Managerial Musical Chairs

Managerial Musical Chairs
By Paul Ring

The carousel of managers flying around Europe might have finally come to a stop this week and Eugene Fogarty took a look at where they landed and what it means.

This week across Europe the managerial merry-go-round amongst the continent’s top clubs finally came to a halt. By its end, nine of Europe’s most powerful, successful and prestigious clubs had found themselves with new managers. Some were fired, others retired and more quit their posts elsewhere but what it has left us with is an unprecedented summer of change, particularly in England.

With all the vacant top positions in England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France now filled following the unveiling of Pep Guardiola in Munich and the inevitable appointment of Carlo Ancelotti in Madrid this week, what does it mean for the managers involved and which clubs have fared best.

Rafael Benitez (Napoli)

By season’s end Rafa probably thought he had a shot at the Chelsea job, or at the very least the vacancy in Paris, but he didn’t wait around to find out and made his way to Naples before anyone had really noticed.

His previous stint in Italy was short lived and unsuccessful, despite winning the Club World Cup with Inter, but this time around Napoli feels like a much better fit for the Spaniard. Napoli finished second to Juventus in Serie ‘A’ last term and that means Champions League qualification next season, and if there is one thing Rafa can do it is navigate European competition, having been to four European finals with three clubs.

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The inevitable departure of Edinson Cavani should give Benitez a sizeable transfer war chest to work with in preparation for an assault on the Champions League knockout stages and the Scudetto. This may just have been a shrewd appointment by Aurelio De Laurentiis, as the team he is taking over is not too dissimilar to Liverpool in 2004, full of decent, hard working players hungry for success , sprinkled with some individual talent yet minus a goalscorer.

Pep Guardiola (Bayern Munich)

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Hipster god Guardiola turned up in Munich midweek playing up to his reputation, by dressing like the king of cool in a three-piece suit and speaking surprisingly passable German for a man who spent the last year slumming it in NYC.

His task couldn’t be more difficult though, replacing Jupp Henykes and taking over his treble winners. That all sounds impressive enough but on top of that Bayern won the Bundesliga in record time and by a record margin, as well as destroying Pep’s former club 7-0 on aggregate in the Champions League semi-finals.

The former Barcelona captian however, is inheriting easily the best team in Europe and a squad that will be even better come the end of summer. The Bayern top brass see Guardiola as the perfect man to take this team to the next level, which means repeating this years success every year, and winning being the first club to win back-to-back Champions Leagues

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Carlo Ancelotti (Real Madrid)

The long winded speculation finally came to an end this week, with Carlito finally filling in where José Mourinho left off. The strange thing about Ancelotti’s arrival in Madrid is just how much he seems to want to be there, wriggling out of his lucrative PSG contract in order to take over Real.

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Ancelotti is as hot a property as ever, especially since his expensively assembled PSG side ran Barcelona so close in the Camp Nou back in April. Over the last year he took a lob-sided, attack-heavy squad and somehow managed to get his best assets on the pitch in a cohesive system, something which obviously appealed to Florentino Perez and his lackeys in Madrid.

Madrid have come off an inconsistent and tumultuous season, which culminated with defeat in Dortmund and at home in the Copa del Rey final, and finally the departure of Mourinho. A fresh start was needed for a lot of players, and considering the dynamic, entertaining teams produced by Ancelotti in Milan in 2007, Chelsea in 2010 and last season in Paris, he may finally produce a Madrid team worth watching for the first time since 2002

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Walter Mazzarri (Inter Milan)

Mazzarri ditched the lure of Champions League football in Naples to take charge of an underperforming Internazionale instead. The opportunity to manage Inter only arises ten times in a manager’s career so it’s no surprise the Italian decided to jump ship now.

One could generally understand the leap from southern Italy to the north but after four years at Napoli he had built his own team, and kept reinventing it with each expensive departure, reaching the Champions League quarter-finals two years ago and finishing second in Serie ‘A’ in May for the first time in a generation. Instead, Mazzarri joins a club in disarray since 2010, and without even Europa League football next season.

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Of course, at a club like Inter, the potential is always there. As it is they already have a strong squad with many interesting players like Fredy Guarin, Zdravko Kuzmanovic and of course, Antonio Cassano. An experienced and authoritive coach like Mazzarri, who can get the best out of what he’s got, should at least help Inter to higher than ninth place next season.

