Belfast Telegraph

John Laverty: Brendan Rodgers knows timing everything as Leicester manager's stock soars again

And how City could find themselves in a Sarrie mess

Old pro: Brendan Rodgers brushed off links to Arsenal, yet dropped in that he has a release clause in his Leicester contract
Old pro: Brendan Rodgers brushed off links to Arsenal, yet dropped in that he has a release clause in his Leicester contract
John Laverty

By John Laverty

So there you have it. He was asked about Arsenal, and gave a definitive response. "I'm very happy in my professional life," said Brendan. "Leicester is a great place to live and work and we have created a real unity here at the club."

No surprise there; how could Rodgers not be enjoying himself, with the Foxes riding high in the Premier League and his delighted bosses already hinting at an improved contract?

And yet…

Who was it that casually confirmed his current contract contains a get-out clause, allowing him to leave if a 'bigger club' comes calling? The Carnlough man sounded emphatic enough following his gifted young team's 2-1 victory over Everton that evoked memories of Leicester's fairytale Premier League title in 2016.

But you don't need a long memory to recall the anger of Celtic fans when Rodgers suddenly upped sticks in February when the club was striving for a unique 'treble treble'.

Many of those gutted Bhoys were quick to recall 'lifelong Celtic fan' Brendan's words on his first day at Parkhead in May 2016: "Celtic is one of the biggest clubs in the world, and for me to come out of the Premier League is certainly not a step down; it's a huge honour and a privilege."

Yet when Leicester - flirting with relegation in a league Rodgers insisted isn't a step up from the Scottish Premiership - came calling, the man who'd won every domestic trophy he'd competed for in Scotland apparently couldn't get his new blue tie on quick enough.

Go back a little further to his days as Swansea boss, and an interview he gave this newspaper in April 2012: "Swansea really reminds me of home. I feel at peace here and that allows me to work and work well. My overall objective... to inspire this city, both in terms of football and life and be out there in the community, bringing people together."

Just over a month later, Rodgers quit Swansea for Liverpool.

Again, I'm not suggesting the 46-year-old is being disingenuous, just that he knows better than most that in the loyalty-free zone that is football management, timing is everything.

His current club, for instance, would have been astonished if Claudio Ranieri had quit just after Leicester's incredible title win - yet the same club sacked their miracle man just nine months later.

Watford dismissed Marco Silva a few weeks after fighting tooth and nail to stop him leaving for Everton, and perhaps Mauricio Pochettino would be feeling a little better today had he followed his own gut instinct and quit Spurs after the Champions League final last May.

(Fun fact: the myriad of bosses fired by the trigger-happy Hornets in recent years includes Rodgers and Sean Dyche).

Brendan himself believed he deserved more time at Liverpool after taking them so close to their Premier League Holy Grail in 2014, yet being unceremoniously booted out of the club 17 months later.

His time at Celtic was peppered with trophies and helped re-establish him as a sought-after manager after the Anfield dream evaporated, but with Old Firm rivals Rangers still short of a return to their powerhouse status, football north of Hadrian's Wall remains a virtual one-horse race. Let's not forget that Rodgers' brief was (relatively speaking) European success, something his predecessor - and, as it turned out, successor - Neil Lennon flirted with.

Consequently, Celtic's wage bill under Brendan was, by Scottish standards, both eye-watering and unsustainable, 'the project' unfulfilled. A fiercely ambitious man, he probably felt he'd taken the Bhoys as far as he could. Fans say he should have waited for the treble treble, but would Leicester have waited for him?

He may not leave the King Power to join one of the sport's behemoths, but don't be surprised if he does.

How City could find themselves in a Sarrie mess

Former Ulster Rugby coach Mark McCall is probably still reeling from his Saracens boys being hit with a 35-point penalty and £5m fine for, among other things, breaching the sport's agreed salary cap.

As you know, Saracens are the current European and Premiership champions, eight of their players, including captain Owen Farrell, were in England's World Cup squad and few of rugby union's leading players would pass up the opportunity of joining them.

But they broke the rules by failing to disclose payments to players and exceeded the ceiling for payments to said players.

The punishment may appear draconian but Saracens were well aware of the regulations in place, and this is a classic example of a sport applying its own rules, impervious to the club's power in the modern game.

A couple of days after Saracens' punishment was announced, Manchester City failed in their initial bid to have the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) halt Uefa's investigation into an alleged breach of Financial Fair Play rules.

The probe into the world's richest football club began after German paper Der Spiegel claimed City had inflated the value of a huge sponsorship deal in an attempt to make it appear they had met their FFP obligations.

Last season's treble winners have form; they were fined £49m for a previous breach of regulations in 2014 and could now be banned from next season's Champions League.

Their detractors believe that football's mandarins could be just as merciless with City as their rugby counterparts were with Sarries, which would be quite a departure from the time, not so long ago, when they turned a blind eye to the big boys.

So if you were wondering why speculation about City boss Pep Guardiola's future has already begun, 18 months before his current contact expires, you can stop now.

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