World Football

Premier League Chairmen Can Learn from Example of Napoli's Aurelio De Laurentiis

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Guillem BalagueFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2014

Football club presidents are more generally renowned for their ability to make copious amounts of money rather than their wit and wisdom.

However, if you can see past some of the ramblings of Napoli supremo Aurelio de Laurentiis, he is considered a strongly opinionated, but fair, president and does make the occasional valid point, and one especially pertinent to the Premier League today.

I'm informed that, in a recent chat with friends, he fixed his piercing eyes on his interrogator and asked them the following:

“My friend, if I was to give you 20 kilos of tomatoes, 15 litres of olive oil, a few handfuls of basil, 20 cloves of garlic and 10 onions, could you make me a plate of pasta.”

“Of course you could,” he added. “And that’s how clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City work. They have too much of everything. I make my pasta with a little bit of this and a little bit of that.”

NAPLES, ITALY - FEBRUARY 08:  Gonzalo Higuain (R) of Napoli celebrates after scoring their third goal during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and AC Milan at Stadio San Paolo on February 8, 2014 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Imag
Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

And to be fair, with Napoli once again in a Champions League spot and in the final of the Italian Cup under the management of Rafael Benitez, it’s worked quite well for him.

In the Premier League, there are clubs that have all the ingredients in an abundant garden, overflowing with riches and spoilt for choice, yet they're seemingly incapable on occasions of putting together the simplest of dishes.

Just what level of professional, headhunting was involved in the decision that saw David Moyes take over from Sir Alex Ferguson?

I am not saying that Moyes is not a valid manager for Manchester United, I am still convinced he will prove his worth in the season to come. But it wouldn’t have been a choice of a headhunter in another industry.

Moyes had done a good job at Everton, a club with a limited budget and realistic expectations, but his experiences in Europe were rare and unsuccessful. He had never fought for a title nor had he ever spent lots in players.

According to my sources, he was picked by Ferguson just months after the Scottish coach had told Pep Guardiola face to face that he had no intention of retiring.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28:  Josep Guardiola manager of FC Barcelona (L) greets Sir Alex Ferguson manager of Manchester United ahead of the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in Londo
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The only thing that really matters in football is who you know, in a process that functions primarily by word of mouth. In any other industry, the selection is much more detailed, which helps you avoid mistakes.

All that also goes for Pepe Mel, who is battling against the illogical odds at West Bromwich Albion.

Since Mel’s arrival he has managed just one win and found a side neither particularly keen nor capable of playing the type of football he would want them to.

In fact, that squad was not made by or for him, and he should have realised the job he had in producing the goods after convincing players to do new things. And without enough English, that was going to be a difficult task.

So, when the players suggested changing things a bit, he had no choice but to let himself be led by those in the know within the club, staff and players alike.

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Pepe Mel the mamager of West Brom passes the ball back during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Fulham at The Hawthorns on February 22, 2014 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Ross
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

But it doesn’t end there. Originally, he planned to come to England with his own backroom team. In the end, he came alone and now faces the task of working together with a team he doesn’t know, while simultaneously learning a new language.

And when it all goes pear-shaped, as well it might, West Brom could well find themselves understanding the phrase “act in haste, repent at leisure,” and poor Pepe Mel, due to circumstances beyond his control, will almost certainly find himself carrying the can.

But could he have turned down the opportunity of managing in the Premier League? Never. So, if everything goes wrong, who is to blame if not the club for the choice they made.

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