Thursday, April 25x-press.net - Unleash the News at the Speed of Thought!

Managerial merry-go-round: Predicting hires for top jobs

Find the biggest stories from across the soccer world by visiting our Top Soccer News section and subscribing to push notifications.

Forget the transfer window. World football’s biggest source of summer intrigue may very well come from a bevy of impending coaching hires after some of Europe’s most illustrious jobs suddenly became available all at once.

Jurgen Klopp dropped the first bombshell, deciding to depart Liverpool at the end of the campaign after a transformative nine-year spell at Anfield. Then, Xavi Hernandez, citing the “cruel and unpleasant” nature of his work at Barcelona, announced he would do the same. Bayern Munich and Thomas Tuchel promptly followed by confirming they will part at season’s end, too. In the blink of an eye, three coveted coaching positions at iconic clubs opened up at a time when some of the sport’s most decorated tacticians just so happen to be looking for work.

With that in mind, and with several other elite teams likely also looking for a new bench boss, we’re identifying ideal candidates for each job.

Open seats

Barcelona

Hansi Flick

Stuart Franklin / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Xavi’s decision to leave his post was the most surprising of all the recent announcements. Klopp has spent nearly a decade at Anfield, winning almost every possible trophy, while Tuchel’s fit at Bayern was always tenuous, at best. The decorated ex-midfielder, however, only took over at Barca in 2021 and led his former team to a league title in his first full season. Even still, he said the job was “terrible on a mental health level” and sapped his morale. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Constant criticism, financial decay, and off-field disarray may deter some, but this remains one of the sport’s biggest roles.

Former Bayern Munich and Germany manager Flick checks too many boxes to be overlooked. He led Bayern to a treble in 2020, has experience dealing with big personalities, and his attack-minded style gels with Barcelona’s longstanding philosophy. Perhaps most critically, he’s not under contract anywhere else, so cash-strapped Barca wouldn’t have to pay a fee to obtain him. In what could be viewed as a preemptive move, Flick joined Pini Zahavi’s Gol International agency in February. The Israeli super agent has very close ties with Barca president Joan Laporta, particularly after brokering Robert Lewandowski’s transfer in 2022. That relationship matters, and it puts Flick in prime position to become the next Barcelona manager.

Bayern Munich

Sebastian Hoeness

Make no mistake, Bayern Munich want Xabi Alonso. The tug-of-war with Liverpool is underway behind the scenes. Should they miss out on their primary target, though, there’s another young tactician making waves in Germany who would be a perfect fit at the Allianz Arena. Were it not for the remarkable job Alonso’s doing at Leverkusen, Hoeness, 41, would be the talk of the town. Stuttgart were last in the Bundesliga when he assumed the job in April 2023. After navigating a relegation playoff to remain in the top tier, he now has them sitting comfortably in a Champions League place, mixing possession-based football with occasional bursts of more direct play.

That he recently signed a contract extension with Stuttgart complicates matters, but only somewhat. It wouldn’t be prohibitive. Bayern can afford to pay whatever is necessary to pry him away. If anything, seeing their title-winning streak end will only strengthen their resolve to do so. And then there’s that famous name. Hoeness’ uncle, Uli, is Bayern’s honorary president and still wields immense power. His father, Dieter, scored over 100 goals for the Bavarian outfit. And Sebastian himself has already worked for the club, winning a third-division title with Bayern’s U23 team in 2020. Those connective tissues are tough to ignore.

Liverpool

Xabi Alonso

Alexander Hassenstein / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The enormity of the task facing Liverpool can’t be overstated. Klopp is more than just a wildly successful manager who brought the Merseyside club back to the pinnacle of the sport. He’s a truly beloved figure who forged an unbreakable connection with the city and fans. He cares deeply about the people at the club and has always wanted everyone to share in its success. Replicating that 100% with their next hire, is, frankly, impossible. There isn’t another Jurgen Klopp out there. Liverpool need to find someone with similarly holistic values who can take what the German has built and put their own mark on it. One man stands out as the obvious choice.

Alonso, the club’s top target, isn’t a perfect stylistic match on the pitch. Liverpool, who value a data-driven approach to these decisions, will already know that the Spaniard’s Leverkusen team doesn’t play the same type of aggressive vertical game that Klopp’s men have long thrived on. But he can be adaptable, as his players have noted during their remarkable unbeaten season thus far. He trusts his tactical ideas but isn’t beholden to them. Having spent five years at Anfield during his playing career, there’s also a bond already in place that the other realistic candidates cannot claim. And, crucially in the supporters’ eyes, he has Klopp’s approval; the outgoing coach recently dubbed Alonso the “standout” manager of the new generation. There are plenty of good options available, but he’s the right one for Liverpool.

Other clubs to watch

AC Milan

Fluctuating levels of fan satisfaction with a manager isn’t unique to AC Milan. Far from it. But, even within that context, the constant shift in sentiment toward Stefano Pioli has been disorienting for some time. The Italian was a hero when he delivered Milan their first Scudetto in over a decade in 2022 and then got them to the semifinals of the Champions League.

But his poor record against city rivals Inter is the cause of much consternation, and, even though Milan have surged up to second place in Serie A in 2024, rumors about Pioli’s potential successor have been swirling for much of the season amid inconsistent performances and some humiliating defeats. Antonio Conte, seemingly ready to return to the touchline after spurning Napoli’s advances last year, could complete an Italian trifecta having already coached Juventus and Inter, where he won league titles with both.

Bayer Leverkusen

Angel Martinez / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Xabi Alonso’s departure is all but guaranteed. The identity of his potential successor, however, is a mystery. What’s most unusual is the lack of chatter. By now, you’d expect agents and intermediaries to leak information about their clients being connected with the job. Maybe the big-name coaches view it as a poisoned chalice?

