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Big stars who disagreed with the manager

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Ronaldo with former coach, Ten Hag
  • Joao Cancelo’s departure from Manchester City was one of the biggest stories of the January transfer window
  • Man management is an essential part of a coach’s job, but there are times when it is impossible to keep everyone happy
  • SportsLeo looks at big names who were shipped out after falling out with managers

Man management is an essential part of a coach’s job, but there are times when it is impossible to keep everyone happy, and several big names have been ushered out the door after quarrels with the boss.

Joao Cancelo’s departure from Manchester City was one of the biggest stories of the January transfer window, with the full-back signing on a deadline-day loan for Bayern Munich.

Cancelo has been one of Europe’s best full-backs in recent seasons, having been named to the PFA Team of the Year in consecutive seasons. His sudden departure has fueled speculation about a rift with Pep Guardiola at the Etihad.

Neither has confirmed a breakup, but as speculation mounts, we’ve decided to look at big names who were shipped out after falling out with managers.

Robbie Fowler

Robbie Fowler

Fowler in a Liverpool jersey.|PHOTO: Getty Images|

Following an exciting emergence that saw the Scouse striker score prolifically for the Reds, Robbie Fowler was nicknamed ‘God’ on the Liverpool terraces.

As a teenager, Fowler burst onto the scene and became the youngest player in Premier League history to reach 50 goals, scoring 30+ goals in all competitions in his first three seasons with the club.

Following the arrival of Gerard Houllier, Fowler’s status deteriorated, with the forward having a strained relationship with his manager. In 2000/01, he was left out of the FA Cup and UEFA Cup finals as it became clear that Emile Heskey was Houllier’s preferred partner for Michael Owen.

Fowler’s fortunes deteriorated after Phil Thompson objected to a kick aimed at him during training, and he was sold to Leeds in 2001. When he left, Fowler blamed Houllier and his assistant for forcing him out of Anfield.

Ruud van Nistelrooy

For five seasons, Ruud van Nistelrooy was the leading man at Manchester United, a forward who guaranteed goals in the Premier League.

He scored 150 goals in 215 appearances for Manchester United, winning the Premier League, the Golden Boot, and a slew of individual awards. However, his final season was marred by disagreements with teammates and management.

Nistelrooy took issue with a young Cristiano Ronaldo, whose penchant for tricks and flicks frustrated a forward who had grown accustomed to David Beckham’s delivery before his sale to Real Madrid in 2003.

Van Nistelrooy’s fate was sealed following an angry outburst after being left out of the 2006 Carling Cup final victory over Wigan, following several squabbles with Ferguson and assistant Carlos Quieroz.

Van Nistelrooy joined Real Madrid and led the Spanish club to the 2006/07 title. In his absence, United also progressed, winning three consecutive Premier League titles with Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney emerging as stars.

The quarrel was settled several years later when Van Nistelrooy called Ferguson to apologize for his behaviour during his time in Manchester.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Photo/ DMARGE.

After a big-money move to Camp Nou, Zlatan Ibrahimovic became Barcelona’s record signing. The previous season, the Spanish giants – treble winners – added the Swedish striker to their all-conquering side.

Ibrahimovic started the season in good form in Barcelona, but his relationship with Pep Guardiola quickly deteriorated. Lionel Messi’s desire for a more central role reduced Ibrahimovic’s status, and the forward objected to Guardiola’s man-management, branding the Catalan a ‘spineless coward’.

Ibrahimovic was loaned to AC Milan after only one season in Spain before making a move permanent. His relationship with Guardiola has remained strained, with several jabs directed at his former manager since.

In his autobiography, Ibrahimovic wrote: “When you buy me, you are buying a Ferrari. When you drive a Ferrari, you fill the tank with premium gasoline, hit the highway, and press the accelerator. Guardiola refuelled his car and drove around the countryside. He should have purchased a Fiat.”

Ibrahimovic slammed Guardiola after Barcelona lost in the Champions League semi-finals to Inter Milan in 2010. Ibrahimovic had been replaced with Barcelona chasing a goal to advance.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Premier League - Manchester United v Aston Villa

Cristiano Ronaldo is seen during Manchester United v Aston Villa at Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain, September 25, 2021. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Cristiano Ronaldo’s second spell at Manchester United ended in disgrace in November following a public spat with manager Erik ten Hag.

Following the club’s failure to secure Champions League football, Ronaldo agitated for a summer exit, and Ten Hag used the forward sparingly after his return to the squad.

Ronaldo’s discontent grew to the point where his position at the club became untenable after an explosive interview with Piers Morgan in which he blasted the club’s senior figures and claimed he had “no respect” for Ten Hag.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s comments sparked a contentious breakup, with both parties agreeing to end his contract at Old Trafford. Ronaldo has since joined the Saudi club Al Nassr.

I am an ardent sports enthusiast interested in writing about football, motorsport and athletics.

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