Former Beira-Mar and Sporting Braga manager Leonardo Jardim was officially unveiled as the new manager of Sporting Lisbon on Monday. The 38-year-old replaces Jesualdo Ferreira who took over the club in late December 2012.
“I come to stabilize Sporting with the objective to win. Throughout my career I have consistently won matches and it is this objective that I will bring here. It will not be easy. Sporting is coming off their worst campaign in history and I want to change that by restructuring the club, with hard work and with the unity of all Sportinguistas,” Jardim told journalists at a press conference on Monday.
Club president Bruno de Carvalho told media that Jardim was an easy choice for Sporting manager and added that he fits in well with the club’s philosophy.
“It was a personal choice, as well as one for the club. I am not always easy to work with, but we understand one another very well and for that I want to say that in terms of ideology, projections, will, reach and ambition, there are many things that connect the two of us,” Carvalho said.
Jardim first came to prominence with Beira-Mar when he lead the Aveiro-based club to promotion to the first division of Portuguese football in 2010. A streak of bad results lead to his firing the next season but he was soon hired by Sporting Braga.
Jardim lead Sporting Braga to one of their best campaigns in their history in 2011-12, finishing third behind FC Porto and Benfica. But Jardim left before the start of this season due to his tense relationship with the club’s president António Salvador.
The young manager quickly joined Greek giants Olympiacos where he put up an impressive record. However this January, he was again let go despite the club being undefeated and leading the Greek League by 10 points.
Many Sportinguistas will lament the departure of veteran manager Jesualdo Ferreira who was the only manager since Paulo Bento left in 2009 to produce some positive results. He made the announcement that he would not return at a post-match news conference after the club’s 4-1 defeat of Beira-Mar.
“We never talked about money. This was not motivated by financial issues. I came to this decision with great sadness, it was one of the most difficult moments in my career but it was also a moment of honesty. I could not be the manager for next year if I did not feel that the conditions were not right,” Ferreira told Journalists.
Ferreira was the third manager of Sporting Lisbon this season and replaced Franky Vercauteren in late December. His decision to play young players like Tiago Ilori, Bruma, Andre Martins and Englishman Eric Dier lead to a noticeable improvement in the club’s performance.
Jardim and club president Bruno de Carvalho will no doubt have their work cut out for them turning around the fortunes of a club that has greatly underachieved in the last several years and is burdened by debt. Estimates vary but it is believed to be at least €220 million.
Carvalho will no doubt have to decide on the future of several underperforming players who were brought in under his predecessor Godinho Lopes. They include Khalid Boulahrouz, Stijn Schaars, Evaldo, Elias, Oguchi Onyewu, Danijel Pranjić, Valeri Bojinov and Gelson Fernandes.
Also with Dutch striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s departure to Norwich, Sporting need to find a replacement. They have been linked with Lazio’s Libor Kozák in recent weeks.
The good news is that Sporting have many assets under contract. Their youth development system rivals the best in European football. Forward Wilson Eduardo and defender Nuno Reis spent this year on loan and played well. Will they get their chance to play at Alvalade regularly next season.
In addition, the club has many quality players that other clubs want. Tiago Ilori has been linked to Premier League giants Liverpool. Winger Bruma has been linked with just about every major club in Europe. Cedric Soares is likely to leave for England or Germany this summer.
Goalkeeper Rui Patricio has been strongly linked to Arsenal as well. Plus there is also Andre Carrillo, Zakaria Labyad, Marcos Rojo who Carvalho might choose to cash in on this summer. Many promising young players like Ricardo Esgaio, João Mário, Betinho, Zézinho and Gaël Etock are looking to take their places.
OPINION: Franky Vercauteren Officially Out At Sporting. Jesualdo In.