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Oct 28, 2009

Déjà vu strikes Ramos' Russian reign

October 26 is a date that may send a shiver down Juande Ramos' spine. Exactly a year to the day since his unceremonious sacking from Tottenham, the Spanish boss was relieved of his duties at CSKA Moscow, after just 47 days, although the reasons for his exit are slightly more complex than the poor run of results that saw his tenure at White Hart Lane come to an end.

Ramos has had a curious career to date. Bursting to the world's attention when he turned FC Sevilla into a serious attacking force by winning back-to-back UEFA Cup trophies in 2006 and 2007, he appeared set to etch himself into Tottenham folklore when he led them to Carling Cup success in 2008, before the club's worst ever start to a season saw Harry Redknapp installed in his place.

A shock choice to take over at Real Madrid after the sacking of Bernd Schuster in December, he led Real to 49 points out of a possible 51, before a 6-2 capitulation to eventual La Liga winners Barcelona sealed his fate and his contract was not renewed in the summer.

Then came his appointment at CSKA Moscow this September. An unusual move, yet one felt that there was a chance he may be able to turn the club into a genuine force in the Russian league once again if given the right resources. He had shown his propensity for restoring some former glories to his previous sides and the Moscow club appeared to have the ambition, style of football and money to satisfy his desires; but it was not to be.

The club have had a relatively successful recent history. Attracting the likes of Vagner Love, Jo and Ivica Olic with (friend of Roman Abramovich and CSKA owner) Evgeny Giner's millions bankrolling them, they picked up an historic UEFA Cup trophy in 2005 and have continually pushed for top honours in the domestic game - winning back-to-back Russian Cups and dominating the league for a few seasons at the early part of the century.

However, the harsh weather conditions, unconventional playing surfaces and the language barrier have proved to be a stumbling block in their bid to sign foreign stars since and the club appear to have altered their philosophy to focus more on domestic talent as a result. Although that did not, initially, extend to managers.

The hugely popular Russian coach Valery Gazzaev, who won the UEFA Cup and a host of domestic trophies, was in charge for six years in Moscow and delivered unprecedented success for the club; but CSKA took a punt on Brazilian coach Zico as his replacement in early 2009. In many ways, Zico's brand of attacking football was similar to that of Ramos but, in working with foreign managers, Giner may have unwittingly reaffirmed his faith towards the homegrown.

With the demise of both Zico and Ramos inside just ten months, Giner's ''new plans'' appear to bring to an end the days of lavish spending and the Russian duo of Leonid Slutsky and legendary central defender Victor Onopko have been tasked with transforming the club into something new.

"We need to build a new team, which only a Russian manager can do," Giner told Radio Sport. "The contract was signed for three years. Our trust in Slutsky is as big as our enthusiasm about the club's prospects."

Giner's desire to return to Russian roots is clear, but in truth Ramos was always likely to struggle in a strange environment. Hailed as a trailblazer by the Spanish media, as he was the first Spanish manager to try his luck in Russia, a hefty paypacket may have cushioned the blow, but it was never going to be easy for him to settle in Eastern Europe and the decision of the board to restrict his moves in the transfer market only made the situation worse.

With no plans to strengthen the side for next season, the CSKA board made it clear that they would be relying on youth players and, once it was obvious that Giner's chequebook was going to remain closed, Ramos' motivation waned.

Ironically, the decision to part company with Zico at the beginning of September was fuelled by Giner's view that the Brazilian was unable to communicate with the younger players in the squad, claiming that he dealt with them on the pitch and in training, but was not interested in them outside of that.

Maintaining that Ramos was more ''strict'' than his Brazilian predecessor upon his arrival in Moscow, Giner paid a glowing tribute to the Spaniard and Ramos himself was enthusiastic over his early experiences, claiming that he ''had already adapted to Russia'' within a few weeks.

Yet results did not go his way. A shadow of the Rubin Kazan side that beat Barcelona in the Champions League, his squad did not make the most of their tough home advantage and notched up just a single win, despite claims that they would get out of their group. Trailing Rubin by ten points in the league campaign did not helped matters either and they currently sit in fifth with little hope of reaching a European place, as there are only four games left in the season.

But, while many pundits put the 3-1 derby defeat to FC Moscow as the primary reason for Ramos' departure, it appears that the Spaniard was already questioning his commitment to the cause.

"I didn't get the sack because of the loss against FC Moscow. I had told the club that I was not planning to extend my expiring contract, and that's the reason for my dismissal," said Ramos to Marca. "I did not want to stay in Russia, so they had to find a new coach. The technical director found a replacement who wanted to start the job right away and that was not a problem for me. I'm fine with my departure."

Ultimately, Ramos will not be the first to walk away from a job either for personal reasons, or for clashes with a club's owner. He may, however, be one of the first to celebrate the anniversary of one sacking with another.

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