ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST
In the five months that we have been following former Chelsea players in the world of football management, we’ve already seen six featured managers depart from their clubs. On June 27th, Gianfranco Zola became number seven.
The Italian midfield-maestro was sacked by Qatari side Al Arabi last week. The news comes after Agence France-Presse (AFP) was told by an Al Arabi spokesperson that the team’s president was “going to change the coach.” When asked by the AFP if Zola, who still had a year remaining on his contract, was sacked, the Al Arabi official said, “Yes.” Zola has been replaced by Gerardo Pelusso, a Uruguayan tactician who once coached the Paraguayan national team.
Zola’s sacking was no shock to those following Al Arabi closely. The team’s new owner Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad bin Jabr Al-Thani had been hinting that Zola was not the man to carry the team forwards in the wake of a highly disappointing league campaign last season. In his only season with Al Arabi, Zola won just 10 out of 26 league games, losing 11 of them. The team finished 8th in the 14-team league, almost 30 points back of champions Al Rayyan.
Didier Deschamps continues to make the EURO 2016 host nation proud, as he and his French national side advanced to the competition’s semi-final thanks to a crushing 5-2 victory over Iceland on July 3rd. Before scuppering the feel-good-story of the tournament, France beat the Republic of Ireland 2-1 on June 26th. Prior to entering the knockout stages, Les Bleus finished top of Group A thanks to victories Albania and Romania, and a bore draw with second-place Switzerland.
In Spain, Gus Poyet has continued his efforts to transform his new club Real Betis. He apparently has his sights set on Real Madrid midfielder Alvaro Medran, a promising 22-year-old midfielder who hasn’t been able to break into Los Merengues’ first team and spent last season on loan at Getafe. Poyet may have also succeeded in keeping hold of his number one goalie, Antonio Adan, who had been heavily linked to a possible move to Merseyside.
In England, new Aston Villa manager Roberto Di Matteo has signaled that he will be banking on youth to get his side back to the promised land that is the Premier League. The Birmingham Mail reported that RDM had promoted Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, Andre Green, and Harry McKirdy from the U-21s to the First Team. Di Matteo is also allegedly looking to raid some of Europe’s top clubs for other young talents. One player on his radar, according to The Sun, is Juventus’ 23-year-old keeper Nicola Leali, who spent last season on loan at Serie A’s Frosinone.
Di Matteo’s Championship rival Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has succeeded in bringing in a few new faces to his Queens Park Rangers’ set-up, though they won’t be on the pitch. According to GetWestLondon Hasselbaink has added Performance Enhancement Consultant Chris Barnes and First Team Sports Scientist Jack Sharkey to his staff. On the club’s official website, Hasselbaink is quoted as saying he felt the need to “freshen up” his staff with a focus on creating a fitter and more athletic team.
At Fulham Slavisa Jokanovic has an exciting new on-pitch addition, in the form of Floyd Ayite. The 27-year-old Togo international, was signed from French Ligue 1 side Bastia for an undisclosed fee. The winger scored 14 goals for Bastia over 53 games, and has 3 goals for his country in 19 appearances. Jokanovic will be hoping Ayite can make an immediate impact in the first squad, especially since last week saw him lose the promising Moussa Dembele to Celtic. The 19-year-old scored 17 goals for the Cottagers in the Championship last season and had previously been linked to a move across town to Spurs (boo). According to The Guardian Dembele signed a four-year-deal with the storied Glasgow club. Fulham was also in the news this week for signing Jose Mourinho Jr., the 16-year-old son of the Special One. Jose junior is a goalkeeper who has played in both the Chelsea and Real Madrid youth system.
Proud to say I just signed my two-year deal with Fulham FC... ❤️ pic.twitter.com/vjK5GVeXLQ— José Mourinho Jr. (@FFC_JM) June 30, 2016
In England’s lower-leagues, Kevin Wilson is also adding to his squad. Among the handful of new players is veteran defender Kelvin Langmead, who last played for Northampton Town. Langmead was voted by Nuneaton fans as the new signing they are most excited about. Langmead told Nuneaton News how happy he was at the poll results and stated that he wanted to help the team “push forward” and “hopefully give the fans something to cheer come the end of the season.”
David Hopkin has a lot of work to do if he wants to get fans of Livingston FC cheering. Scotland’s Daily Record spoke with Hopkin ahead of Livi’s first pre-season game. Hopkin told the newspaper his much-changed team were “raring to go.” The recently relegated Livingston then lost to recently promoted Dunfermline 5-1.
The only other Dugout Blue who saw action with his club this past fortnight was Dan Petrescu whose FC Kuban won a pair of friendlies. On June 29th they saw off Moldovan side Milsami and on July 3rd they beat Tomsk 4-2. Tomsk had beaten Kuban over two legs last May in a play-off game that saw Tomsk promoted to the Russian Premier League and Kuban demoted to Division 1.
VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Zola may be gone from football (for now), but his goals will never be forgotten by any Chelsea fan who fell in love with the Blues in the late 90s. For those who grew up watching him, as well as those who are yet to discover his greatness, here is an excellent fan vid of some of the pocket-magician’s most amazing moments (HT to YouTuber Тележка).