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Do some players just rub managers the wrong way?

Monday 28th January 2019

Image: Martin Palazzotto, CC by NC-SA 4.0

We all encounter people we just can't stand to be around. Take it from me, the worst thing you can do is marry them. When you and your partner have different ideas about everything, it's difficult to build a functional let alone lasting relationship. When I run into old golfing buddies who ask me why I'm never around anymore, I tell them it just became too expensive. That's half true. The other half is I got divorced and didn't need the excuse to get out of the house anymore.

Occasionally, players and managers in football find themselves in bad marriage. Sir Alex Ferguson created the most functional dynasty in the game. He won 13 Premier League titles and 28 trophies, 37.5 if you count the Community Shields [the first of which was shared], during his 26-year Manchester United tenure. For all that, there were players who drove him up the wall. Jaap Stam was the best centre-half Fergie ever had but when the Dutchman revealed clubhouse secrets in a tell-all biography, he was quickly sold to Lazio. When David Beckham told reporters his black eye came from a shoe thrown at him by the boss, off he went to Real Madrid. Sir Alex and Roy Keane were oil and water but no Mediterranean hotspot awaited Keane-O when his presence became unbearable. Instead, Celtic Park became his destination.

Nor is it just football. As a boy growing up outside Toronto, I witnessed the feud between Maple Leafs all-time great Dave Keon and new club owner Harold Ballard. To escape the obnoxious boss, Keon jumped to the rival WHA and stayed away from the club for decades even though Ballard had passed away and the Leafs were under new ownership. Eventually, Keon built new bridges with the team and now attends ceremonies honouring other retired players. Similarly, Sir Alex patched his relationship with Beckham and confessed that selling Stam was the most foolish thing he'd done as United manager. He still hasn't come to terms with Roy Keane, however. Other than Martin O'Neill, who does?

For both Keon and Sir Alex, time was necessary to heal wounds. There are several relationships in contemporary football that might require decades of separation to soothe tensions. Here are ten especially dysfunctional relationships from contemporary football.

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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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