The term ‘prima donna’ is usually reserved solely for the 22 individuals that grace the pitch, as they display an array of theatrical antics that would suit most West End productions. But what about the managerial duo on the sidelines, their touchline tantrums and expletive-riddled interviews arguably make them better candidates for such an accolade.
When we consider the ‘divas’ within the beautiful game, we think of the pampered Adel Taarabt or the branded pants of Nicklas Bendtner. Such individuals thrive on the attention, but isn’t that the case of every manager? There’s no hiding place in the hot seat and you have to possess a pretty big ego to deem yourself worthy of a role that essentially involves being a leader of men.
There is an unrelenting expectation for managers to act with a sense of decorum and modesty, but the pressures of the Premier League easily tear down this thin veil. Whereas players such as Carlos Tevez can buckle down and steer clear of the headlines, managers have certain media obligations that cannot be ignored.
Press conferences therefore provide the perfect stage for spectacular meltdowns as journalists try and coax the most evocative answers from their subjects. Who can forget Kevin Keegan’s cringe-worthy ‘love it’ rant or the invective tirade of Joe Kinnear at Newcastle? These incidents are surely likely to increase as more eccentric figures filter into management.
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Take Paolo Di Canio for instance, a player that once had a sit down protest during a game and was banned for 11 matches after getting far too touchy-feely with referee Paul Alcock. Management has served only to amplify his outspoken tendencies with a weekly dose of vocal dissent or spot of violence towards his own players. He’s Mario Balotelli, but in a position of real power.
However, there does seem to be a method to his madness with his Swindon side well on course for back-to-back promotions. Some players clearly respond better to their superiors if they exhibit a similar personality or shy away from the role of disciplinarian. Many would argue that the likes of Jose Mourinho merely make a spectacle of themselves to remove the media spotlight from their squad but such actions are hardly justified by a performance on the pitch.
The traditional ‘no-nonsense’ managers are just as bad. Whether it’s Sam Allardyce voicing his credentials for the top European jobs or Neil Warnock claiming Chelsea are trying to kill Mark Clattenberg, the pair are a goldmine for tabloid headline editors. It’s somewhat hypocritical of two managers who are patrons of the mature and resilient playing styles, to refuse to emit the same professionalism in their own media ‘performances’.
Sir Alex Ferguson may be enjoying an illustrious career as one of the most respected figures in football but he could well be the biggest prima donna of the lot. His recent feud with the BBC may have come to an end but he’s still all too ready to condemn referees or gesticulate wildly at officials should he need a goal in the dying seconds of a match.
Forget the Fergie hairdryer, the Manchester United pressroom frequently resembles a sauna should someone dare highlight an area for improvement. In 2002, when the performances of Juan Sebastian Veron were called into question – a regular occurrence during his stint in Manchester – the Scot responded “He’s a f****** great player. You are all f****** idiots.”
The intensity of English football is at such a surreal level that emotions are always likely to run high. Players will go to ground feigning injury as often as managers will flail around on the sidelines if they disagree with an official’s decision. So remember the next time you lambast the opposition’s melodramatics, they’re probably just copying their manager.
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