"A lion can’t stay in a cage. A lion has to be on the pitch."
Those were the words of Paolo Di Canio on his decision to become a manager. Metaphorically speaking, he considered himself a lion. A brave animal ready to take on the footballing world.
As he stood in front of the Sunderland fans with a gesture to keep their heads held high after their latest defeat on Saturday, he looked a lonely figure. The lion was on the pitch, alone. Lions do not travel alone, they travel in groups, in a pride.
In contrast, Di Canio stood alone on the pitch. His pride lacking bravery, lacking pride.
A genius to some and a coward to others. The eccentric Sunderland manager has divided opinion ever since his playing days at West Ham United. Some say he should have more time, others chant that he should be sacked in the morning.
Jose Mourinho, anyone?
The two of them are very similar, and while Di Canio has had none of the success that the 'Special One' has enjoyed, a likeness can be drawn.
Both managers enjoy short term successes at their respective clubs - Mourinho reinvented FC Porto when he won the Champions League, made Chelsea a European power-house and ended a multi-decade long wait for an English Premier League title.
He also won a treble at Inter and gave Real Madrid a Spanish League title after Barcelona had dominated the league. All of this came in only a handful of seasons. Success, but never sustained success at a single club.
Di Canio has a similar managerial pattern of accomplishments. His first stint as a manager came at Swindon Town following the club's relegation to England's League Two. In just one year, Di Canio led the club back to League One and a Football League Trophy Final.
However, it did not take long for him to leave Swindon as he resigned from the position in February of 2013. Just over a month later, Sunderland came calling for the services of the former Swindon manager.
With an enthusiastic style stemming from an essential 3-0 victory over Newcastle in the Tyne-Wear derby, Di Canio was able to save Sunderland from relegation.
A successful reign indeed.
Both are able to gain success, but long-term involvement at a club seems unlikely for the two eccentric managers.
It did not take long for Mourinho's controversial disciplines to take effect and disrupt the harmony at Real Madrid. Casillas, a club legend, and Pepe were both unsettled after public discontent was expressed by their manager.
Los Blancos' form faltered and Mourinho exited the club. Sustained success was not in the cards, not in his style. Similarly, Di Canio's controversial nature has led to the unsettling of star players.
Stephane Sessegnon, formerly a central figure at Sunderland, had his work ethic questioned by his manager. Unhappy by the manager's musings, he left the club at the end of the transfer window.
Consequently, Di Canio's decision came back to haunt him as Sessegnon scored on a day when West Brom thumped Sunderland in a 3-0 victory.
In the instances of both managers, publicly criticizing a player has led to disunity in the dressing room (as well as other factors that were founded upon their controversial personalities).
Other managers have also done it, including Sir Alex Ferguson who arguably is the greatest manager of all time. So why did it not work for these two?
It seems as if lack of respect from their team and a lack of backing from the board led to these acts becoming inflated to sacking worthy deeds.
Not to mention leaving the fans unhappy after seeing their favourite players being left to warm the bench or sold off to neighbouring clubs.
And thus, the reason that Di Canio and Mourinho were signed by their employers is the same reason why they are sacked.
They inject enthusiasm and excitement into clubs that need motivation for success in the short-term. Their controversial and eccentric personalities ignite the spark for winning games quickly.
But that enthusiasm turns into discontent and that excitement turns into frustration. Their controversial and eccentric personalities lead to locker room unhappiness. Those successive run of wins become an extended run of sub-par performances and results.
So the reasons that they were hired, become the reasons why they are sacked.
This proved to be the case for Di Canio who was shown the exit door late last night, having been beckoned out of the club by the Sunderland board.
But don't for a second think he will go out without a controversial statement. And soon the lion will find a new pride, a new success.
Just don't expect it to last for long.
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