Sporting manager Jesus leaves as crisis rumbles on

Lisbon (AFP) – Sporting have agreed to release coach Jorge Jesus, one of the staff attacked by fans in May, so he can take a position in Saudi Arabia.

The Lisbon club’s season ended in crisis after masked supporters attacked Jesus and several players at their training centre in suburban Lisbon. That was followed by the arrest of 23 people.

The club informed the Lisbon stock exchange on Tuesday that the 63-year-old Jesus was leaving with one year left on a contract which reportedly paid 7m euros ($8.25m) annually.

Jesus came to the club in 2015, after winning three titles in six seasons with their great rivals Benfica, but at Sporting he won only one league cup and one Portuguese Supercup.

Jesus has spent his entire playing and coaching career in Portugal. His name was one of many that was linked to Real Madrid after the resignation of Zinedine Zidane, but he has agreed to join Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia.  

He is not the first to leave the club. 

On Friday, goalkeeper Rui Patricio, who is part of Portugal’s World Cup squad and has played 327 times for Sporting, unilaterally broke his contract citing “gross negligence” surrounding the assault. 

The club’s president, Bruno de Carvalho, responded by accusing Jorge Mendes, the powerful Portuguese agent who represents Patricio, of “profiting from a delicate situation” and using “blackmail” to secure a big commission when the goalkeeper signs somewhere.

Portuguese media have reported that the club’s dressing room leaders blame de Carvalho, a former leader of a group of ultra fans, for the problems and have threatened to quit the club if he does not resign. 

The 46-year-old, who is nicknamed the “president-supporter” has given no sign that he plans to do so and is campaigning for a second term as president.

In April, de Carvalho launched a rant on social media following Sporting’s 2-0 Europa League quarter-final first leg loss to Atletico Madrid, accusing the club’s most experienced players of making “stupid mistakes” that “exacerbated our suffering”.

When players hit back on social media, de Carvalho responded by briefly suspending 19 of them, only to then back down.

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