Sunderland are considering taking legal action against ex-Head Coach Paolo di Canio following an interview over the weekend where the Italian criticized some of the players at the club who reportedly had a role to play in his departure from the club.
Di Canio was featured on the BBC’s Football Focus program this past Saturday, and while he spoke at length about his time at Sunderland, the quote that is likely to have riled the club was, "It depends what the club wants, if the club is weak then they believe in the players, if they are strong they believe more in the manager. That is not something that can only happen at Sunderland, it can happen anywhere.
"To be honest, I have never been part of a group of players that went to the chairman, because that is for cowards. I do not like that, it's not fair. I prefer confrontation with my manager."
It will be no surprise that di Canio prefers confrontation given how often in his short tenure at Sunderland his press conferences would run to excessive lengths and his various rants against everything from tomato ketchup and mayonnaise to predecessor Martin O’Neill.
However, the club appear to have taken exception, indicating that di Canio has appeared to breach a confidentiality agreement that would have formed part of his termination package. Sunderland released a statement this evening, part of which read, "Sunderland AFC would like to express its disappointment in relation to the disparaging comments made recently by Paolo Di Canio, regarding the club and its players.
"The club is immensely proud of its players for the dignified and restrained manner in which they have conducted themselves publicly since Mr Di Canio's departure and it is particularly disappointing to read such comments when there are legal obligations in place to ensure such behaviour does not occur.
"The club is now considering its position with its legal representatives."
The statement went on to note the club’s achievement in reaching the Capital One Cup Final, and it is notable that di Canio had nothing to say about that.
Whether this affects any chances di Canio had of getting another job at the top level remains to be seen, but given his confrontational nature it would appear this particular skirmish will head to court rather than end in an apology from the Italian who believes he is always right.
Today, the 45-year-old Italian strenuously denied news reports suggesting he was on the verge of taking over the reins at his old Serie A side, Lazio.
The ex-Sunderland manager was fired after just 13 games of the Premier League season after a string of poor results and ill-timed comments in the media – but let's be honest, someone as highly-sought after as the foul-mouthed Italian was not going to be out of a job for too many months.
But despite his links with the Rome club he left in 2006, Di Canio's insisting the role is not going to be for him.
It's all on the back of the current coach Vladimir Petkovic leaving at the end of the season to take over with the Switzerland national side ahead of the World Cup.
However, the Biancocelesti sit in 10th place in the table and it's expected that Petkovic will leave his post prematurely, with previous boss Edy Reja and Di Canio the front runners for the post.
Di Canio said: ""Me, coaching Lazio? With Lotito there, never in my life. I don't like him, but that's no secret."
Lotito refers to the Lazio chairman Claudio Lotito, who had a rather public falling out with Di Canio a number of years ago over, among other things, the former West Ham striker's well-known political stance.
Di Canio has been slated for his views after a number of fascist salutes in domestic matches.
However, he did later add: "It's clear that the coach no longer has the power, so maybe it's right to make a change."
"Some players could have lost motivation. Maybe they want to compete in different teams. For example, I'm thinking of Hernanes."
"But this is just my impression, as an outside observer."
It's clear that not all is rosy at the Stadio Olimpico – but the addition of Di Canio could make things even more chaotic as the season rumbles on.
Following Martin O’Neill’s comment last week that Paolo di Canio was a charlatan, it was inevitable that the Italian would bite back at the earliest opportunity.
Sky Sports News caught up with di Canio, not just to discuss O’Neill’s comments but also his general performance at Sunderland, which he staunchly defended.
Speaking exclusively to the channel, di Canio said, "I don't know if he knows the meaning of this word charlatan. Probably I can teach him, even if I am not English.
"I respect the opinion of manager Martin O'Neill but the fact that he spoke after six months, not straight away, that proves what kind of level he is. He is not very big. A charlatan is a manager who spends £40m (about $54m USD) to be a top 10 club and then sees the club sink into the relegation zone."
Ouch. If there was ever going to be a thawing of relations, it seems to have been thrown away almost immediately! O’Neill also lambasted di Canio for mentioning the players’ fitness at Sunderland when it suited him, but di Canio stands by his remarks.
