker
Joining then-Championship side West Ham in January 2004, Nigel Reo-Coker fast became a favorite of manager Alan Pardew and assumed the role of club captain. Three years later, Pardew was given the boot as a vastly underperforming Reo-Coker had the Hammers driving towards relegation from the Premier League. The midfielder himself was sent packing to Aston Villa come summer. In September 2009, the Englishman came to blows with Martin O’Neill during training, which resulted in Reo-Coker being dropped from the squad. Villa failed to live up to expectations, and less than a year on, O’Neill left the Birmingham outfit. Reo-Coker’s next adventure at Bolton Wanderers saw the club relegated, with Owen Coyle losing his job just months after the midfielder’s departure. Martin Rennie was fired following Reo-Coker’s first season with Vancouver Whitecaps, while the 30-year-old’s next club, Chivas USA, folded a few months after his arrival. Nigel Reo-Coker does not a good luck amulet make.
11. Winston Bogarde
Talk about a man who did nothing to help dispel the contention held by some that footballers are money-hungry first and foremost, the days of playing out of passion in the past. Winston Bogarde became a figure of infamy after signing with Chelsea in 2000 on a free transfer, with then-manager Gianluca Vialli entirely unaware that the move was taking place. Vialli was soon shipped out of Stamford Bridge as the squad ceased responding to his methods, and in stepped Claudio Ranieri. The latter Italian was apoplectic about Bogarde being a member of his squad on a significant wage and, as the story goes, demanded he leave the club. Instead, the Dutchman stuck around – unabashedly collecting every cent of his contract with pride and rotting away on the bench. One year after Roman Abramovich stepped in to take over Chelsea in 2003, Ranieri was relived of his duties – having spent plenty of time forced to try to find ways to push out Bogarde. Who had our pal Winston helped lead astray years prior? Bogarde was part of the brigade that brought about the end of Fabio Capello’s second spell at AC Milan, and his disappointing form for Barcelona played a role in countryman Louis van Gaal angrily leaving Catalonia in 2000.
10. Andy Carroll
Poor Andy Carroll will have his name splashed over all kinds of lists until the very idea of a list ceases to exist in the human consciousness. Or football does. Or money becomes a lost concept. In January 2011, Kenny Dalglish completely lost the plot and for some insane reason nobody will ever understand, threw a check for £35 million at Newcastle for Carroll. Not only did the Liverpool legend make himself out a fool that deadline day – having only arrived earlier that month himself – but sealed Carroll’s fate as one of football’s most infamous flops. When the Englishman failed to display the time of form warranted by his price tag, Liverpool’s fortunes were predictably quite disappointing. Dalglish was saddled up on the nearest horse by the Liverpool hierarchy and sent riding off into the sunset at the end of the 2011-12 campaign. The incoming Brendan Rodgers wanted as little to do with Carroll as possible, quickly sending him out on loan to West Ham, who eventually made the move permanent. Despite West Ham being only the fourth club Carroll has played for professionally, he’s seen his fair share of managers come and go – Hammers boss Sam Allardyce is the twelfth to take charge of the burly striker. And Allardyce himself has taken heat on account of Carroll, as the oft-injured Englishman has made 24 Premier League starts over the past two seasons due to constant fitness issues.
9. Joey Barton
Who would sign Joey Barton? Plenty of managers, apparently, as the Queens Park Rangers midfielder continues to be employed despite varying run-ins with the law and such. As it turns out, the supposed Twitter philosopher isn’t too much of a boon to the job security of his bosses, considering his constant outbursts and lack of ability to play nice with others. Barton gave Kevin Keegan plenty of headaches as an impetuous youngster at Manchester City, while successor Stuart Pearce soon learned just how destructive the midfielder could be. Pearce lost his job in May 2007 after being openly criticized by Barton for his signings and the side’s performance. Meanwhile, Barton had been suspended by City and arrested for assaulting teammate Ousmane Dabo, fleeing Eastlands in the summer for Newcastle. During his time on Tyneside, Barton saw off no less than seven managers, engaging in a particularly blazing row with Alan Shearer. Despite Barton’s influence nearly always proving toxic wherever he goes, he continues to be employed – and at 32, still seems to have more madness in him.
