I have often wondered whether football clubs employ only people with no sense or if only people with no sense try to get jobs at football clubs. Time after time, clubs, particularly very wealthy clubs, go after players who had already proved that despite their talent, their tenures would inevitably end badly. Manchester City is probably the most egregious recent example with Robinho, Tevez and Balotelli all coming and exploding in spectacular fashion. City is not the only offender though; off the top of my head I can think of very prominent flops at Barcelona and AC Milan, and there are many more (Brazilian clubs are equally bad). I could have called every single one of those failures (and often did) even with my limited football experience. How come if I can see it, then people who spend their lives around the game cannot?
Liverpool FC is definitely run by the football foolish. Not just for the Suarez/racism debacle, or for overspending for untested players simply because they are British, or for letting the fans make the important decisions, or for keeping Kenny Dalglish as coach even though he hadn’t been a coach in about two decades. Liverpool’s follies could fill an entire book let alone one paragraph of one blog post.
But this story caught my eye. Now that Damien Comolli is no longer the director of football at Liverpool, owner John W. Henry is considering none other than Johan Cruyff. Yes, that one. Now in fairness, this is a story that came out of Soccernet (that most reliable of sources), and even according to the story Cruyff is not the only man under consideration. Among the others under consideration are Louis van Gaal and Txiki Begiristain (both of whom, like Cruyff, have a Barcelona connection). But Cruyff is the standout name. He would be an utter disaster.
Now you may be thinking about Cruyff’s admirable record as coach and wondering if I am crazy. He had some success with Ajax in the mid-80’s and then brought Barcelona to its greatest pre-Guardiola era ever. Under Cruyff Barcelona won its first European Cup. He gave Barcelona Guardiola. More importantly, he instilled his philosophy in Barcelona, a philosophy that two decades later birthed this current team of legends. In some ways, this is a good position for him; as director of football, most of his glaring managerial deficiencies such as hubris and a lack of tactical acumen (ironic given his role in Total Football) would not be an issue.
But Cruyff is still wrong for Liverpool for one simple reason: his ego. Now there are other good reasons he would be awful: his dedication, his temperament, his lack of recent experience (apparently not a problem for Liverpool), the fact that his philosophy doesn’t fit in to the English/British game, his dislike of the English/British game, and the fact that his philosophy requires a long view and patience which do not jibe well with the modern money-based, instant gratification game of the present day. Sure Liverpool need some kind of change, but Cruyff’s vision is too radical.
But it is his ego that will ensure he is a horrible fit for Liverpool. Cruyff is a very cranky old man who demands nothing short of total devotion, and he takes umbrage and vengeance against those who oppose him. Ask the former Ajax board of directors. If Liverpool were willing to cede him total control than maybe, just maybe, it would be a workable fit. But that is never going to happen, and Kenny Dalglish is the reason. At Ajax and Barcelona, Cruyff is a legend, almost a deity, and was before he managed the clubs. What would he be at Liverpool where he never had any connections? And what happens when he inevitably clashes with Dalglish, whose philosophy is almost the complete polar opposite of Cruyff’s? When push comes to shove, the fans will choose King Kenny over Cruyff every time. And the fans control at Liverpool. If Cruyff becomes director of football, it will be a miracle if he lasts a year.
Cruyff at Liverpool is insanity. The foolish delusions of a senseless old man who refuses to accept reality. In other words, the exact kind of person that a football club hires.
And speaking of foolish old men, Pele has spoken again, and that is never a good thing. Because Pele is a jealous god, he cannot handle the plaudits that Lionel Messi receives week in and week out. This is not a new thing, and I’ve written about it before. Pele’s latest dart is that Messi is not only not the greatest player ever, he’s not even as good a player as Neymar (who plays for Pele’s old club Santos. What are the odds?). Never mind that Neymar himself would say that Messi is better right now–no doubt all the more so since the humbling of Santos at the Club World Cup.
Because Pele had an opinion, it was inevitable that Maradona would get involved to (1) defend Messi and (2) attack Pele. Maradona called Pele “stupid” because El Diego has such a way with words. Messi v. Neymar is really just another way to have Pele v. Maradona Round MIV. It’s the song that never ends.