Jose Mourinho (Chelsea)

The not so special one returns to Chelsea after six years away in what could be an absolute disaster or a stroke of genius by Roman Abramovich. Time will only tell.

During his acrimonious three years in Madrid, Chelsea won both European trophies for the first time, and have finally revamped the squad with youth and exciting attacking midfielders. The question now is whether the Portuguese will revert to type and scupper all that progress for short term gain, or will he embrace the youthful squad he now possesses and stick with Chelsea for the long haul.

The acquisition of Andre Schurrle this week, who is probably not a Mourinho signing, suggests Chelsea are still pursuing players capable of attacking football and wowing audiences, but the rumours that Juan Mata could be sold is potentially a worrying sign of things to come. At least Mourinho has got his timing right, returning to England with his rivals in transition.

Bernd Schuster (Malaga)

Schuster earned his hipster credentials during his two years with Getafe, playing an attacking brand of football with an unfashionable club, and leading the Madrid minnows to their highest ever league finish. The German is now hoping to reinforce that image at Malaga, having had varying levels of success with Real Madrid and Besiktas in between.

Malaga were the surprise package of Europe last season, only seconds away from a Champions League semi-final. Their easy-on-the-eye style and impressive results grabbed the attention of Europe, but their European ban for next season means all focus will be on finishing in the top four once again.

The sale of Isco to Real Madrid immediately weakens the team but much the same was thought last summer with Santi Cazorla’s departure. If anything it gives the German, the first to play in Spain, an adequate transfer kitty to play with. Much of the focus will not be on replacing Isco, but rather who he himself replaces Manuel Pelligrini.

David Moyes (Manchester United)

Eleven years of loyalty at Everton earned Moyes a promotion to the big time with Manchester United, almost as something of a reward for his endurance skills. Saying that, the Scot has earned his opportunity at United after a largely successful time on Merseyside and is potentially the ideal man to take over the reins from Sir Alex Ferguson.

There are arguments to suggest Moyes’s position and timing of arrival are both strong and weak. He takes over the Premier League champions who won at a canter last season, but United are a long way from winning the Champions League again, all their rivals in England see a window of opportunity and are strengthening and there is still uncertainty over Wayne Rooney’s future, and then there’s the added factor of replacing an irreplaceable club legend.

Even with the pressure and uncertainty of what lies ahead next season, from his own team and their immediate competitors, Moyes will be given a chance and was the most suitable candidate available as he commands respect, offers the possibility of continuity and a long term stay, which Mourinho or Guardiola, for example, wouldn’t have done.

Laurent Blanc (Paris St Germain)

Surprisingly, nobody seemed to want the job at PSG, so having looked down every alley and exercised all options, the name the Qatari’s owners pulled from a hat was Laurent Blanc. Ideally, they would have kept Ancelotti but at least his gives Blanc an opportunity to prove himself all over again after France’s poor showing at Euro 2012.

Not so long ago, the former French international was the next big thing. He won Ligue 1 with a Bordeaux side he built around Joann Gourcuff, an even more impressive feat with hindsight, and ended Lyon’s reign of terror in the process. His French team even offered promise initially before losing to Sweden last summer and surrendering meekly to Spain in the quarter-finals.

Blanc’s downfall was effectively accepting defeat to Spain before the game had ever kicked off. Since then, Blanc has been out of work, but now he has his shot at redemption, with unlimited resources and already the strongest squad in La Championnat. The question now is whether last season’s progress can be maintained, not only the results but the style as well.

Manuel Pellegrini (Manchester City)

Having long been a superstar in Spain, and especially in his native Chile, Pelligrini is finally getting recognition from the greatest league in the world. Years of success with Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga finally brought the Chilean to Manchester City’s attention, where he will hopefully garner the respect he was never shown at Madrid in 2009-10 when leading them to the La Liga title.

Malaga might just have been Pelligrini’s greatest success. He took over a side in freefall and within 18 months they had qualified for the Champions League for the first time. Last season they gained new fans across the continent playing free flowing, attractive attacking football, and became everyone’s second favourite European team (Dortmund being first of course).

The transition at Chelsea and United provides a huge opportunity for Pelligrini to make his mark in the Premier League, and his European experience with Villarreal and Malaga may prove a huge difference between himself and Roberto Mancini. He may even be capable of getting the best out of Samir Nasri, David Silva and even Scott Sinclair, much as he did with Joaquin Sanchez at Malaga.

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