Club Over Country: Dick Advocaat, Alex McLeish Take Offers They Cannot Refuse

Alex McLeishAlex McLeish and Dick Advocaat go back a bit. As the latter moved upstairs from the manager’s chair to the general manager’s office at Ibrox in 2001, he recommended to Rangers Chairman David Murray that he should pluck Alex McLeish from Hibernian to take up his old job. The two have been friends ever since, even though both have moved on since, McLeish first to the Scotland job, and Advocaat initially to manage the Netherlands.

One wonders if McLeish called Advocaat for advice this week, as he mulled over a not obviously tempting offer from Birmingham to guide them during a relegation battle.

Ironically, Scotland had just been drawn to take on the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign and given their recent excellent performances under McLeish (including an outstanding 1-0 win over France in Paris), they were expected to give Advocaat’s former team a good run for their money.

McLeish, already a member of Scotland’s Hall of Fame for his outstanding displays in the 1980s, seemed to have a chance to become a national legend.

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Now, though, Scotland are in disarray, as McLeish chose to quit for Birmingham just ten months into his contract. Birmingham reportedly tripled his salary to over $2M per year, and McLeish banged on about the offer as if it were a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity.

If McLeish did ask Advocaat if he should take the money or honour his commitment to a national team, he would have received a simple answer — take the money, fool.

For only two weeks ago, Advocaat himself put the riches of club football over a commitment to a national team. Unlike McLeish, he didn’t even manage to fulfill any of his contract. Advocaat, managing Zenit St. Petersburg, had agreed to take up the Australia job after the end of the Russian season and before the World Cup qualifying campaign.

Such was Advocaat’s success with Zenit, as they won their first ever Russian Premier League title just a couple of weeks ago, and such is the money now flying around the Russian Premier League (not unlike England’s Premier League, if on a lesser scale) that Zenit decided to make Advocaat an offer that, well, he just couldn’t refuse.

“I couldn’t refuse this offer,” Advocaat said. “It was quite a lot of money, to be honest. It was not double, it was more. Much more.” Nevermind Australia are left without a coach with the World Cup qualifiers starting early next year.

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Australia are trying to extract compensation for Advocaat’s disloyalty, FFA boss Bill Buckley said.

We’ve now prepared our case, we intend to go to FIFA, and I think this goes beyond the issue of just compensation.

This is an issue which needs to be looked at by FIFA in terms of a coach putting a member association under some duress by not honouring a contract. There’s a principle at stake that needs to be looked at.

We also know Alex Ferguson told McLeish (who he managed at Aberdeen in the 1980s) to take the Birmingham job. Ferguson, who once stepped in to help his country out after Jock Stein’s death, seems unconcerned that the Scottish F.A. are left picking up the pieces now, for the second time in a year.

As SFA chief executive Gordon Smith rather sorrily put it, there’s little they can do.

We realise that this could happen again to us – but we’re looking for a person who can take the team forward rather than the profile being someone who will not be attractive or attracted to teams at a higher level. It’s just something we have to accept.

We can produce a stronger contract – that is something we’ll be looking at. We might have to make it much more difficult for the person to leave. Then again, the other person’s lawyers might not like that.