It would be fair to say that eyebrows were raised when Guy Luzon was given the managerial post at Standard Liege. But the Israeli has not taken long to silence his critics as the team are strong candidates to reclaim the championship title they won in 2010/11.
Indeed, Luzon has turned into something of a surprise package as Liege have led the league since the start of the season. But that does not mean that the former Israel Under-21 manager is universally loved.
Jan Boskamp, a former Liege player and top commentator on Belgian TV, has led the criticism of Luzon. He predicted earlier in the season that "Luzon won't reach Christmas. If you read between the lines of what
players like Tal Ben Haim are saying, you can see that he has lost the dressing room".
In fact, former Premier League star Ben Haim, who was unhappy about the amount of time he was spending on the bench, is believed to have told a local newspaper: “I’ve never seen anything like the amount of rotation Luzon uses, even at Chelsea.” But after being reprimanded by the club, Ben Haim insisted the Belgian journalist had not understood his English.
Luzon brushes aside the criticism, which mainly focused on poor performances in the Europa League, which saw Liege finish bottom in Group C with just one point in a very weak group against Danish, Swedish and Austrian opposition.
"I apologise about the European campaign, but these were just practice matches,” Luzon said. “The real target is the league title, and if we weren’t a good team, we wouldn’t be top. People are welcome to criticise me, but they seem to forget we are top."
Luzon has long been a controversial character since being appointed when he was just 26 to manage Maccabi Petach Tikva, the Israeli Ligat Ha’Al team then owned by his uncle Avi Luzon. Although he failed to make the grade as a player and with little coaching experience, he consistently kept the team near the top of the table, including a second place finish in 2007. He failed after a few months when moving on to Hapoel Tel Aviv.
There were screams of nepotism when uncle Avi, now chairman of the Israel Football Association, appointed him manager of the Israel under-21 team. Even before a decent showing in the Euro 2013 finals in Israel in the summer — which included a 1-0 victory over England — Liege announced that Luzon would be their manager this season.
Maccabi Petach Tikva is now owned by Avi Luzon’s brother, Amos, who recently appointed Avi’s son, Yitav, as the coach.