Poland coach branded ‘deserter’ for ditching team ahead of Russia showdown
Poland national team manager Paulo Sousa has been dubbed a 'deserter' by a furious local press after his intentions to leave the post became clear, as the Poles prepare to face Russia in a World Cup playoff in March.
As confirmed by the head of the Polish Football Association (PZPN), the 51-year-old has told bosses he wishes to stand down in order to take over Brazilian giants Flamengo.
With Poland set to take on Russia in a World Cup qualification playoff in Moscow on March 24, this has apparently "disappointed and shocked" star player Robert Lewandowski, according to his agent.
Revealing that Portuguese coach Sousa informed him he wanted to terminate his contract, which he "firmly refused", Polish football federation president Cezary Kulesza described the ex-Juventus and Borussia Dortmund midfielder's behavior as "extremely irresponsible" and "inconsistent" with his "earlier declarations".
At the turn of the week, the Polish media has taken a similar stance on Sousa's actions by dubbing him a "deserter" and a "traitor" as part of headline spreads on the matter.
Elsewhere in the local press, former goalkeeper Arkadiusz Onyszko told TVP Sport that Sousa's betrayal was akin to a father "leaving his children".
Former Lens and Lyon defender Jacek Bak said that Sousa, who only took up the post in January, is "not a classy man", and one of Kulesza's predecessors, Zbigniew Boniek, said he was "disgusted and a little disappointed".
Poland captain Robert Lewandowski's reaction to Paulo Sousa leaving: 🇵🇱"Robert is disappointed and shocked by the selekcjoner's decision, this is not something he expected would happen."🗣️ His spokeswoman, Monika Bondarowicz via Meczyki pic.twitter.com/xX28Xv201i— PSN Futbol (@PSN_Futbol) December 26, 2021
Kulesza remarked that he honestly "didn't expect such a surprise for Christmas from the coach", whose words "didn't convince me at all".
"He even stated that it was a good time to terminate the contract from the perspective of both parties," Kulesza explained. "[But] from our perspective, this is an absolutely fatal moment".
"We will soon play our most important matches for years," Kulesza pointed out, while also saying that Sousa's request "is a sign of disrespect towards all of us, fans, players and employees of the association".
According to the Polish media, a divorce between the national team and Sousa is "inevitable" but won't be granted without the two-time Champions League winner paying up to €300,000 ($340,000) in compensation, say ESPN Brasil.
🇵🇹 | Remembering when Paulo Sousa won the Champions League in consecutive years, the first whilst playing for Juventus, the second playing against them (for Dortmund). @paulomcdsousa | @ChampionsLeaguepic.twitter.com/43Y2KhiP7M— Próxima Jornada (@ProximaJornada1) November 13, 2021
Adam Nawalka, who led Poland from 2013 and 2018, has reportedly been approached to take over the reins.
And in getting their man, Flamengo extend a current trend in South America's largest country where Portuguese coaches are the flavor of the month.
In 2019, this was started when the Rio club employed now Benfica-boss Jorge Jesus to win them the Brazilian top flight and the continental equivalent to the Champions League, the Copa Libertadores.
Over in Sao Paulo at rivals Palmeiras, Jesus and Sousa's compatriot Abel Ferreira has clinched said trophy twice in consecutive years with the last of those victories coming at Flamengo's expense in a Montevideo final a month ago.