Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Schuster's failings a familiar story
"It is a matter to be decided by the federation, but there has been speculation that a Turkish coach cannot handle the job. If this is the case, I think that the new coach should be from out of this world, perhaps one from Krypton and one with superpowers."
When Kayserispor coach Tolunay Kafkas uttered these words just over a year ago, it was in reference to the Turkish national team job - one that was eventually given to Guus Hiddink (presumably after some kind of demonstration of strength). But the mindset that 'foreign is better' strikes deep in the Turkish domestic game and is responsible for a raft of expensive managerial failures at Super Lig clubs in recent years.
Bernd Schuster, a man who has become known as the 'Blond Angel' during his career, may sound like a superhero-in-waiting, but proved to be as brittle as the rest of us when he chose to jump before he was pushed last week at Besiktas. The man brought to Turkey on a wave of expectation to replace Mustafa Denizli on a two-year contract worth €5.2 million resigned having won just one of his last seven games, maintaining that he did not want to "waste the resources" of the highly ambitious club.
"The resignation is a surprise to us. Schuster said he wanted to leave because he could not achieve the things he wanted to, and he didn't want to exploit our confidence in him and be paid for nothing," Besiktas spokesman Mete Duren told reporters. But the warning signs were there before the 'Angel' crashed to earth.
To listen to some of the Real Madrid fans in the wake of Schuster's departure from the Bernabeu in 2008, accusations of a lack of enthusiasm, failure to empathise or connect with his players and a seriousness that went beyond the stereotypical German manager flew around long before he put his own head on the chopping board with the suicidal comment that Real could not beat rivals Barcelona in the Clasico.
During his time in Madrid, Schuster told one journalist that he couldn't possibly know what he was thinking "because I don't know myself" - a joke, perhaps, but one that ultimately cut a little too close to the truth - while the most famous anecdote from an otherwise impressive playing career speaks of the time he walked out on his Barcelona side in the 85th minute after being substituted during the 1986 European Cup final (which they lost on penalties to Steaua Bucharest), got a taxi and went home alone, still in his kit.
A coach who has never seemed comfortable in front of the media glare, Schuster's best work came at Xerez and Getafe, where he was kept relatively out of the spotlight. However, a move to arguably the most pressurised coaching job in the world - at the Bernabeu - saw his flaws exposed further and certainly did not make him the right candidate to take over another position where the expectation level was already high.
Despite credentials that include winning the Primera Liga title and the Spanish Super Cup, Schuster's demeanour is such that it is virtually impossible for him to become an instant fan favourite - something he found to his cost at Besiktas. Unable to hide his expressions on the touchline, the German looked lost in many games, unable to find a solution to a problem that he may not even have fathomed in the first place.
An advocate of attacking football, his criticisms of opponents for their defensive style - likening Konyaspor's tactics to 1960s football - brought unwanted tabloid attention and his own attempts to turn his side into a version of the Johan Cruyff 'Dream Team' that arrived on the scene shortly after his departure from Barcelona in 1988 had unsuccessful results.
Under pressure to get his expensively assembled squad to gel, initially Schuster was lauded for his abilities to persuade the likes of Guti and Portuguese quartet Ricardo Quaresma, Simao, Manuel Fernandes and Hugo Almeida to join the club. However, while the signings gave the Turkish league and the club a PR boost, the reality of fielding such luxury players without the commitment and determination that provides the backbone to a side hit home far too late.
But Schuster is not alone in struggling to adapt to a new environment. The history of Turkish football is littered with unsuccessful foreign coaches and, of late, there have been more than usual: Galatasaray took on former Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard before sacking him in his second season, while Fenerbahce must have been licking their lips when Spain coach Luis Aragones joined them after victory at Euro 2008, but he lasted barely a year.
Certainly, Besiktas have a few high-profile mistakes (Jean Tigana, John Toshack and Vicente del Bosque) who arrived long before Schuster. And in fact the club have a bit of a history with German coaches, as Schuster was the fifth German to be named head coach at the Istanbul giants; although interestingly their most successful manager was an Englishman.
Former Liverpool player Gordon Milne brought three successive titles to the club from 1990 to 1992 and, despite the naming of assistant coach Tayfur Havutcu as manager until the end of the season, rumours abound that ex-England boss Steve McClaren is the next foreign manager to attempt to break the Turkish foreign jinx.
Now, with the Schuster experiment an unmitigated disaster, one can see why the Black Eagles would look to follow the example of Milne, although no one would forgive them if they chose to stay closer to home for their next appointment.