Atletico Madrid’s sacking of Abel Resino and the sorry saga of the search for his replacement exposed the fundamental problems at the heart of the club.
It was madness, even if they did say so themselves. And it was about to get a whole lot madder. In fact, it was about to get frankly surreal. To the shock and surprise of no one at
all, Atletico Madrid became the first Spanish club to sack their coach this season when the axe fell on Abel Resino just two months into the season following his side’s 4-0 Champions League hammering by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
But “Atletico sack yet another coach” headlines don’t even begin to tell the whole sorry story.
With the team languishing in the relegation zone, unable to beat Cypriot side APOEL at home in the Champions League and slaughtered 5-2 at the Camp Nou, the pressure built on Resino. President Enrique Cerezo complained the media was treating his coach “as if he had killed someone”.
Cerezo insisted: “I have absolutely no doubt that Resino continues for the rest of the season. It would be madness to change our coach now.”
As those words tumbled from Cerezo’s mouth, Resino could have been forgiven for a shiver travelling up his spine. You suspected that the coach would be sacked the moment that Cerezo said he wouldn’t be.
This, after all, is the president who, “hurt” by the lack of faith in one of his former coaches, declared: “I don’t know how many times I have to tell you: I am absolutely sure that Javier Aguirre will be our coach for the rest of the season.” Four days later Aguirre was sacked. The president had said much the same about Cesar Ferrando, Carlos Bianchi and Pepe Murcia.
This time it took slightly longer. Twenty days longer. A late equaliser in Valencia kept Resino in a job. They beat Real Zaragoza and his position was ratified once more. And then came the capitulations – 3-0 in Pamplona and 4-0 in London. Atletico had been truly pathetic. Again. Something had to be done. So they did what they so often do; they sacked the coach.
When Resino arrived at the Vicente Calderon midway through last season, he said things would change. So did the media, and so too did Cerezo.
He was “tougher” than Aguirre, who was dismissed as “too nice” by his president. He would bring the back-line up the pitch and solve their defensive crisis.
He wasn’t. He didn’t. Things didn’t change. Atletico qualified for the Champions League, just as they had done the year before, but they began this season with the worst defensive record in the Spanish top flight, their worst in half a century. The decision to sack Resino was made on the flight on the way back from Luton airport in the early hours of Wednesday night/Thursday morning.
The fun, though, had only just started. Resino was not actually told until the Friday morning. There were two reasons: one, Atletico did not yet have a replacement and, two, no one at the club could get hold of the coach who was not answering his phone. In the meantime, Atletico began a surreal 24-hour search for the man to replace him; one that felt like it should have been accompanied by the theme tune from The Benny Hill Show.
Part two tomorrow.