Chuck Martini, the Head Coach of the Muscat Football Academy, has always said that his former club Leicester City’s title-winning run two seasons ago was a fairytale. In this latest article of On the Ball, we talk to the former Morocco international goalkeeper about who’ll win the league next season, and what he thinks about his former club.
So, Chuck, do you think the Premier League could lose some of its best players this summer?
Yes, absolutely. The Premier League may be the most competitive league in the world, but it is not definitely the one which contains the best teams. You look at clubs like Real Madrid or Barcelona, they have to be the best clubs in the world and no one can match the sort of spending power or name that they have. Bayern Munich are also right up there with them, though they don’t maybe have the same sort of reputation that these two have, and I think Juventus would be another club people would be interested in moving to, although the Italian League does not have the same sort of reputation it once had, when AC Milan and Inter Milan were household names across the world.
Which clubs do you think are most vulnerable?
There’s a lot of talk about Arsenal losing a few players and I think that could happen because they have not qualified for the Champions League. Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are both top quality players so I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few enquiries there. Then there will be many agents looking to sign the players that have done a job for Spurs, because some of them will be wondering if Spurs can match their achievements this season in the future. In many ways, Spurs are entering that period Arsenal did when they entered the Emirates Stadium and had to sell so many of their best players, like Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy, Robin van Persie and even Thierry Henry because they couldn’t match the salaries that the other clubs at that level were paying. Tomorrow, if Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen or Hugo Lloris for example, to mention a few names, were offered a good deal by an overseas club, they’ll take it because they know that even if they don’t do so well, they can always come back to Tottenham and they’re likely to be welcomed because of what they’ve done.
What about clubs lower down the table, who have a couple of standout players?
I’d like to mention my old club, Leicester City, here, because last year, all the clubs wanted their players because they were doing so well, and this year, they will think twice about approaching them because they’ve not worked hard for the team and that makes you question their attitude and commitment. Take Riyad Mahrez for example. Last year, he was the talk of every team and people were queuing up to sign him. This season, he’s said he’s wanted to leave, but I don’t know how many clubs will want him again. It’s the same with Jamie Vardy. Arsenal came in and offered him a two-year deal which he should’ve taken with both hands. He was 29 and it’s not going to get much better than that. He chose to stay and he’s not done half as well, so when he is knocking on doors, who is going to entertain him?
N’Golo Kante took that opportunity and he’s done so well at Chelsea. He knew the time was right for him to move on and he’s now won two titles in two years.Elsewhere, Stoke could end up losing players like Bojan Krkic or Xherdan Shaqiri because they are very talented and the club really haven’t risen up the table. If a rapidly rising side like Bournemouth came in for them, or even Everton for that matter, this would be on their minds. I think that’s the problem with these mid-table clubs because they don’t have the resources to compete, and that’s what players want. It does sometimes leave a sour taste though because the fans support their players and the club have invested so much in them, and then you see someone like Dmitri Payet up and leave.
Do you think another Leicester-like miracle will happen in future?
What happened to Leicester is a fairytale. It happened with Blackburn in 1995 and no other club outside the traditional top five or top six have won it since. It maybe happens once every 10 years but I don’t think it’s going to happen again for a long time. I think though that Leicester, my old club, should have shown Claudio Ranieri more respect when it came to asking him to leave, they did it in a very poor manner and that happened because the players let him down. He was such a great guy and everyone was so happy to see him win because of who he is, and I think the players should have performed for him. When Martin O’Neill was at Leicester and I played under him, it was considered the best time the club had ever seen because they had never reached Europe before and he gave that to them, so he was considered the messiah, but Claudio Ranieri is now going to be a Leicester legend forever.