La Liga: Espanyol’s Pochettino falls on his sword
Coach says he has reached “sell-by date” as team struggle at bottom of la liga. Mourinho’s Real Madrid fall further off the pace after Betis loss.
By Halima Ali
It took a little longer than normal for la liga. While several men have been touted for the chop – notably Marcelo Bielsa and Mauricio Pellegrino – jornada 13 provided one loss too many for RCD Espanyol, and in late November, the managerial axe finally fell for the first time this season.
Mauricio Pochettino, who had been the longest-serving coach in la liga after three years at Espanyol, took over in late January 2009 when the Barcelona-based side were third from bottom; his only task was to save them from relegation.
But the Argentinean, who had plied his trade for his national side, Espanyol, Paris Saint-Germain and Bordeaux as a central defender, did more than that, giving Periquitos stability. He also proved extremely resourceful, earning praise for his work in bringing through youngsters from the academy as the club were forced to sell their best players each year.
He imposed a specific tactical style on the youth teams, attended training sessions, and ensured each team played in an age group above, in order to increase competitiveness and speed up development. He also enforced an aggressive style of play in the first team, winning plaudits from Pep Guardiola: “There are teams that wait for you and teams that look for you: Espanyol look for you. I feel very close to their style of football.”
The former Barcelona coach was not his only admirer. Earlier this year when yet another rumour emerged that José Mourinho would leave Real Madrid in the summer, Pochettino was touted as a replacement, with the story splashed over the Madrid-based dailies.
But despite his success, the man himself was under no illusions: “I have been in the world of football for many years and understand that a coach has a sell-by date,” he said in a press conference yesterday to announce his departure. With a defeat against Getafe at the weekend, that date had come.
Espanyol, who headed into the game having won only twice in 12 games in the league this season, were soon 1-0 down in the Estadi Cornellà-El Prat when Pedro León’s left-footed strike found the bottom-right corner in the 17th minute.
The early goal set the visitors on their way. The hosts looked to respond but to no avail and the second half proved a scrappy affair with Getafe sealing the win with Mane’s left-footed finish from Diego Castro’s pass in stoppage time.
The result left Espanyol rooted to the bottom of the table and in Monday’s press conference, Pochettino was clear: “We have taken a responsible decision thinking that the change is positive. I have waived the final year of my contract,” adding: “I will always be available for the club if needed in the future.”
Several coaches were linked with the vacant post but former Mexico and Osasuna coach, Javier Aguirre, is strong favourite to take the helm.
In the Spanish capital, there is another man who would certainly be past his sell by date – particularly at Real Madrid – if he were not ‘The Special One’. His side, the reigning Spanish Champions who last year won la liga for the first time in four years, putting paid to Barcelona’s hegemony, find themselves 11 points behind their eternal rivals just three months into the season.
A slow start to the season, lack of motivation, several key injuries and endless rumours of infighting have led Los Merengues to where they are now, the points that separate them from Barça being not so much a gap as a gaping chasm.
Even before the 1-0 defeat away to Real Betis – in which Mourinho’s men felt aggrieved by a wrongly disallowed goal and penalty that could have been given in the final minute of the match – the chances of winning the league were slim. But their third defeat of the season ensures the remaining six months will be a long and most likely futile chase with no team in the history of la liga having ever overhauled so many points to win the league.
Worse still, their city neighbours Atlético Madrid sit above them in second place with an eight-point lead over their rivals and up next: El Derbi madrileño.
Real Zaragoza 0 – 1 Celta de Vigo
Levante UD 0 – 4 FC Barcelona
Atlético Madrid 4 – 0 Sevilla FC
Athletic Bilbao 1 – 1 Deportivo La Coruña
RCD Espanyol 0 – 2 Getafe CF
Real Betis 1 – 0 Real Madrid
Málaga CF 4 – 0 Valencia CF
Real Valladolid 1 – 0 Granada CF
Rayo Vallecano 2 – 0 RCD Mallorca
Real Sociedad 0 – 0 Osasuna
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Published: Nov 27 2012
Category: Spain News, Sports
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=7492
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Tags: Barça, barcelona, El Derbi, Espanyol, la liga, Liga, Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Real Madrid, Spain football, spain soccer, spanish football, Spanish soccer