Starring for Brazil at the 1998 World Cup, Denilson appeared destined for greatness. So too did Real Betis when they broke the world transfer record to sing him for a lofty £21.5 million in the aftermath of his summer success in France. But a disappointing first season in Spain saw him net just twice for Betis, while the Andalusian club would be relegated the following term. Spending seven years on the Seville side’s books, Denilson bore witness to a revolving door of managers as stability would be hard to come by. Six managers took charge of Betis during his time there, and a lack of production from the supposed star was an embarrassment for the club and did little to strengthen the position of his bosses. By 2002 Denilson was nothing more than a fringe player, and played virtually no role in Betis’ 2004-05 Copa del Rey victory and qualification to the Champions League.
7. Sulley Muntari
Football is a game of highly-specialized technical skills, with managers constantly in pursuit of striking a perfect balance in their sides through team selection. Some players bring incisive passing to the table, others excel at flattening the opposition and winning the ball. There are prolific goal scorers and impenetrable walls in defense. What does Sulley Muntari do that sets him apart from others? Score the ugliest, scrappiest, least aesthetically pleasing goals football has ever witnessed. Occasionally. And he doesn’t do much else. Ever since winning the Champions League in the 2009-10 campaign with Inter, Muntari has been a bad omen for his bosses. The midfielder has had nine bosses in the last six seasons spread over three clubs. Muntari has somehow managed to survive both Massimiliano Allegri and Clarence Seedorf at Milan, even being handed an ill-advised contract extension as Pippo Inzaghi looks set to become the next San Siro scapegoat. Don’t forget Mutari’s antics at the 2014 World Cup either – the Ghanaian’s dressing room crusade led in part to the Black Stars’ group stage elimination, dealing a blow to manager Kwesi Appiah, who would be fired in the aftermath of the tournament.
6. Adrian Mutu
Coaches, financial accounts, his own health – Adrian Mutu’s professional football career was a tour de force of destruction. The Romanian did Marcello Lippi no favors after first arriving in Italy with Inter in 2000, failing to score in Serie A as poor results eventually precipitated the Italian’s sacking later in the year. Mutu raised his profile in stints at Hellas Verona and Parma, but immediately saw off Claudio Ranieri at Chelsea – producing just eight Premier League goals despite his substantial transfer fee. He proceeded to war with replacement Jose Mourinho, subsequently testing positive for illegal substances and becoming embroiled in a breach of contract saga after signing with Juventus. He caused no shortage of distractions at Fiorentina, weakening Sinisa Mihajlovic, who stood by him. Failing to do anything of note during Fabrizio Ravanelli’s short time at Ajaccio wasn’t exactly a golden hour either, as the Italian was left flapping in the breeze to be fired after just 12 games in Corsica.
5. Alan Shearer
He was a wonder to watch, Alan Shearer, even if his style of play was not exactly everybody’s cup of tea. Rising to stardom at Southampton, it was his departure in the summer of 1992 that perhaps sealed the fate of manager Ian Branfoot. The move to Blackburn Rovers made Shearer British football’s most expensive player, but the lack of a sell-on clause in the deal proved costly. Branfoot’s Southampton barely escaped relegation that season, and he’d be sent packing the next as the Saints went down. Shearer went on to shine at Blackburn and then Newcastle, where he became a legend. But unable to bring the Magpies a league title, he saw both Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish depart the helm. Dalglish’s replacement, Ruud Gullit, would live to regret falling out of Shearer’s good graces. The Dutchman would be forced out the door at St James’ Park after benching Shearer with the side in depressing form. Fans rebelled against Gullit for falling out with a beloved Tyneside hero, and the ex-AC Milan man would later reveal he’d personally told Shearer “he was the most overrated player I have ever seen.”
