6 managers and the players they shared a special bond with
Jose Mourinho and Marco Materazzi – a bond to rememberWatching Jose Mourinho’s sneering, indifferent press conferences, it is easy to think of the Portuguese as a cold-hearted, hardened taskmaster who is as ruthless as he is brilliant. And perhaps the two traits do go together. But what cannot be overstated is his superb man-management, a consequence of which is a number of very close relationships he shares with his former players that have sparkled over the course of his distinguished career.What Mourinho – and indeed, any manager worth their salt – realise is that as much as the football world has morphed into the most lucrative business in professional sport, at the heart of it all is the ability of a leader to inspire his charges. Too bad nobody ever mentioned this to Andre Villas Boas.It is then only natural that in this age of the managerial merry-go-round, we have seen managers sometimes repeatedly sign their blue-eyed boys. Signing a known quantity means the manager has a perfect understanding of what said player brings to a team, and the new manager already has a reference point in an unfamiliar team.There is mutual trust and respect, and the signed player feels a highly personal motivation to not let his boss down. But these relationships do not hinge on longevity or even a manager re-signing a preferred player – witness Mourinho sharing a tearful goodbye with Marco Materazzi, after the former’s departure from the Inter Milan hotseat. Yes, that Marco Materazzi.And on that gut-wrenching note, let us take a look at some noted relationships that have blurred the line between employee and boss in the wonderful world of football.
#1 Arsene Wenger and Aaron Ramsey
Nobody will need reminding of that horrible day in Stoke, when Ryan Shawcross’ horror tackle threatened to end Aaron Ramsey’s career. And no, that is not an understatement – former Arsenal star Eduardo has never quite looked the same since he went through his own personal hell, and the less that can be said of Abou DIaby, the better. Shawcross himself could see the horror of what he had done, and was distraught at the sight of his fellow professional.
But things were far from over for the Welshman, with his return from the long lay-off only the beginning. The psychological scars notwithstanding, the prodigy was showing none of the drive and clarity that saw Wenger splash £5 million for his services all the way back in 2008.
Wenger revealed that a heart-to-heart with Ramsey was the spark that re-ignited his career. The 2013/14 season saw the Premier League taken by storm by Ramsey’s world-class run of form. He was the frontrunner, along with Luis Suarez, for the Player of the Year, until an untimely injury once again took him out of the limelight.
But things ended relatively well for the Welshman, with him scoring the winner in Arsenal’s dramatic win over Hull City in the FA Cup final. This season, however, has seen a Ramsey who has tried to do too much, and Wenger has implored him to return to the simple game that served him so well last season.
Ramsey, on his part, has declared his undying support for the man who resurrected his career, amid calls for Wenger’s head this season. It looks set to be a wonderful relationship that will only grow in the years to come, with the mutual respect that the two share becoming a cornerstone for Arsenal to build their credentials as a European superpower once again.