Al-Ittihad Manager Nuno Recently Got sacked, Nuno and Karim Benzema Had Controversial Warm Dispute in Dressing Room:
The recent departure of Nuno Espirito Santo as manager of Saudi Arabian club Al-Ittihad has made headlines, with leaked details emerging of a heated dressing room altercation between Nuno and star striker Karim Benzema.
The incident occurred following Al-Ittihad’s disappointing 2-0 loss to Iraqi side Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya in the AFC Champions League on Monday. This defeat was the latest in a concerning run of form for Al-Ittihad, who had won just 1 of their last 6 games despite significant investment in players like Benzema and N’Golo Kante.
According to reports, Nuno singled out Benzema in the dressing room and accused him of being “too lazy to put pressure on your rival.” Benzema fired back that Nuno should address the whole team rather than just him. Nuno responded by emphasizing Benzema’s status as the team’s leader and needing to set an example.
⚫️ Nuno Espirito Santo has been sacked — Al Ittihad decided to fire the coach.
Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kanté and all the other stars will have another coach pic.twitter.com/Skzi6jVp4J
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) November 7, 2023
This heated exchange highlights growing tensions at the club as results failed to match expectations. Nuno had led Al-Ittihad to the league title last season but seemed to be losing the confidence of his star players. The continental loss to Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya proved to be the final straw.
Just two days later on Wednesday, Al-Ittihad announced Nuno had been relieved of his duties following a “comprehensive technical evaluation” of his tenure. Al-Ittihad will pay Nuno Espírito Santo $8m in compensation after sacking him. The club now faces the challenge of quickly appointing a successor capable of turning around the team’s form and getting the best out of their world-class players.
Al-Ittihad will pay Nuno Espírito Santo $8m in compensation after sacking him.
The Saudi club are in ongoing talks with Julen Lopetegui.
— Transfer News Live (@DeadlineDayLive) November 8, 2023
Names linked to the Al-Ittihad job include former Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane, Julen Lopetegui and ex-France coach Laurent Blanc. They have the experience handling big clubs and can have high expectations. However, another name emerging as a potential candidate is Dutch coach Alfred Schreuder.
Schreuder recently parted ways with UAE side Al Ain after just 6 months in charge, with the club struggling in 3rd place domestically. Prior to that, he spent a season as assistant to Erik ten Hag at Ajax. With Al-Ittihad now being managed by an interim coach, bringing in an experienced new manager like Schreuder could provide some much-needed direction.
Yet it remains to be seen if someone like Schreuder would be able to command the respect of marquee signings like Benzema and Kante. Expectations at Al-Ittihad are sky-high, particularly after heavy investment in the playing squad. The next manager will be expected to instantly deliver results and harmony to a club seemingly in turmoil on and off the pitch.
Benzema had been given the captain’s armband and a leading role within the team upon his high-profile arrival from Real Madrid. The 33-year-old French striker came with sky-high expectations given his incredible success in La Liga and Champions League.
However, Benzema’s work rate has been questioned by some as not suiting the more physical Saudi league. Nuno was said to be demanding more defensive effort from the attackers. But as a big name player, Benzema may have resisted being singled out when he felt the whole team’s performances were lacking.
For other clubs around the world, the prospect of landing a coach who has worked with Benzema and Kante is an intriguing one. Both players are global superstars commanding huge respect. If a manager could attract such names to Saudi Arabia, they must have an excellent reputation and pedigree.
Al-Ittihad now faces a defining period as they seek to maintain the momentum of last season’s league title. While achieving domestic success is important, their ownership has aspirations of continental glory as well.
Appointing the right manager to handle this difficult situation and unite a disjointed squad will be an immense test. But one that could propel a promising coach’s reputation if they succeed. The Benzema-Nuno saga has put Al-Ittihad firmly in the spotlight.
Managing so many egos and keeping all these stars happy with playing time is a challenge even the most experienced managers struggle with. Big money doesn’t always buy harmony, as Nuno discovered.
Players like Neymar, Miralem Pjanic, Jordan Henderson, Riyad Mahrez and Marco Verratti also arrived recently on lucrative contracts, with their arrivals in Saudi Leagues competition are expected to be tougher.
The new manager will also have to impress Al-Ittihad’s owner, Saudi Prince Abdul Rahman Bin Musa’ad. The royal family member has bold ambitions for the club and will expect immediate success after investing heavily in the playing squad.
An intriguing subplot is the future of Portuguese midfielder Pjanic. He was a favorite of Nuno, who is also Portuguese. The pair worked together previously at FC Porto. But with Nuno now gone, does this impact Pjanic’s standing at the club?
There are also questions around Kante’s injury issues so far this season. The French midfielder has only made a handful of appearances for Al-Ittihad since his heralded arrival. Getting him fit and firing will be crucial to stabilize the team’s performances.
So in summary, the new Al-Ittihad manager is facing a momentous challenge. Taking charge of a dressing room clearly divided by the Nuno-Benzema spat. Managing numerous world-class yet maverick talents. And impressing an owner with little patience after heavy spending.
It will take a strong personality and excellent man-management skills to succeed in the Al-Ittihad hotseat right now. The next appointment could make or break the club’s season. The Benzema-Nuno controversy is just the tip of the iceberg for problems the new coach must address.