If Saturday was all about the debut of a new coach at one club, Sunday ended with a shock departure of a fan favourite at another. While Xavi began with a win at Camp Nou, Fran Escriba announced his own sacking in the post-match press conference after Elche’s 3-0 defeat at home to Real Betis.
In one of the more striking speeches in recent memory, Escriba defended his record at the club and lambasted the owner, Christian Bragarnik, also an agent. “You can buy a club, but you cannot buy the love of the fans,” exclaimed Escriba. This is in reference to the recent takeover of the club by Bragarnik and his agency company, Score, bringing with them a swathe of connections to South America, including glamorous signings like Javier Pastore and Dario Benedetto.
📯 𝗖𝗹𝘂𝗯 | Fran Escribá
— Elche Club de Fútbol 🌴 (@elchecf) November 21, 2021
“I’m sorry to have to leave like this. I’m very proud of what we achieved in this city and at this club. Nobody can take that away,” Escriba pronounced, before condemning the ownership once again with a weary air of resignation. “The president hasn’t taken into account how much I have done for this club, but he is the owner and he can make whatever decision he wants.”
Only then did the official announcement from the club arrive. A classic of the genre too, without the necessary sentiment for a man who brought Elche back to La Liga in his first spell and then kept them up on the final day of last season in his second stint. There is some justification for the move, however. Elche haven’t won in six matches and have collected just two points from 18, leaving them in the relegation zone. Nevertheless, fans were devastated by the news.
Taking a decision as surprising and antagonistic to the fanbase as this demonstrates the power and control now exerted by Bragarnik. With a 90% stake, Elche is his club now, A previous coaching change has already happened under this regime. At the end of the 2019/20 season, when Elche soared into the playoffs and up to La Liga, Pacheta – the man at the helm – was moved on after the playoff final in favour of Jorge Almiron, an Argentine coach. The fact that Escriba arrived six months later shows this wasn’t a successful appointment.
Gracias por todo señor, usted es para nosotros no sólo un héroe sino una leyenda para siempre💚😭 pic.twitter.com/78RsVRza4I
— Keith (@Keith_678) November 21, 2021
All sources point to another South American, with Hernan Crespo the headline name. The former marksman had success at Defensa y Justicia and initially at Sao Paulo, but neither reign lasted much more than a year. Making the move to a league in which he never played would be a bold one but is a logical step for Crespo, who may have aspirations to follow former-teammate Andriy Shevchenko to the benches of Serie A.
From Elche’s perspective, any appointment carries a significant risk. Fans trusted Escriba implicitly, and few doubted that he could arrest the poor form and improve their position once again. But he hasn’t been afforded that time, and now his successor faces a significant challenge to follow in his footsteps and try to keep them up again. It represents a significant gamble, with few guarantees of success. If things don’t progress quickly, the fans could soon turn on Bragarnik and the new coach, a situation which could rapidly toxify. The parallels down the road at Valencia would become too close for comfort, which is why Bragarnik’s next decision is make or break for him and Elche.