League of champions, graveyard of coaches

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The Independent Football

Success breeds success, but also raises expectations. Rafael Benitez may be safe, despite Liverpool's failure to qualify for the knock-out stages of the Champions League, but many a coach will view next week's final group matches nervously.

Already this season three clubs have sacked their coach, CSKA Moscow (firing Juande Ramos), Atletico Madrid (Abel Resina), and Olympiakos (former Newcastle cult hero Temuri Ketsbaia). If the fate of last season's elite coaches is any guideline, many others will soon follow.

Of the 32 clubs which entered last season's Champions League 15 months ago only 11 retain the same manager. Most of the departed were fired – Manuel Pellegrini, whose success at Villarreal led to his appointment at Real Madrid, is an exception. The axed Bernd Schuster (Real) and Luiz Felipe Scolari (Chelsea) were charged with winning the Champions League but the coaches of clubs like Cluj, PSV Eindhoven, Atletico and Aalborg had been successful merely by qualifying.

But success bred failure as squads were stretched by the twin demands of playing in the Champions League, and retaining a high enough league position to qualify again. Atletico are the prime example. In 2008 Javier Aguirre, who has just led Mexico to the World Cup, rescuing a campaign which had faltered under Sven Goran Eriksson, secured Atletico their first Champions League place in 12 seasons. Despite reaching the knock-out stages he was sacked as their domestic form slipped. Resina managed to re-qualify them but a few weeks ago, with Atletico out of form at home and in Europe, he was fired. Such impatience is as daft as neighbours Real who have sacked coaches after winning the competition.

The Champions League may be the promised land, but it is becoming a coaches graveyard.

g.moore@independent.co.uk

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