Less than five months and Slaven Bilic is out of job as West Bromwich Albion manager.
According to Sportsmail, Bilic’s departure has been inevitable due to a breakdown in relations with Luke Dowling, the club’s sporting and technical director.
The sale of Ahmed Hegazi to Saudi club Al-Ittihad in October brought the rift into the public eye but the tension had been bubbling at the training ground ever since Bilic learned he would have just £25million, plus whatever he could generate from player sales, to spend on new signings for the top flight. Compare that with Leeds, who spent almost £100m on players.
West Brom argue that Bilic always knew his resources would be limited; Bilic would counter that he didn’t realise the extent to which they would be.
Why else would he have mentioned Ollie Watkins and Eberechi Eze as targets?
Watkins ultimately went to Aston Villa from Brentford for a fee that could reach £33m; Eze left QPR for Crystal Palace for £16m.
By the time West Brom finally made their move for Eze, the 22-year-old had already decided he would join Palace, even though he had been aware of Bilic’s interest two months earlier.
Bilic knew from the moment Albion won promotion that the squad needed strengthening, and felt those above him did not share his sense of urgency.
Filip Krovinovic was only re-signed for a second season loan from Benfica three games into the new campaign, while Karlan Grant wanted to leave Huddersfield for Albion at the end of last season but only did so in mid-October.
Other signings, notably goalkeeper David Button and defender Cedric Kipre, were not specific Bilic targets.
Part of the problem has been an absence of leadership: Bilic never met the club’s owner, Guochuan Lai, and the new chief executive, Xu Ke, has little football experience.
What has worried the hierarchy, though, is the nosedive in form since football resumed in June after the first lockdown.
Albion stumbled over the line to automatic promotion, winning just three of their final nine matches.
The new manager has a fighting chance of survival and a squad with some promising talent, notably on-loan Chelsea midfielder Conor Gallagher and defender Semi Ajayi.
Yet with little money available in January it will be no easy task to improve on what Bilic did.
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