OFF THE BALL

Horrible bosses

July 29, 2011
By James Dall
(Archive)

Off The Ball never rests in its mission to scratch around the underbelly of professional football to find the most bizarre, humorous and inexplicable stories.

This week, Neuchatel Xamax's owner continues his sacking ways, Gary Neville is dubbed the "best ever", Mario Balotelli incurs Roberto Mancini's wrath, Sergio Aguero isn't the Che Guevara of football and Paul Sturrock likes Wheatus.

P45s aplenty

 Joaquin Caparros
GettyImages Joaquin Caparros is wary of the "difficulty of the situation" at Neuchatel Xamax

Recently, the film Horrible Bosses had its cinema release. On an entirely unrelated note, Chechen businessman Bulat Chagaev has been making the headlines this week. Chagaev is the owner of Swiss club Neuchatel Xamax, having taken over in May. Upon his acquisition of the side, he immediately sacked administrative staff, sponsors and two coaches.

Chagaev then ousted Brazilian goalkeeper Rodrigo Galatto after the player endured a poor performance in their opening match of the season. And he has continued to fuel his penchant for firing. After Neuchatel suffered a 2-0 loss, just their second of the term, to defending Swiss champions FC Basel on Sunday, Chagaev was none too pleased. Indeed, he proceeded to sack the team's entire coaching staff.

Head coach Francois Ciccolini, team manager Sonny Anderson and the rest of the staff - who were only appointed in June - were dispensed with. "They can't ask us to perform magic," Ciccolini told the online edition of the 20 Minutes newspaper, while Anderson added: "He (Chagaev) is the chief shareholder. He makes the decisions."

Spaniard Joaquin Caparros has since been named as the successor to Ciccolini. Upon his appointment, Caparros told Swiss news agency ATS: "I'm obviously conscious of the difficulty of the situation, but I feel ready to face it. I'm a born competitor and I'm taking a chance in coming here."

Good luck.

Cosmic hyperbole

On Friday, New York Cosmos will become the first American club to play at Old Trafford against Manchester United to mark Paul Scholes' testimonial. Ahead of the match, the New York Cosmos' official website has previewed some of the talent that will take on the Red Devils, as the American club blend Under-23 players with household names.

Without wanting to be too cruel, Off the Ball shall now pick some of its highlights. First up, Chad Calderone, dubbed "one of the best goalkeepers playing in New York City". Hardly the strongest endorsement for poor Chad. Next, Robbie Keane, who "is the all-time international goal scoring record holder for the UK and Ireland. He has been of the best strikers in the Premier League for nearly a decade".

Erm, right. The initial coin of phrase aside, let's focus on the second statement. This the Keane who went on a loan spell at West Ham last campaign and managed two league goals in nine matches and was also guilty of missing one of most glaring goalscoring chances you are likely to see. Let's not forget his time at Liverpool: five goals in 19 league appearances following a £20 million switch.

But their spiel on Gary Neville takes the biscuit: "Gary Neville is the greatest British full back of all-time and the finest defender to ever play in the English Premier League." We rest our case.

The gift that keeps on giving

Nigel De Jong remonstrates with Mario Balotelli
GettyImagesNigel De Jong remonstrates with Mario Balotelli

It's hard to ignore Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli's latest act of madness, even though it is rather likely you will have watched the clip a dozen times already. If, somehow, you have not seen it, click here. If you cannot access this facility, a quick recap, if you will...

...against LA Galaxy in a friendly match, a clean-through Balotelli, rather than shoot normally, opted for an extravagant swivel and then backeel, which, needless to say, bobbled harmlessly wide. Roberto Mancini was aghast at the striker's actions and swiftly hauled him off. Balotelli protested his innocence, citing that he thought he was offside. Mancini was having none of it.

Mancini said: "I hope this is a lesson for him. In football you always need to be professional, always serious, and in this moment he wasn't professional. If you are serious, you can play 90 minutes. If not, you can come and sit by me on the bench." Balotelli is of course no stranger to controversy, having thrown darts at youth team players, donned an AC Milan shirt while at arch-rivals Inter and driven, on a whim, into a women's prison.