Continuing, he said, "I had players who told me they had cramps from driving the car. I had three players with injuries in the calf after 20 minutes of a game. Six different players with problems means they were not fit."
Di Canio also accused defender Phil Bardsley, who he had problems with while at the club, of treason, after mocking the club following their opening day loss to Fulham, saying, "At the beginning of the season, he made tweets celebrating the defeat of the club that pay him. A person at the club came to me and said 'we want to fine him', and I agreed.
"He was celebrating, that is the worst treason for the people next to you. It is clear that he tried to destroy his career on his own."
The Italian finished by proclaiming himself ready to get straight back into management, adding, "The sacking made me stronger. I am my own worst critic. Sometimes a situation like this gives you a graduation. I think my level was too high for this situation.
"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger. I cannot wait to have another chance in the right place with the right people who let me work my way. Now I am a better manager than before, much better."
No doubt di Canio’s comments will be met with a variety of emotions; although given how many perceive him, it is doubtful he is ever going to be given a chance anywhere his level won’t be “too high for the situation.”
New Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill has described Paulo di Canio as a “managerial charlatan”. The former Sunderland manager was replaced at the Stadium of Light by the Italian in March after his side slipped into the relegation zone.
Di Canio managed to keep the Black Cats in the top flight but criticised O’Neill from the oft claiming he had inherited a squad with unfit players. O’Neill has kept quiet on the criticisms leveled at him however when asked what he thought of Di Canio, the new Irish boss said "Paolo Di Canio? That managerial charlatan.
"Paolo stepped in there and basically, as the weeks ran on, he ran out of excuses. I had a wry smile to myself. It was like a 27-year-old manager stepping in and the first thing you do is criticise the fitness of the team. If you've ever seen Aston Villa play, you'll see the one thing I pride myself on is teams being fit."
When Gus Poyet was appointed Sunderland manager last week, he insisted in his media unveiling that he was not another Paolo di Canio, or a “di Canio lite” that was going to be the same as the abrasive Italian but in a less obvious manner. A number of comments on various soccer forums, however, as well as remarks from players who have played under Poyet before, most notably Vicente, had many fearing this would indeed be the case.
Poyet, speaking to Sky Sports, has not done anything to dismiss any fears with his latest comments, saying his players face a “nightmare” 24 hours ahead of their away fixture with Swansea City on Saturday afternoon. "The Thursday and Friday before the Swansea game will be unbelievable for them," said Poyet. "The amount of information they are going to get is incredible.
"It will be a nightmare for the players coming back. They will all be together for the first time. I need them all in to convince them to be ready. It is going to be very demanding for them over those days. Mentally, not physically as much. We need them all to know what has been happening over the last eight days, we need them prepared for the Swansea game."
He added: "I have spoken to a few of the guys who have been away on international duty. It's not nice for the players to be away when a new manager comes in. They will think 'there's a new manager who has come in, I haven't been around, so I am going to be out of the team'. It's nothing to do with that. Nothing like that. I want them all to be relaxed about me being here when they come back to training. I want them to just get themselves back here normal and fit."
Poyet has already seen enough of the players he has had at his disposal in recent days to be confident he can keep the team in the Premier League, despite their awful start, although he admitted that he expects the players to adapt to his demands quickly, and said those that do not might not be in his team. Poyet continued, "I just ask them to believe and be really open minded in the beginning. They need to take it on board and to take it on board very quickly. Those who do it quickest stand a greater chance of playing.
"It's about knowing about everything we need to do on the pitch, to commit to the cause and we need to do it quickly. That's the most difficult part. It's difficult to talk about my style. But I try to make it easy for the players to go on to the pitch and feel comfortable, without excuses. To go on to the pitch and perform to their best. There are no doubts on their mind. We have to make sure we use their strength. There are players with plenty of quality here."
Poyet seems to have a good reputation within the game, despite the comments from Vicente and others, although whether he is able to keep Sunderland in the division or whether, as some have mockingly suggested, he has been appointed to help the club get promoted from the Championship next season, is another matter completely.