The Last Word: How turmoil can affect a soccer club

Inner turmoil caused by takeover bids and financial confusion shows on the field.

national team 298.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
national team 298.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
When Argentina's World Cup stars Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez shocked the soccer world at the end of August by deciding to join Yossi Benayoun at West Ham United, the London club was on a roll. Having been relegated from the Premier League in 2003, the Hammers had bounced back in 2005 and finished in an impressive ninth place last season. All appeared to be going well under manager Alan Pardew, who had, with the help of our Yossi, transformed the team into a force to be reckoned with. And the signings of the two Argies seemed to be the dawn of a new era at Upton Park, a major coup, something like when Chelsea first started to bring in talented foreigners like Gianfranco Zola, Gianluca Vialli and Ruud Gullit. But, somehow, somewhere, it all went wrong. Instead of acting as an impetus and inspiration, the arrival of Mascherano and Tevez affected the team like some sort of curse. Westham (as the club is known in this part of the world) couldn't win for toffee - losing seven games in a row and the hapless Tevez, previously touted as the next Maradona, still hasn't even scored one goal for the team. The thing is that while the signings of the two new foreigners was a good thing, it came at a time when West Ham was surrounded by uncertainty and confusion. The British media were full of stories about how a consortium led by Iranian businessman Kia Joorabchian, who owns the firm Media Sports Investments, was planning to buy the club from the then owner Terry Brown. MSI also owns the rights to Tevez and Mascherano and is involved with Brazilian team Corinthians, where they had both been playing. Joorabchian's dealings had a dodgy smell to them, no doubt creating an uncomfortable feeling at the club. It is more than likely that this uncertainty generated a large amount of concern amongst the playing, coaching and managing staff and could be much to blame for the disastrous form of the team. Fast forward a couple of months and things are starting to return to normal at West Ham. Joorabchian was left by the wayside and last week a consortium headed by Icelandic businessman Eggert Magnusson agreed to a deal worth some 85 million. The purchase has brought stability, Tevez and Maschareno appear to be on their way out, and West Ham is back to winning ways, defeating Sheffield United on Saturday. West Ham is clearly not the only club at which the inner turmoil of takeover bids and financial confusion affected play on the field. Similar things happened at Leeds United, a team which still hasn't recovered after it fell from being Champions League semifinalists to League Championship outsiders in just a couple of years due to debt struggles. And here in Israel, last season was less than stable at Betar Jerusalem, with four different head coaches running team affairs, often reflected in poor performances at Teddy. That's not to say turmoil can't have the opposite effect. Look at the Italian national team, which managed to win the World Cup last summer despite the local soccer scene being plagued by the match-fixing scandal, something for which the head coach and a number of the players were being investigated. Either way, it is a shame that such controversies occur at the clubs at which so many thousands of real fans spend their hard-earned cash. Sometimes it makes you wonder how much the management staff really cares about the teams and if supporter-owned clubs like Barcelona are really the answer.