Of his latest misdemeanour, the Italian's City team-mate Nigel de Jong added in The Guardian: "I've played with some strange characters in the past but it's the first time I have seen that. It is frustrating, and he has to iron out those issues otherwise it will be a waste of his talent. He has to realise that now. All his team-mates are here to help him but he's his own person and he is the only one who can change his ways."

Che Guevara, or maybe not

In Wednesday's edition of The Sun, the newspaper ran a story whereby Manchester City-bound forward Sergio Aguero apparently had stated he was the "the Che Guevara of modern soccer". Being the excitable pups that we are at ESPNsoccernet, we gleefully referenced these quotes in a morning story, so unique was the soundbite.

A selection of the quotes from The Sun: "Someone needs to be the revolutionary who starts things off. That's me. I like tricks, I like to dazzle, I like to be able to score a goal with one leg bent round the other so that you smack the ball into the net with your wrong foot. If I achieve what I want to then I'll mark a distinct era in football. I'm the Che Guevara of modern soccer."

Alas, Aguero later commented on his official Twitter account: "Since I came to England I have not given any interviews to the media. The statements that have been published are not my words. Therefore, I deny making statements comparing myself to Che Guevara."

Oh.

Kung-fu assault

This. Was. Shocking. During a recent Under-19 match in Brazil, goalkeeper Gustavo was guilty of a horrific act of violence. The Sport Recife shot-stopper executed a vicious kung-fu kick on the unsuspecting Vasco da Gama player Elivelton. To view the clip, click here.

Complete with run up, Gustavo flung the aerial attack at the back of Elivelton's neck. The referee called a halt to the match as the injured player received treatment, and Gustavo was subsequently sacked by his club after the footage emerged.

He could now face an attempted murder charge. Fortunately for Elivelton, though, he escaped without serious injury, despite fears otherwise. He said: "I just hope he no longer has such an attitude on the field in the future, whatever team he is playing for."

Gustavo, who could be banned from football for life for his action, said: "I'm sorry for what I did. I wanted to speak with him personally so I could apologise to him to try and calm him too."

Teenage Dirtbag and a Jacuzzi

Paul Sturrock
Other / thisisdevon.co.ukPaul Sturrock's favourite track is 'Teenage Dirtbag', according to Lee Bullen

Former Sheffield Wednesday captain Lee Bullen recently conducted an interview with Beats & Rhymes FC, talking all things Owls but in particular reflecting on the club's promotion to the Championship in 2005 under then-manager Paul Sturrock. And it turns out Sturrock had quite the unexpected musical taste.

As is the case with most clubs, a selection of music is played in the dressing room prior to a match. Reflecting on the build-up to Wednesday's march to play-off success, when they defeated Brentford then Hartlepool, Bullen said: "JP (Jon Paul McGovern) and Rocky (Craig Rocastle) tried to boss the stereo with dance or R&B tracks but Sturrock would hijack it at times with his favourite track, Teenage Dirtbag!"

This, naturally, offers us a nice (our sincerest apologies) opportunity to relive Sturrock's interview with Plymouth's official website, when he managed the south coast club, that was held whilst the coach, in his 50s, soaked in a Jacuzzi as a suited journalist offered up questions for him to digest.


Video of the week

Oh, goodness. This, unsurprisingly, went viral in a matter of seconds. You're probably aware the Indian poultry giant Venky's owns Blackburn Rovers football club. Hence, it makes sense to use the footballers as part of a television commercial. David Dunn eats chicken, etc. Brace yourself. Watch Venky's TV commercial here ESPN Video.


More than words...


Barcelona president Sandro Rosell was none too pleased when new signing Alexis Sanchez turned up to his unveiling wearing a white t-shirt, the colour of their bitter rivals Real Madrid ©Getty Images


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