… BUT CAN HE DELIVER?
The Nigeria Football Federation is close to naming the coach expected to guide the Super Eagles through to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. But one does not need to consult the oracle to decipher who the choice will be among the three shortlisted. Speculations have been rife in the past few weeks on who was expected to manage the Super Eagles.
It just has to be Paul Le Guen, the Frenchman who guided Cameroon to the 2010 World Cup. Of the shortlisted three, he appears the most experienced. But looking at the list of applicants, one is left shocked at the level the Super Eagles may have reduced to. So, if Le Guen and Tom Saintfiet have been engaged elsewhere or did not apply, we could see the quality of men interested in the Super Eagles’ job which appears to have lost appeal.
One would have expected that the NFF should have gone headhunting for a coach that fits into their thoughts. If negotiation fails, you move into the next option. Such executive search will produce a quality coach that will get the respect of most if not all Nigerians.
First, one is assuming that all aspects of funding the salaries of the coach-to-be have been taken care of. It would be an embarrassment of international proportion if foreign coaches are owed. One pertinent question borders the terms of engagement. Will the coach simply walk away upon Nigeria’s elimination in the World Cup as did some other foreign coaches Nigeria engaged in the past?
Recall Clemens Westerhoff after our defeat by Italy in 1994. Bora Milutinovic did the same after Denmark eliminated Nigeria at France ’98. Lars Lagerbäck at World Cup 2010 did the same. Even after guiding Nigeria to win the Olympic gold medal at Atlanta ’96, Bonfrere Johannes did not return with the team.
All the coaches simply walked away and Nigeria could do nothing possibly because their contracts did not compel them to formally resign and also put up technical reports on the Super Eagles’ performances.
There were also cases of coaches who signed for the job and never assumed duties. Does anyone remember the case of Brazilian Carlos Alberto Tores in 1995? This 1970 captain of the Brazilian World Cup-winning side came to Lagos signed a contract and disappeared. Nothing happened. Thijs Libgrets, a former Dutch national coach who was engaged in succession to Milutinovic also walked away in frustration.
Even when Philippe Troussier was to be re-engaged in July 2005, following an announcement of his return by the then NFA, the Frenchman did not even bother to sign the contract, he simply backed out. Will the chosen coach take a cue from the list of our runaway foreign coaches?
These and more should be considered in hiring either Le Guen or Saintfiet. But the former looks as the front runner. He also has a more appealing credential than the Belgian who attended last months’ Nigerian friendly game in Belgium.
Le Guen will be more relevant especially in dealing with Cameroun, one of the trio teams Nigeria will be facing at the World Cup qualifiers.
His knowledge of Cameroon partly makes his employment relevant apart from his having handled major European sides like Paris Saint-Germain, Stade Rennais and Glasgow Rangers. He also led Olympique Lyonnais to three consecutive French Ligue 1 titles.
Considering the number of Africans in the French League, Le Guen should be familiar with the mentality of the off Shore Super Eagles’ players and those of Cameroon and Algeria who could be in Ligue 1.
It was such knowledge of African football that may have made him nurture the then relatively unknown Shabani Nonda and El Hadji Diouf to stardom. He could be challenged to make similar discovery and nurturing of Nigerian players if his contract is not a short-term one.
Le Guen may have the caretaker coach, Salisu Yusuf, as his assistant. This looks the most perfect setting at the moment, if the already delayed preparation for the World Cup qualifying series were to be given a tonic. While not taking anything away from the third candidate, the Belgian Tom Saintfiet, his pedigree is not as that of Le Guen.
Apart from the knowledge and the tactical ability of the coach, the Super Eagles’ players need a coach they have to respect. His experience as national team coach is limited to lower-power teams like Namibia, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.