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Five big name players shown the exit door after clashing with their manager

Relationships between managers and their squads can be a difficult balancing act, as coaches look to keep a happy balance among a group of competitive, and often egotistical, talents.

Man-management is a crucial part of a coach’s role, but there are times when it is impossible to keep everyone content and several big names have been ushered out the exit door after spats with the man in charge.

Joao Cancelo’s departure from Manchester City has been one of the headlines of the January transfer window, with the full-back signing for Bayern Munich in a deadline-day loan.

Cancelo has been one of Europe’s finest full-backs in recent seasons and has been named in the PFA Team of the Year in consecutive campaigns, with his hasty departure leading to speculation of a fall-out with Pep Guardiola at the Etihad.


Neither have confirmed a breakdown in their relationship, but as the speculation swirls we’ve decided to look at five big names shipped out after fall-outs with managers.

Jaap Stam

Sir Alex Ferguson has cited the decision to sell Jaap Stam was one of his greatest managerial mistakes, an error of judgement he later came to rue.

Stam had emerged as one of the Premier League’s most dominant defenders after his arrival at the club, a centre-back with raw pace, brutish strength and a sixth sense in anticipating danger. He won the treble during his first season in England and collected Premier League titles in each of his three campaigns at Old Trafford, earning inclusion in the PFA Team of the Year on each occasion.

The came his sale, one which few had seen coming. A £16.5m offer from Lazio was accepted, with Ferguson telling the Dutch defender his career with the club was over at a Manchester petrol station.

“I soon realised the club wanted to get rid of me. They also needed the money. Very soon the book became an issue again,” Stam recalled, as per the Sunday Mirror.

“It led to a conflict between me and the manager.”

Stam’s book Head-to-Head had angered Ferguson, after it implied the Manchester United manager had “tapped” him up and approached him without permission from former club PSV Eindhoven. It also revealed that Ferguson had encouraged his side to ‘dive’ in the penalty area.

Ferguson refuted the claims that Stam’s sale was a result of the book, claiming he felt the defender had lost a yard of pace after an Achilles injury. It is an excuse few have accepted, given Stam’s status at the time and future success over several seasons at Lazio and AC Milan.

Defensive Rocks: Jip Jaap Stam, a big Dutchman

Robbie Fowler

Robbie Fowler’s popularity at Liverpool saw the forward nicknamed ‘God’ on the terraces, following an exciting emergence that saw the Scouse striker score prolifically for the Reds.

Fowler burst onto the scene as a teenager and became the youngest player in history to reach 50 Premier League goals, as he netted 30+ in all competitions in each of his first three seasons in the senior side.

Fowler’s status deteriorated following the arrival of Gerard Houllier, with the forward enduring a strained relationship with his manager. He was left out of the side for both the FA Cup and UEFA Cup finals in 2000/01, as it became clear that Emile Heskey was Houllier’s preferred partner for Michael Owen.

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Fowler’s fortunes worsened when Phil Thompson took objection to a kick aimed in his direction at training and he was sold to Leeds in 2001. Upon his exit, Fowler took aim at Houllier and his assistant for forcing him out at Anfield.

“For all the decent people I’ve met at Leeds and Manchester City, for all the wonderful fans at those two clubs, I know I should still be at Liverpool now,” Fowler said in his autobiography after leaving Liverpool.

“It’s easy for me to blame Gerard Houllier for what happened, easy for me to say that I made a huge mistake in allowing his underhand campaign to force me out. Houllier did what he had to do, I guess he did what he thought was in the best interests of the club.

“I could be bitter towards Houllier and Phil Thompson, his assistant, but on a personal level I’m not. Away from his job Thompson is fine and I’m sure Houllier is the same.

“However, I still wish he hadn’t walked in that door at the start of the 1998 season. Houllier never gave me any respect.”

Ruud van Nistelrooy

Ruud van Nistelrooy was the main man at Manchester United for five seasons, a forward who guaranteed goals in the Premier League.

