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Monaco and the evil that men do

Monday 30th December 2019
AS Monaco is run like a play in three bad acts.
AS Monaco is run like a play in three bad acts.

Background image: Jimbo Chan

The rule of thumb regarding job security for managers is results. Fail to produce, even when a rash of injuries takes matters beyond your control, and you will pay when the butcher’s bill comes due. On the other hand, you should be safe when the goals and wins are piling up. Then there are Monaco and Leonardo Jardim. As the 45-year-old discovered this weekend, results weren’t enough for the principality club. Having already treated him shabbily in the past, they felt free to do so again.

The Venezuelan-born Portuguese famously built a title-winning squad from well-scouted young talent. When a group including Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy and Tiemoue Bakayoko unseated Paris Saint-Germain as Ligue 1 champions and progressed to the Champions League semifinals, the club’s opportunistic owner sold half the squad out from under the boss. When Les Monegasques finished runners-up in Ligue 1 the following campaign, Dmitry Rybolovlev sold the other half. The Russian then sacked Jardim when a barebones, mostly U23 outfit fell into a season-three relegation battle.

We all know how that worked out. Inexperienced Thierry Henry was a woeful replacement but the club reappointed Jardim in time to rescue the season. This past summer, Jardim's signings largely paid off, especially Ligue 1 scoring and assist leaders Wissam ben Yedder and Islam Slimani. The defence needed more time to settle but Monaco began to rise up the table. They are seventh going into the winter break.

Defeat to Lille in the Coupe de la Ligue rankled ownership despite LOSC’s status as 2018/19 runners-up and the current campaign’s fourth-ranked club. Jardim responded to Rybolovlev’s displeasure by engineering a 5-1 victory over Les Dogues in the league. It didn’t matter. Immediately afterward, the axe fell. No sooner had it been swung then the club announced they would appoint former interim Spain boss Robert Moreno as Jardim’s replacement.

Luis Enrique’s number two with La Furia, the 42-year-old’s stint while the one-time Barcelona manager dealt with his young daughter’s illness and tragic passing proved exemplary. On the one hand, Moreno obviously knows a few more tricks than Thierry Henry. On the other, he was sacked by the RFEF when Enrique unexpectedly returned. Ironically, Moreno's dismissal came immediately after a qualifying victory over Romania. He didn’t show for the post-match presser and reportedly left the stadium in tears. 

In his first media appearance upon his reinstatement, Enrique revealed his former assistant lobbied to delay his return in order to manage at Euro2020 before resuming the assistant's duties. Enrique played the betrayed mentor and claimed he couldn’t trust Moreno on his staff.

For me it was disloyal, and I would never do that. I do not want anyone with that personality on my staff. Ambition is a virtue but over-ambition is not. It is a great defect. That is why I took the decision.

At the time, Enrique’s explanation sounded like the pot calling the kettle black. Sympathy for Moreno was natural but now the younger man reveals he learned everything Enrique could teach, including the ruthlessness to snatch a successful coach’s job out from under.

Leonardo Jardim is a capable tactician and man-manager who can produce results with young players and veterans alike. He might have taken the reins at Everton or Arsenal with more fortunate timing. Perhaps West Ham might give him a go. If he could piece Monaco back together, he can certainly work with the talent to hand at the London Olympic.

Meanwhile, Robert Moreno and Dmitry Rybolovlev appear a coach and chairman made for each other. Appropriately, Moreno will be the last to realise that statement's full meaning.

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Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin authored the short story collection strange bOUnce. He appeared in several other blogs which no longer exist. Old, he likes to bring out defunct. If outdated sport and pop-cultural references intrude on his meanderings for It's Round and It's White, don't be alarmed. He's harmless.

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