After winning the treble, Pirates opted not to renew coach Krol's contract - instead deciding to appoint Leal as the new tactician
By Clyde Tlou & Peter Pedroncelli
Orlando Pirates waited eight years for silverware to come their way, and then they managed three in the same campaign, in the form of the Premier Soccer League title, Nedbank Cup and MTN 8 Cup. All masterminded by the man the fans loved to hate, Ruud Krol.
Even after such an incredible milestone, which was a first in the country by any club, Krol did not have his contract renewed and was replaced by Brazilian Julio Leal, who had previously been in charge of Moroka Swallows.
When the season began Krol was a conflicted figure, with many fans vocal in their belief that he was not the right appointment to steer their beloved Buccaneers towards any sort of success, especially after he lost to their arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs twice - a great disgrace for the black half of the Soweto derby opponents.
While the reasons for Krol’s virtual sacking remain vague, in modern football decisions are made looking at profit, and Dr Irvin Khoza seems to subscribe to the notion that winning is not enough, otherwise he would have extended the Dutch tactician's contract.
Take Fabio Capello as an example. The current England national team manager was axed at Real Madrid in 2007 despite helping them win the league after a four-year wait. The reason was that he was playing “boring football” and proved very unpopular for keeping David Beckham on the substitutes bench.
In the same fashion, Krol faced criticism among the Bucs faithful for omitting Mark Mayambela and the Dutchman was often lambasted for making the wrong changes in key fixtures, although his treble proved that questioning a coach's methods only goes so far as the end of the season stats were in favour of Krol's tactics.
Orlando Pirates success | The treble-winning season will be difficult to follow
With Krol now out of the picture, the future lies in the hands of Leal. The Brazilian is no stranger to the local scene, as he has already coached two clubs, Moroka Swallows and AmaZulu. Leal comes from a football family, and one which has given a great deal to the growth of South African football, as his younger brother Jairo Leal is currently serving as the Bafana assistant coach.
AmaZulu brought Leal into the country to help steer their sinking ship to safety, and he did so by helping them survive the playoffs. At Swallows, the Brazilian mentor proved his undoubted potential by leading them to 2009 Nedbank Cup glory, their first major silverware in five years.
However, Swallows finished in 12th position in the 2009 PSL log, and for that reason he was shwon the door. Leal has been described as a 'scientific coach' by sources who have worked closely with him at Swallows and Amazulu; he uses technology to the fullest extent to get his charges playing the brand of football that he wants to see.
This type of approach has proven to be a tough sell, especially in Africa, and it may take the Bucs a while before they rediscover their title-winning form under the Brazilian. Jorge Bourges is Leal’s right-hand man in the fitness department, and will be doing the continuous assessment by way of biokineticists - a special form of exercise training.
The club chairman has said that the fans should not expect instant success, despite Leal's assertion that he will take no time at all to adjust to his new surroundings.
| Nedbank Cup
It will be a disappointment should the coach fail to bag any silverware at all, considering the fact only Krol has left the club following last season's immense success, and that the bulk of the championship-winning team is still there.
So, Pirates look to transform from a 'Total Football' team to a 'Samba' side under the Brazilian mentor, and the players' attitude and acceptance of his tactical set-up will determine whether or not further trophies can be expected in the new season.