The EPL managers’ musical chairs game
There’s little job security as a football manager or coach. With preparations for the 2016/17 English Premier League season already under way, new arrivals like Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte will represent new hope for clubs and fans
Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola’s exit from the German club, and impending move to Manchester City, was one of those open secrets known by everyone who watches football long before he signed a three-year contract in February. The former Barcelona boss has enjoyed success with Die Roten, winning three Bundesliga titles and one DFB-Pokal during his time in Bavaria. But his failure to make a real challenge in the Champions League means his time at the club will be remembered as satisfactory – though perhaps not good enough for a club as prestigious and ambitious as Bayern. While still considered one of the best managers around, the Catalan needs to prove he can take City to the pinnacle of European football. The club hierarchy has already installed Ferran Soriano as chief executive and Txiki Begiristain as director of football – both formerly of Barcelona – in a clear effort to get the Citizens playing like the Blaugrana. Guardiola will be seen as the final piece in the puzzle.
City have made progress in the Champions League this season, beating Paris Saint-Germain (another wealthy club looking to build a team of European champions) to reach their first semifinal in the competition. There they were narrowly defeated by Real Madrid.
Guardiola will be expected to take them one step further.
There is also change in the air at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea are preparing for the arrival of their new manager, Antonio Conte. The Blues would have started the 2015/16 season expecting José Mourinho to remain at the helm for the next few seasons. But a disastrous campaign saw the Portuguese boss sacked and Guus Hiddink installed in the interim.
With the Dutchman in charge, the club hierarchy focused on the search for his replacement. They decided to bring in the former Juventus boss, who led the Bianconeri to three Serie A titles between 2011 and 2014 after cutting his teeth in Serie B with Bari and Siena.
His success in Turin saw Conte drafted in by the Italian national team, and Blues fans will be eager to see how the Azzurri look in the upcoming European championships in France.
Back at the Bridge, targets will be set for next season. The first priority will be to return the club to the Champions League, courtesy of a top four finish in the league. While Conte will no doubt be aiming for the Premier League title, it won’t be demanded that he wins it in his first season. However, for a club like Chelsea to lure and then retain the best players, they need to feature in Uefa’s top competition. The Blues won’t be able to compete in European competition next season, but that means that they can focus on getting back to the top of the domestic standings.
Elsewhere in England, uncertainty abounds at Old Trafford. Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal seems on the brink of getting the sack, with Mourinho waiting ominously on the sidelines.
A fifth-place finish in the league means the Red Devils miss out on the Champions League. And unambiguous discontent from the fans means the Dutchman won’t last long if the club can replace him with the former Chelsea boss.
The Portuguese manager has been relatively quiet since Chelsea showed him the door, but he still has one of the most impressive CVs in world football. The mutual respect of Sir Alex Ferguson won’t hurt his chances either. Mourinho promises success, and that is exactly what Old Trafford craves.
There will also be changes at Watford and Everton, both of which fired their Spanish managers towards the end of the season. The Hornets parted ways with Quique Sánchez Flores, while the Toffees lost patience with Roberto Martínez after another disappointing season.
Former Napoli and Inter Milan manager Walter Mazzarri is the strong favourite to take over at Vicarage Road, while Frank de Boer, David Moyes and Ronald Koeman have all been linked with the vacant job at Goodison Park. – TEAMtalk Media
CHANGEOVER Antonio Conte PHOTO: JEAN CATUFFE / GETTY IMAGES
NEW BROOM Josep ‘Pep’ Guardiola PHOTO: DANIEL KOPATSCH / GETTY IMAGES