As the news broke of Roberto Mancini’s firing from Manchester City on Monday evening, mixed reviews split opinion across the soccer community.
City’s ownership group cited Mancini had failed to “develop a holistic approach to all aspects of football at the club” and had not reached “stated targets.”
But in their statement announcing the decision to show Mancini the door, chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak also stated his thanks to the Italian for delivering the club’s first league title in 35 years.
So what more could Mancini have done in his three and a half years at the club? Not that much.
Yes they should have beaten Wigan and won the FA Cup on Saturday, but that was hardly the determining factor in the decision to sack the former Sampdoria and Lazio forward.
He delivered trophies, winning the 2011-12 Premier League and the FA Cup in 2011. He bought well in some cases and played attacking, expansive soccer on the way to winning the title.
But that wasn’t enough.
Several spats with big name players, such as Joe Hart, Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez has punctuated his time in charge of City. It has often been stated that Mancini had a poor relationship with the majority of his squad and he liked to distance himself from the group.
In many ways that was his greatest feature. Often he would take a look from afar at his squad, make subtle changes that worked and he seemed to know when to alter formations, drop certain players and buy the likes of Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure to spearhead his squad of incredibly talented players.
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But the lack of youth in Man City’s squad didn’t sit well with their billionaire owners. With new UEFA regulations regarding financial fair play and the multi-million dollar academy and training complex they are building next to the Etihad Stadium, City are planning to become a team that is sustainable and full of homegrown youngsters. Former Barcelona director of football Txiki Begiristain, he joined City in 2012. The new emphasis is clearly on youth development.
Mancini just didn’t fit the bill.
The Italian brought joy and happiness to many City fans, who accepted the decision to get rid of Mancini was inevitable, but struggled to comprehend it at the same time. They still think of Mancini as the arrogant Italian standing on the edge of the technical area in a beautifully crafted suit, with his arms crossed. A blue and white Man City scarf was often wrapped around his neck and every now and then, a stylish stroke of his right-hand through his wavy hair would signal everything is okay. City are playing well. Mancini is chilled. The future is looking good.
That was then. This is now.
There will be no more Mancini on the sidelines. No more fiery bust ups in training splashed across the front pages of the British tabloids. No more “Robby Manc” as he was known locally. He won 61.65 percent of his EPL games in charge, ranking fourth all-time in managers who’ve be in charge for 20+ games.
How much more could he have really done?
Manchester City’s fans are amongst the most loyal in the land. They regularly sold out their old Maine Road ground while their side languished in England’s third-tier in 1998. They will support the new manager just as vehemently as they supported Mancini. But it will take time.
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After spending almost $500 million on players in his time in charge, not making the Champions League knockout stages was his biggest failure. But at least he had success. City fans will remember it. Mancini will move on with a huge severance pay and everything will settle down for a while.
But I for one would love to see Mancini return to soccer, sooner rather than later.