What’s eating Mr Carvalhal?

What’s eating Mr Carvalhal?

Hürriyet Daily News
What’s eating Mr Carvalhal

Beşiktaş coach Carvalhal (R) talks with fellow Portuguese countryman Almeida during a game. Carvalhal was supposedly appointed for his nationality, but ironically, his relationship with Portuguese star Quaresma gave him much trouble.

On paper, Coach Carlos Carvalhal had the right recipe for success at Beşiktaş: A boss willing to spend money on big stars, players hungry for success and fans eager to back the team. None of it worked in reality and a season that had started with high hopes turned into a disaster for the Istanbul team.

With four games left in the Spor Toto Super League regular season, Beşiktaş is left 19 points behind leader Galatasaray, holding a minimal chance of winning the title even with the playoffs looming. Unless the team can turn a 3-1 first-leg defeat from Atletico Madrid around in the Europa League tomorrow, it will be left without a real target to play for. And for a team that has only won twice in its last 11 matches in all competitions, that might be asking a lot.

Traditionally in football, when in search of someone to blame, heads turn to the coach first. But Carvalhal is hardly the only party responsible for Beşiktaş’s poor season.

First of all, the Portuguese gaffer was not brought to the helm in ideal conditions. Initially, he was supposed to be the assistant to Tayfur Havutçu, before the head coach was jailed pending trial as part of the match-fixing case in July last year. The jailing of Havutçu, who allegedly tried to persuade a couple of Istanbul BB players to underperform before the Ziraat Turkish Cup last year, gave the green light to Carvalhal, but he was never assured of his seat. The Portuguese helsman was the “interim coach” all along and was managing the team on a day-to-day basis while waiting to see what would happen if Havutçu was released.

Carvalhal should be happy that the team was on a good run in December when Havutçu was released pending charges because that was how the boss ran things at the club. Yes, we are talking about the boss, chairman Yıldırım Demirören, who invested more than 103 million Turkish Liras and had the club indebted to himself. The boss, who formed a club full of Portuguese players thanks to his purported business partnership with player agent Jorge Mendes. And the boss who left out the back door to take over the Turkish Football Federation to add to the club’s chaos.

Mutiny on his hands

While Carvalhal is trying to sort things out at the club, he has found a mutiny on his hands, arguably led by superstar winger and fan favorite Ricardo Quaresma. As a player who was bought after an overwhelming request by fans chanting slogans during games, Quaresma knew he had lots of credit at the club. He would win over the fans with his spectacular trivela (curling the ball) or some rabona shot (shooting the ball with the kicking leg wrapped around the back of the standing leg). And he reportedly threw his boots at Carvalhal after the coach said he would substitute him during the half-time of the Atletico Madrid game last week.

Quaresma was not in the squad to face Orduspor last week, but it was yet to be seen whether Carvalhal would be able to stand by his choice to leave him out in the Atletico Madrid game.
“There will be 11 Beşiktaş players on the pitch,” Carvalhal would respond when asked if Quaresma would play in the Europa League.

Yes, Carvalhal had his questionable decisions, including the terrible one of using defensive midfielder Veli Kavlak at the left back position against Atletico Madrid (It should be noted all three Atletico goals came from the area that the Austrian-Turkish player was defending). Yes, the Portuguese coach opened the door to young striker Mustafa Pektemek too late when having to endure compatriot Hugo Almeida’s poor performances.

But those coaching errors pale in comparison to an ill-formed squad, a terrible board administration and a fan base that has long taken the wrong side in a face-off. It does not require a crystal ball to see Carvalhal’s future at Beşiktaş will not last too long, but realizing the poor season was not just the Portuguese coach’s fault will do justice to him.