Chinese Super League: Paulo Bento fired as Chongqing Dangdai Lifan boss but timing baffles

Chongqing Dangdai Lifan ditch Portuguese manager Paulo Bento just one game after a two-month holiday – so why did they bother waiting?

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 July, 2018, 1:35pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 July, 2018, 1:35pm

By his own account, Paolo Bento slept well on Friday night. And he should have slept soundly enough on Saturday too after his Chongqing Dangdai Lifan side beat Tianjin Teda in the Chinese Super League but Sunday will have been a different matter entirely.

The Portuguese manager was sacked on Sunday, the victory proving pointless when it came to keeping his job.

“From today, Paulo Bento is no longer the coach of Chongqing Lifan,” the club announced on Sunday. “We thank him for his contribution and wish him all the best for the future.”

All the best, Paulo.

The former Portugal national team boss lasted a little over seven months in Chongqing. But two of those, the two months just gone, were spent on holiday.

The CSL has only just returned from an elongated eight-week hiatus around the World Cup so it makes very little sense to sack Bento now.

Why not do it two months ago and give that time to a new manager to work with the players?

Chongqing are on the slide. It was six games winless before Saturday and that included going out of the Chinese FA Cup to Dalian Yifang.

Five of those six games were before the break so it beggars belief Bento was sacked after letting him have two months trying to arrest the slide. That is the CSL, perhaps.

This is the side that were long linked to Andres Iniesta. We will never now how close that move came to fruition but the reports, inevitable official denials and then an apology from chairman Jiang Lizhang for not delivering the Barcelona and Spain midfielder spoke volumes.

Jiang seems like he knows what he’s doing when it comes to his other football clubs. Parma have just returned to Serie A after the phoenix club rose through the leagues to get back to Italy’s top flight. As for Granada, that is a different story.

The Spanish second tier side have had four managers since the calendars turned to 2018 – Jose Luis Oltra, Pedro Morilla Pineda, Miguel Angel Portugal and Diego Martinez Penas.

More damning perhaps is that Oltra replaced former Arsenal defender and Jiang’s good friend Tony Adams in the job.

Chinese owners ringing the changes in the dugout is nothing new. Often the first sacking of the season involves a coach hired in December ahead of the season starting in March and then gone by April.

This season was no exception: Dalian Yifang’s Ma Lin lasted a little over two weeks from his side’s league opener on March 3. Then again his side did lose 8-0 to Shanghai SIPG on their return to China’s top division.

Bento is the fifth manager to lose his job since Ma became the first casualty of the season, with Fabio Capello also leaving Jiangsu Suning.

Not forgetting that there were seven managerial changes ahead of the season. All in all, that’s 10 teams who have decided to make a fresh start since the end of the 2017 campaign and three of them have done it more than once.

In a league of 16 teams that seems a little much, especially as after two games this week since the return from the break we are still only 13 games into the 30-game season. The managerial merry-go-round operates at breakneck speed.

The departing Bento no doubt takes his share of the blame for whatever has happened – he has burned out quickly in his last few jobs.

He lasted barely two months at Brazilian side Cruzeiro in 2016 before walking away. This was followed up with a seven-month stint at Greek side Olympiacos where he was sacked last March with the team seven points clear at the top of the table and still in the Europa League.

None of that was unknown when Chongqing appointed him so maybe they should have thought twice before taking the plunge on the Portuguese rather than halfway through the season.

He leaves with the side 12th and a win away from jumping up the table. Safety is not quite guaranteed but Guizhou Zhicheng are already five points adrift of Dalian Yifang, and they need the same number of points again to catch the second-bottom side.

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Whoever comes in on is on a hiding to nothing. The transfer window shut before the season resumed so they cannot freshen up the squad.

They can only work with the same players Bento has apparently underperformed with and then probably only until November or December when the annual axe falls on managers.

Right now, taking a job in the CSL is like the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Harrison Ford and his entourage are forced to pick from the table of holy grails – they are almost all poisoned chalices.

And while the potential riches are limitless, they more often than not turn to dust in the wind.

There’s no sleep like the dead.