Van Nistelrooy scored 150 goals in just 215 appearances for the Red Devils, collecting a Premier League title, Golden Boot and a host of individual accolades at Old Trafford. However, his final season proved one of unrest as the Dutchman clashed with teammates and management.

Van Nistelrooy took objection to the performances of a young Cristiano Ronaldo, whose penchant for tricks and flicks frustrated a forward who had become accustomed to David Beckham’s delivery before his sale to Real Madrid in 2003.

After several bust-ups with Ferguson and assistant Carlos Quieroz, Van Nistelrooy’s fate was sealed following an angry outburst after he was left out of the 2006 Carling Cup final victory over Wigan.

“I called him something. I called him a number of things in a blind rage,” Van Nistelrooy said, as per the Daily Star. “Cocky and stubborn as I was, I couldn’t snap out of that for some time after. That’s how it all crashed.

“It was just really disrespectful, there were lots of other people there. It wasn’t all that outrageous in terms of words but it was completely out of order. Not done. I wasn’t proud of it, still am not.”

Van Nistelrooy signed for Real Madrid and fired the Spanish side to the title in 2006/07. United also moved on in his absence, winning three consecutive Premier League titles with Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney emerging as stars.

The feud was settled several years later as Van Nistelrooy phoned Ferguson to apologise for his behaviour in a regrettable end to his time in Manchester.

Noughties Nines: The greatest assassin, Ruud van Nistelrooy

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic became Barcelona’s record signing after a big-money move the Camp Nou, as the Spanish giants – treble winners the previous season – added the Swedish striker to their all-conquering side.

It began well for Ibrahimovic in Barcelona as he started the season in goalscoring form, but his relationship with Pep Guardiola soon nosedived. Lionel Messi’s desire for a more central role saw Ibrahimovic’s status reduced and the forward took objection to Guardiola’s man-management, branding the Catalan a ‘spineless coward’.

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Ibrahimovic was loaned to AC Milan after just one season in Spain before turning the deal into a permanent move. His relationship with Guardiola has remained fractious with a number of digs since aimed in his former manager’s direction.

Speaking in his autobiography, Ibrahimovic memorably quipped: “When you buy me, you are buying a Ferrari. If you drive a Ferrari, you put premium petrol in the tank, you hit the motorway and you step on the gas. Guardiola filled up with diesel and took a spin in the countryside. He should have bought a Fiat.”

Ibrahimovic also revealed how he had blasted Guardiola following Barcelona’s Champions League semi-final exit to Inter Milan in 2010. Ibrahimovic had been substituted with Barcelona chasing a goal to progress.

“Guardiola was staring at me and I lost it. I thought, ‘there is my enemy, scratching his bald head!’ I yelled: ‘You haven’t got any b***s!’ and worse than that I added: ‘You can go to hell!’ I completely lost it, and you might have expected Guardiola to say a few words in response, but he’s a spineless coward.”

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo’s second spell at Manchester United came to an acrimonious end in November, following a much-publicised fall-out with manager Erik ten Hag.

Ronaldo had agitated for a summer exit following the club’s failure to secure Champions League football and Ten Hag used the forward sporadically following his return to the squad.

Ronaldo’s unrest grew until his position at the club became untenable, following an explosive interview with Piers Morgan in which he blasted the club’s senior figures and claimed he had ‘no respect’ for Ten Hag.

Asked if he felt the club’s hierarchy had tired to force him out of the club, Ronaldo said: “Yes, not only the coach, but another two or three guys around the club. I felt betrayed.”

“I felt betrayed, and I felt like some people don’t want me here, not only this year but last year too. I don’t have respect for him (Ten Hag) because he doesn’t show respect for me. If you don’t have respect for me, I’m never gonna have respect for you.”

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s comments led to a messy divorce, with a mutual decision made to terminate his contract at Old Trafford. Ronaldo has since signed for Saudi side Al Nassr.

Read – Masters: Six of the greatest free-kick takers of all time

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