The Biggest Losers of 2009: Ranieri, Referees, Ireland and More!

There are winners and there are losers in football and it’s time to weed out those who suffered in 2009. But losing is not a simple concept. Some are major contributors to their own downfall and deserve the brick bats that come their way, while others are victims of circumstances and probably deserve better…..and in our 2009 review we’ll look at both, some with sympathy, others without.

And for the first time this year we have a unique situation! Someone who appears in BOTH the Biggest Winners and the Biggest Losers categories…which just goes to show how complex an exercise this is!

So, once again, it’s 11 of the best (worst), in no particular order and without apology!

1. Newcastle United

newcastle-unitedMike Ashley featured on this list last year and since then things have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous for the Geordie giants. How much money he wants, what potential suitors he considers attractive, and when the deed will (if ever) be done, has all the hallmarks of a precocious teenager offering her virginity on EBay.

This lifelong Newcastle fan has become a laughing stock and duly delivered relegation to his club in the midst of a circus of managerial speculation and choices….but the biggest losers have been the club and their passionate supporters.

Yes, they look like bouncing straight back but, for a team who should be breaking into the top 4, along with Villa, Spurs and City, Ashley has condemned his club to a place amongst the biggest losers of 2009!

2. Claudio Ranieri

claudio-ranieriIs it just me who thinks that ‘The Tinkerman’ is one of the nicest guys in football? Now on his 10th club (11th job, counting two spells at Valencia) Claudio seems to get a raw deal at times.

Sacked by Juventus in May after just two seasons, his crime appeared to be that he didn’t deliver in the Champions League, and 2nd in Serie A was not quite good enough for a club recovering from ‘scandal’. Yes, ‘The Old Lady of Turin’ had higher expectations and Ranieri paid the price.

The only time in his 11 managerial posts to date that he bettered a 50% win rate was at Chelsea. Proof, if it were needed, that good guys don’t always come first. Claudio is now at Roma who are currently 5th in Serie A.

Unfortunately, one of this year’s losers, but let me ask you this…….if you had a choice of taking Keane (Roy), Maradona, or Ranieri home for tea with your granny….who would you choose?

3. Scottish Football

scotland-flagIt is not unreasonable to ask at this point WTF is going on in the land of Braveheart. I grew-up cheering-on quality Scotland sides, full of talent, in international competitions. What’s gone wrong? …… Where to start?

  • A national team (largely) bereft of talent and unable to mount a serious challenge.
  • A managerial roundabout that seems to have no end.
  • A League that even the TV moguls don’t appear to be interested in.
  • Celtic and Rangers (the shining lights and erstwhile ambassadors) embarrassing themselves in the Champions League.
  • The aforementioned wishing to bail to the Premier League but given short shrift.
  • Financial problems (is it any wonder, considering the above)…Rangers, in particular, carrying that flag…….

Where does this fall from grace end for a proud footballing nation? It surely can’t get much worse than being on the Soccerlens list of 2009’s biggest losers!

4. Thierry Henry

Thierry-Henry-HandballLoser? You’ve got to be kidding…right? Didn’t he win the treble with Barca?

Well yes, but Henry’s fall from grace came later in the year. An almost Maradonaesque handball (twice!) in the lead up to France’s deciding goal against the ROI to propel ‘Les Blues’ into South Africa 2010 brought the world spotlight on Thierry like never before.

Cheat… they cried! Sacre Bleu!….off with his head! Henry duly admitted his offence, apologised and suggested that a replay would be justified. But many ex-pros, pundits and fans condemned his action and deemed his previously (almost) impeccable record to be tarnished.

Yes, poor old Thierry has lost some of his gloss in the eyes of many observers and so makes our list for 2009.

5. Referees

refereeWell they have to be on the list don’t they?….on the basis that they just can’t win!

The ‘respect campaign’ turned out to have about as much integrity as Tiger’s squeaky clean image. All year long managers and players were lining-up like cocktail waitresses to have a pop.

You’ve got to have a serious masochistic streak to want to go anywhere near the profession.

Agreed, some do themselves no credit at all. I can think of a couple of Scandinavians, one in the Chelsea v Barca CL semi and another in the France v ROI WC play-off who fit that category perfectly (more of both later), but can a single pair of eyes ever second guess twenty TV cameras and get away with it?

Extra officials and video technology have been talked about ad nauseum but until something concrete is done the ‘boys in black’ will forever be the ‘whipping boys’ and subject to our unrestrained ridicule.

But would you be happy if it were an exact science and we had no excuses to fall back on, nobody to blame, and no longer had licence to question the man in the middle’s birthright from the stands?

Be careful of what you wish for! Every drama needs it’s villain after all!

6. Liverpool Fans

liverpool-fans2009 has been a year to remember for Liverpool fans for all the wrong reasons. A bit like the guy who was about to make the final assault on Everest only to fall off the mountain, there seems no end in sight for the beleaguered Red’s fans to the roller-coaster ride that began when the Yanks arrived.

Starting the year on top of the PL and ‘with hope in their hearts’ like never before…. January and February proved the bleakest of months. The roller-coaster surged again as they hit a purple patch but ultimately they lost out as their greatest rivals refused to blink on the run-in.

The summer started well with the departure of Ronaldo and Tevez from United but ended in a whimper with the loss of Alonso and insufficient resources to strengthen a squad lacking in depth. Few would have foreseen what has unfolded since. Many now seem to have turned against their manager but the majority still hold sway and what would it cost anyway? Are they paying the price for misplaced loyalty?

Maybe, but they’ve certainly had a rough ride and 2010 can surely only get better for the Kopites!

7. Sepp Blatter

sepp_blatterThe clown prince of football! There are no end of moments in the ‘life of Sepp’ to justify his selection on this list.

We had the ‘refusing to let Ronaldo go to Real Madrid being tantamount to slavery’ comment in 2008, followed this year by the ‘child slavery’ comment in relation to young players being bought by big clubs and moved away from their country of origin (English clubs taking the brunt of this particular barb….surprise, surprise!).

Regardless of the issues in point, does a man representing the most successful sport on the planet with an agenda to develop the game, in particular, in emerging 3rd world nations, not consider how profound (and real) the issue of slavery actually is in some of these places before coming-up with such inane, inappropriate and outrageous analogies, when talking about situations that involve serious wealth and opportunity, the like of which the majority of the population can only dream of?

And according to Sepp, after the ‘hand of Gaul’ incident, extra officials were firmly on the agenda with a view to SA 2010. For about 2 weeks that was before he decided that no changes would take place for the World Cup. I’m not arguing for or against, I just want this idiot to either piss or get off the pot!

Sepp normally hands out the prizes at all the big events but now it’s my turn and I am proud to give a 2009 Soccerlens Losers Gong to the Swiss windbag.

(OK, I’ve now put my soapbox into cold storage for the winter!)

8. The Republic of Ireland.

republic-of-irelandIt could have been a cooking contest really. The ‘gourmets’ of France rolled into Dublin and served up some cordon blue, easily outclassing the Irish bacon and cabbage. Game over!….or so we thought.

But the ‘Boys in Green’ had 4 days to pour over the cookery books and served-up an Irish stew of rare quality in Paris. Robbie was the head chef and as the judges were about to declare a draw, followed by a lottery, one judge dug deep into the Irish pot and uncovered a swede! And that’s where it all went wrong!

Now swedes (turnips to the Irish or neeps to the Scots) just ain’t an ingredient in Irish stew….and referee Martin Hansson emerged from the pot to spoil everything for the ROI.

The fiasco that followed was a bit embarrassing. Brady filleted Blatter with his tongue and Sepp duly put his foot in his mouth again. But it consigns the ROI to this year’s losers list…..with some sympathy!

9. Sven Goran Eriksson

sven-goran-ericssonYes, Sven retains his place on the podium from last year and is now in danger of becoming a perennial loser! Sacked by Mexico in April after less than a year in the job, Sven left with a 46% win record and Mexican fans dancing on their hats.

From there the next stop for carnival Sven, in an increasingly strange career, was none other than the glamour of Notts. County in England’s League Two… director of football. In a brief few months he has presided over the bizarre Sol Campbell affair, lost not one but TWO managers and just this week there is speculation that he himself may be departing!

Someday soon Sven will be awarded with his own TV soap opera….but until then he’ll probably be appearing in this slot fairly regularly!

10. Chelsea

ballack-chases-refThey did win the FA Cup but along the way they lost ‘Big Phil’ and as he crashed and burned so too did their challenge for the PL. But none of that is the reason for their appearance on this list.

No, it’s the CL semi-final loss to Barca that qualifies ‘The Pensioners’ for that distinction. And, as if I need to remind them, they need look no further than a Norwegian by the name of Tom Henning Øvrebø to understand why.

One of the most appalling refereeing displays of this or any other year left Chelsea bemoaning four decent penalty shouts as Barca felled them with a last minute Iniesta strike.

Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba clearly thought it was all a load of ‘ballacks’….and let the world know.

But it certainly denied The Blues a place in the final and, judging by the Man Utd team that turned-up in Rome, a chance for revenge and to reach Abramovich’s personal ‘Holy Grail’.

11. Rafa Benitez

rafael_benitezYes folks! history has been made! Rafa gets a matching pair this year….a unique achievement but a worthy winner indeed.

Starting the year on top of the pile….Rafa blew it with some style. We had the ‘Rafa Rant’, the attack on David Gill, the berating of Parry over Agger’s contract, and his own public contract negotiations…..all while his team blew their best ever chance of a PL title.

He went on to lose Alonso, having sewn those particular seeds a year earlier, and spent his money on a player who was long-term injured. With squad depth an issue let’s not forget that the Robbie Keane fiasco also concluded in 2009.

Out of the CL at the Group stages and an abysmal league campaign so far, you’re left wondering whether Rafa’s operation last year was really for kidney stones as opposed to marbles on the brain.

But just this week Rafa has guaranteed 4th place to Liverpool fans so, considering that Fact, things can only get better in 2010!

Honourable Mentions

Diego Maradona

His hide may have been saved by squeaking through to SA 2010 but his team selection, man management, and tactics were abysmal. The icing on the cake was the rant explosion that followed qualification….proving, if proof were needed, that here is a man several sandwiches short of a picnic.

Adem Ljajic

The young Serb prodigy saw his dream move to Man. Utd destroyed, either because Fergie went off him or the price wasn’t right (affordable). Either way a big loss for the kid….and maybe Utd too?


Yes, football everywhere merits a mention this year with the loss of the late, great Sir Bobby Robson! One of the games true gentlemen, Sir Bobby battled on and played a part right to the end. May he rest in peace and long be remembered!

So that’s my list for 2009! There were many other contenders who just missed out and I’m interested to hear your selections….as always!

Also See:

The Biggest Winners of 2009
The Biggest Winners of 2008
The Biggest Losers of 2008

Landon Donovan is USSF Male Athlete Of The Year for 2009
The Biggest Winners of 2009: Barca, Blanc, Benitez (?) and More


  1. John 9 January, 2010
  2. BD Condell 9 January, 2010
  3. John 9 January, 2010
  4. BD Condell 10 January, 2010