Cagliari's statement said that the trust between Roberto Donadoni and Massimo Cellino had broken. Leaving the club with just two weeks to take on board prospective replacement Massimo Ficcadenti's training methods, the immediate reaction has been of frustration at the timing of yet another sacking under Cellino.
In his 20th year as President, it mirrors similar past actions, such as Gigi Radice and Attilio Tesser's respective sackings after opening day defeats and Davide Ballardini's first after just a month in charge. Where did things come apart for Donadoni?
Rumours of the fall-out surround a number of issues, the main one being the collapsed deal to re-sign David Suazo. In light of losing strikers Alessandro Matri and Robert Acquafresca and creative midfielder Andrea Lazzari inside six months, Donadoni was keen on Suazo's potential to add some much-needed competition in attack. However, even as club doctors backed up his insistence that Suazo was capable of bouncing back from a problematic knee injury, Cellino refused to sanction the move.
The day before the team's friendly with Rayo Vallecano, the striker was asked to leave the club's ritiro as he would not be signed, and immediately after the game, Donadoni frustratingly declared to the Press of the club's need for reinforcements. When comparing the Cagliari squads starting 2011-12 and 2010-11, there is sympathy for the former Milan player's frustration, one shared by supporters. However, Cellino is understood to have confronted the Coach on what he saw as an act of defiance.
Added to this were growing rumours of an increasingly poor relationship between Donadoni and key dressing room members Daniele Conti and Alessandro Agostini – Cagliari's captains. Conti in particular was understood to be frustrated by his treatment that saw Donadoni publicly question his star status and then bench and ignore him towards the end of the season. At the same time, the team endured a questionable run of form, winning just one of their final 11 games.
A side issue under examination by the Sardinian Press is the influence of Cellino's frayed relationship with agent Giovanni Branchini. Representing Acquafresca and Suazo, frustrating Cellino in his failure to find a new club for non-EU-spot occupant Mikhail Sivakov, and accusing Cellino of paranoia, Branchini also represents Donadoni.
Whilst the above are all issues that could otherwise be remedied separately, and primarily categorise Donadoni's sacking as an overreaction from Cellino, it is worth considering this is in fact the former Italy CT's sixth career post that he has left in a state of disagreement. He has been critical of and previously in dispute with hierarchy at Lecco, Livorno, Genoa and Napoli, whilst he was accused of stubbornness as Italy boss, all reflective of a difficult nature.
Small problems between them they may have been, but looking at the men at the heart of this dispute and their histories, it is a surprise the partnership lasted as long as it did.
Whilst Cagliari lose a Coach on the verge of rediscovering career-best work, judging the track records of both Donadoni and Cellino are worth considering. Whilst they make the fact that the duo were able to work together for as long as they did all the more remarkable, Cellino's history also contains the pattern of regularly replacing Coaches with better candidates – perhaps the trait worth remembering most.
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