Club America are run by a TV company, so they fire title-winning managers for being boring
Just one day after winning a Liga MX title, Antonio Mohamed has to look for a new job.
Antonio Mohamed just won the Mexican title with Club America in his second season with the club. They finished top of the table in the regular season before making their way through the playoffs, culminating in a 3-0 win in the second leg of the final to claim the championship in front of their home fans. Given the team’s recent history, it’s a fantastic accomplishment. The only other manager to claim a title with America since 2005 is Miguel Herrera, now Mexico’s manager.
Trophies are usually celebrated occasions, with a club’s board and fans alike praising their manager, but America’s owners, Televisa, are treating it like somewhat of a fluke. Instead of praising their manager, they’re telling him to get lost.
On Tuesday, Mohamed will be newly unemployed because his America teams weren’t fun enough. Even though he won the regular season and Liguilla crowns, he’s losing his job for being too boring. His employers are apparently concerned about his ability to keep viewers interested long term, even though a whole lot of people watched this season’s Super Clásico. America’s opponent wasn’t the draw for casual fans there — Chivas de Guadalajara are horrible.
Televisa’s position seems utterly ridiculous, but that clásico did end in an utterly dreadful 0-0 draw, after all. America was also shut out in their other regular season clásicos, against Cruz Azul and Pumas UNAM. Those matches draw the largest viewership, so in the eyes of America’s owners, they’re the gateway to interest in the team as a whole. To them, that means failing to score in clásicos matters more than winning Liguilla. It’s all about long-term TV ratings.
When Herrera left America for El Tri, Las Aguilas preferred a replacement who could continue their positive momentum over a young or up-and-coming project manager. Mohamed, who had recently led Tijuana to a league win and an impressive Copa Libertadores run, was an obvious choice.
But ‘El Turco’ isn’t exactly the same type of manager as Herrera. He’s used a lot of the same 3-5-2 system, but a variant that’s a bit less wide-open and exciting, and he certainly hasn’t stuck to it exclusively. His ability to work within back-four systems is a plus, too, but he usually switches between the two to create better defensive matchups, not to find more attacking spaces. He’s a more pragmatic manager than his predecessor.
However, Mohamed is not a negative coach. His side wasn’t great in front of net in his first tournament in charge, scoring just 21 goals in the regular season, but they posted 28 during this campaign, good for second-best in Mexico. It’s not far off the 31 goals that America scored during Herrera’s last season in charge.
Apparently, that’s not good enough for chairman Ricardo Peláez and the rest of the folks at Televisa. As the owners of Club America and the TV station that carries their games, they have a more vested interest in their football team being attractive to TV viewers than any other ownership group. Winning trophies doesn’t do much for them if ratings are down. Mohamed delivered a trophy on Sunday, but his bosses didn’t see enough entertainment value in his team.
Televisa doesn’t even have to fire Mohamed. He signed a one-year deal when he took over from Herrera, expiring at the end of this season. There have been no discussions about an extension and it appears there will be none. Before the final, reports surfaced that America had already hired Gustavo Matosas as Turco’s replacement. Televisa didn’t even give Turco a chance to win an extension with a great showing. They had their minds made up, and a 3-0 second leg victory hasn’t changed anything.
Mohamed seems unbothered by this. He doesn’t sound defeated, nor is he going out with middle fingers in the air. He calmly admitted ‘tomorrow is my last game‘ before the final, then went and celebrated with his assistants and family away from the rest of the club after the game.
Not only has Mohamed not said or done anything inflammatory in response to this seemingly absurd decision, he kept his mouth shut this summer too. America’s board sold his best player, Raul Jimenez, and parted company with a handful of other first-choice players. Even though he generally favors a more solid and defensive midfield than his predecessor, no direct replacement was bought for Juan Carlos Medina, who then had an excellent season for Atlas. Mohamed was set up to fail, was a complete and utter success, and then lost his job anyway.
Enter Matosas, who is almost the same manager as Mohamed, on the same career path. He came from South America to manage an Ascenso MX team with huge potential, brought them to the top flight, then won a title with a supremely talented squad that was loaded with full internationals despite being a second division club only a year prior. Though he left that club, he left with his reputation intact, and now he’s getting a chance to manage America. The big difference between the two is that Matosas is considered to be a tad more ambitious than sensible, and Mohamed the opposite. Oh, and Matosas got fired from his last job for poor results. Tijuana never fired Mohamed.
At America, Leon and El Tri stars Luis Montes and Carlos Peña (probably) aren’t walking through that door to carry Matosas to success. Televisa will spend, but probably not enough to bring in two talents of that caliber. Matosas will have to make do with midfielders who just aren’t as talented as the ones he had at Leon, and he’ll probably be on a short leash. If Mohamed got let go after winning a title, what will they do to Matosas if he’s outside of Liguilla places?
Mohamed can probably go do whatever he wants. He can get another Liga MX job, or a Primera job in Argentina, or go make a lot of money on the other side of the Atlantic. Meanwhile, America will play a more watchable, wide-open style of football and probably fail to capture a championship.
Will Televisa be happy with that? We’ll find out what the ratings look like next summer.