Barring a huge collapse, Alonso will guide Leverkusen to their first-ever Bundesliga title. Any incoming boss will be held up against that standard and have to deal with a rejuvenated Bayern Munich while likely losing some of the club’s top talents in the summer. The best fit, then, is a young manager who, like Alonso when he arrived at the BayArena, is trying to rise through the ranks. Spanish legend Raul, currently coaching Real Madrid’s Castilla, has history in Germany from his time at Schalke and fits that bill. After experiencing huge success with one ascendant Spaniard, why not another?

Borussia Dortmund

Edin Terzic’s position has been under threat ever since Dortmund’s brutal collapse on the final day of the 2022-23 campaign handed the title to perennial rivals Bayern Munich. The team’s error-prone performances this season have done little to quell speculation over his future. Dortmund sit fourth in the Bundesliga, one point above RB Leipzig in the race for the division’s final Champions League place.

The next two months will almost certainly be decisive, both for the club’s fortunes, and Terzic’s. Coming out of the international break, Dortmund play Bayern, Stuttgart, and Atletico Madrid – twice – in the Champions League. They immediately follow up the second leg of that quarterfinal tie with games against Leverkusen and Leipzig. You couldn’t concoct a more challenging gauntlet if you tried. If Dortmund flounder, they could look to Julian Nagelsmann, whose contract as Germany’s national team boss is slated to expire after Euro 2024.

Chelsea

Jonathan Moscrop / Getty Images Sport / Getty

How many more times can Mauricio Pochettino ask Chelsea supporters for patience? How long until he gets tired of hearing his own fans openly mock him and question his decisions? The Argentine has remained diplomatic and continues to insist he’s dedicated to the club’s long-term project despite the early hiccups. Everyone has a breaking point, though.

If Pochettino gets fed up, or the club’s infamous ownership group becomes restless and wants to make another coaching change, Ruben Amorim could be in line for his big opportunity in the Premier League. The Portuguese tactician, 39, is highly regarded after leading Sporting CP to their first league title in 19 years in 2020-21, and his uptempo, high-pressing style figures to fit well in England. He also has an excellent track record working with blossoming talents, something he’d find plenty of in west London following Chelsea’s lavish spending on some of the game’s most intriguing young players.

Juventus

Massimiliano Allegri did an excellent job guiding Juventus through a turbulent 2022-23 season, acting as the calm pillar of the club while everything around him was in turmoil thanks to points penalties, off-field investigations, the shocking mass exodus of the club’s board of directors, and more. He navigated the stormy seas and deserves credit. But this season was supposed to be a significant step forward. He said as much.

Instead, his team has stagnated on the pitch after an encouraging start, and it seems clear he’s not the right manager to take this group to the next level. The squad may be flawed in certain areas, but it’s much better than the tiresome football it’s been showing, especially during a miserable run of one win in eight games. Enter Thiago Motta, the 41-year-old who has high-flying Bologna in line for a Champions League place by applying the type of exciting style that could liberate Juventus’ players.

Manchester United

Jacques Feeney/Offside / Offside / Getty

For what feels like the millionth time, Erik ten Hag has said he hopes Manchester United’s latest win – an intoxicating last-second triumph over rivals Liverpool in the FA Cup – will be a turning point in their otherwise meandering season. Fitting, really. There have been so many “turning points” already that United are just going in circles.

Stability is vital for the long-term health and success of any club, but not just for the sake of it, and not when it’s become clear the current manager isn’t capable of taking the team to new heights. Ten Hag’s questionable personnel decisions should have the new INEOS chiefs looking to make a change, let alone the tepid play and inconsistent results. Roberto De Zerbi should be atop the list of replacements. Manchester United were once synonymous with entertaining football. The Italian could help reinstate that reputation and get the Red Devils out of their rut.

Napoli

Replacing the mastermind behind Napoli’s first Serie A title in 33 years was always going to be an enormous, unenviable task, but president Aurelio De Laurentiis bungled it in spectacular fashion. Rudi Garcia seemed like a bad fit to succeed Luciano Spalletti right from the start, and so it proved. He lasted five months. His replacement, Walter Mazzarri, didn’t even make it that long.

Napoli are on their third coach in what has been a disastrous title defense, but Francesco Calzona is little more than a temporary solution until De Laurentiis starts the process over again in the summer. To avoid making the same mistakes, he should look to Fiorentina’s Vincenzo Italiano. The 46-year-old has worked his way up the divisions; he got Trapani promoted from Serie C, helped Spezia jump from Serie B to the top tier, and brought the Viola to the Conference League final last season, all while retaining an attack-minded style of play. He’s earned this opportunity, and the interest is mutual.

Roma

Insidefoto / LightRocket / Getty

With very little coaching experience to his name and just a six-month contract in hand, Daniele De Rossi was only supposed to be a temporary solution when he replaced the beleaguered Jose Mourinho on the Roma bench in mid-January. All the club legend has done since then is totally reinvigorate the team, racking up nine wins in 13 matches across all competitions – one of those being a shootout victory over Feyenoord in the Europa League – and firing Roma into the race for a Champions League spot with a free-flowing, goal-laden brand of football.

Not bad for someone whose CV only previously included a disastrous four-month stint with SPAL in Serie B. Assuming things don’t fall off a cliff in the season’s final weeks, it would be crazy for Roma to not keep De Rossi on the bench. The players clearly respect the former club captain, and he’s quickly fostered a strong bond with them. What message would it send if they opted for someone else now?

source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *