Who should hire Leonardo Jardim next?

Leonardo Jardim: The architect of Europe's most exciting team

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Initially ridiculed, now admired: Leonardo Jardim has turned Champions League semi-finalist AS Monaco into a title candidate.

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Leonardo who? You can't exactly say that the Monegasque football fans were cheering in each other's arms when they heard the name of the new coach. They wanted a man with a reputation for their AS. One who is one of the well-known in his field. After all, he inherited a certain Claudio Ranieri. Instead, they had to be satisfied with the Portuguese Leonardo Jardim. That was in the summer of 2014.

Today they are still dreaming in Monaco. But not from other coaches. You dream of your first championship title in 17 years. And they dream of a coup in the Champions League. Two obstacles still have to be cleared out of the way: The first is called Juventus Turin and will be playing in the semi-final first leg (from 8.45 p.m. in the live ticker) in the Principality tonight. The second would be Real or Atlético Madrid.

Jardim may not think that far ahead, but the importance of the championship - Monaco is three points ahead of Paris Saint-Germain in a game - and the Champions League was demonstrated by the 42-year-old in the Cup semi-final against PSG a week ago not a single regular player was in the starting line-up. Monaco went down 0: 5, the triple issue: done.

The excessive rotation earned him criticism: Jardim had no respect for opponents and competition, it was said. He replied, referring to the tightly packed calendar: “The players are not machines, they are people. Even I'm tired and I don't have to play. If I don't rotate, we'll be completely dead in May. " Three days later, the leader beat Toulouse 3-1, of course with more capable staff.

Jardim has a keen sense for his team. He is an avowed fan of the French philosopher Edgar Morin, whose concept of complex thinking he applied to sport. That means: Jardim understands football as a complex system that needs to be finely balanced. He says: “The most important thing is to have a team in which everyone gives their best and helps each other. The physical condition is not the decisive factor. With too much physical work you can destroy the whole system. "

Metaphorically speaking: “If you want to change the pH of a river, you are killing the whole ecosystem. The fish, the algae - everything dies. " It is such sentences that make Jardim an intellectual in his guild.

Before his team became a guarantor of a spectacle, he had to do some retouching. When Jardim started his work, he forced his team into an ultra-defensive corset, the season ended in third place and with 26 goals conceded, with only 51 hits on the other side. Critics derided the style as "chloroform football" because the tactics had a narcotic effect on the audience.

"A highly intelligent trainer"

The performance explosion didn't come until the third year when Jardim installed a 4-4-2 with a double six. And of course also because the young players - above all the 18-year-old striker Kylian Mbappé - have made great progress under the trainer. The reward is 95 league goals with 29 goals conceded, or: great entertainment. It is not presumptuous to say that AS Monaco are Europe's most exciting team at the moment.

“He's always there to help. He brought me a lot tactically, ”said the 22-year-old midfielder Tiemoué Bakayoko. Old hand Radamel Falcao raves: “He is a highly intelligent trainer. His dealings with the players brought him so much success. He has patience with the boys and is always calm. "

Born in Venezuela and raised in Madeira, it soon became clear that Jardim would not become a great footballer. He set the course for a career on the sidelines early on. At the age of 27 he was already assistant coach at the Portuguese third division club AD Camacha. Jardim also gained experience in handball, where he looked after a women's team for a year. “It's more difficult to work with women than with men. That time brought me a lot, ”he says today.

At 29, he rose to head coach at Camacha and worked his way up in the province until he was able to take over the first division club Braga and took third place. After only one season he moved to Olympiacos, but had to leave after 25 games, although he remained unbeaten in the championship and the Greeks overwintered in Europe. Rumors said Jardim got on a little too well with the president's wife. Via Sporting Lisbon, which he dreamed of in his youth, he finally found Monaco.

«Leonardo who?» today nobody asks anyone who deals with football. Not even beyond the Monegasque and French national borders.