4. Nicolas Anelka
About as skilled a diplomat at Samir Nasri’s infamous girlfriend, Nicolas Anelka has long been known for a surly attitude that never failed to cast shadows over his considerable capacities as a footballer. At club level, the current free agent has played under no fewer than 27 managers during his days as a professional, many of whom were less than impressed with the Frenchman’s naturally downtrodden demeanor. Anelka haunts one of his former bosses more than all others, however – former France manager Raymond Domenech. Criticized for his positioning during Les Bleus’ 2-0 group stage defeat to Mexico at the 2010 World Cup, Anelka lashed out at Domenech with some choice words. The striker was expelled from the squad and players responded by staging a boycott of training led by Patrice Evra, with France crashing out of the tournament soon after. The incident spelled the end of Domenech’s six-year reign at the helm of the French national side, and an unapologetic Anelka claimed unbridled amusement at an 18-month ban levied on him by the FFF.
3. Roy Keane
Running into Roy Keane in a dark alley is about one of the most terrifying scenarios possible, and the Irishman caused plenty a ruckus during his playing career. As a youngster at Nottingham Forest he so incensed Brian Clough that the Englishman floored him with a haymaker to the face. Later on when a rising Keane became preoccupied with securing his future, Clough was openly critical of him. Clough retired at the age of 58 as Forest were relegated from the Premier League in 1993, with Keane unable to keep the club up and moving on to Manchester United. Nine years later, he would be responsible for one of the most notorious media circuses the World Cup has ever seen. Quitting the Ireland squad due to unhappiness with preparation set-up in Saipan, manager Mick McCarthy was able to convince Keane to reverse his decision and stay in the camp. But a stinging interview given soon after by Keane saw the Irishman unload on a confrontational McCarthy in front of the entire team, earning dismissal. By November 2002 McCarthy had resigned, and Keane was recalled by Brian Kerr some 18 months later.
2. David Beckham
Where to start with a footballer who became larger than the sport itself, or so he thought? Few men have infuriated Sir Alex Ferguson like Goldenballs did, and Florentino Perez was glad enough to swoop in to bring Beckham to Real Madrid, as the Scot was always going to win the battle at Old Trafford. Linking up with the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo, Beckham’s presence at the Bernabeu was only enough to bring about a fourth-place finish in La Liga. His Merengues side also crashed out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals. Manager Carlos Queiroz was fired. Replacement Jose Antonio Camacho was gone after only three matches, while Mariano Garcia Remon, Vanderlei Luxemburgo and Juan Ramon Lopez Caro all met their fate during Beckham’s tenure at the club. Only once Fabio Capello took over and limited Beckham’s minutes did Real Madrid win a title in the 2006-07 campaign, during which the Englishman had already decided to escape Europe for the glitz and glamour of southern California.
1. Wayne Rooney
Sure, he played the majority of his career for perhaps the only unmovable manager in football – Sir Alex Ferguson. But in a former life, he was a charge of David Moyes’ at Everton. A standout for the Toffees having grown up a fan of the club, the Liverpudlian was only 18 when Manchester United swooped in with a check for £25.6 million to pry him away. Rooney had some less-than-flattering things to say about Moyes following his departure from Goodison Park, running Moyes through the wringer in his 2006 autobiography. He’d eventually be forced to pay up in a libel suit filed by Moyes, and had the pleasure of the Scot arriving to replace Ferguson at Old Trafford in 2013. A transfer saga quickly ensued, culminating in Rooney being handed a blistering new contract in February 2014, while Moyes was dismissed just a few months later. At the international level, Rooney was no staunch supporter of Fabio Capello. Rooney was buoyant following the Italian’s dismissal, saying things had become easier with native English speaker Roy Hodgson in charge. Capello was none too pleased with the comment, pointing out how poorly Rooney had performed for the Three Lions during his tenure.
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