Sport

Let the game of manager musical chairs begin.

Now that the football season is over, the usual roundabout of transfers will kick into life again. But it’s the manager’s market that is looking like the more interesting. Quite a few top clubs are looking for new managers this summer, and this could have a very big impact on how next season will play out.

Just days after taking Inter to their first Serie A title in eleven years, Antonio Conte left. This was reportedly down to disagreements about future plans for the team. Inter’s owners aren’t in great financial shape and are looking to cut costs. This will largely be through selling top players in the squad, who are on big wages, and focussing on younger players who are cheaper to buy and pay. Conte could not abide by this, and from a sporting perspective you can understand why. The club had just won the Italian title and now he was being told that the key players behind that success would likely be sold and he would not have as strong a squad next season, where they will look to be far more competitive than they were last season. Particularly in Europe, where they finished bottom of their Champions League group. Conte will have been thinking that what was needed was more investment, not cost-cutting.

But Conte is not the only high-profile managerial departure we’ve seen in the last week or so. Zinedine Zidane decided to end his second spell in charge of Real Madrid, while Andrea Pirlo was replaced in the Juventus dugout by the returning Max Allegri. Ronald Koeman’s future at Barcelona is not hugely certain and Tottenham are also in the market for a new manager. Interestingly, one of Tottenham’s targets for their managerial post is the man they sacked in November 2019. Mauricio Pochettino has reportedly decided to bail on his Parisian adventure after half a season at PSG. While he has won both domestic cups, he failed to secure PSG’s tenth consecutive Ligue 1 title and fell at the semi-final stage of the Champions League to Manchester City. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has also reportedly admitted to those around him at the club that he made a mistake in sacking Pochettino and is keen to bring him back to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. But he may be thwarted in that desire by the juggernaut that is Real Madrid who have made him their number one target according to the media. Whether Pochettino decides to return to North London or take on the poisoned chalice at the Santiago Bernabeu remains to be seen. It’s a similar situation at Real Madrid as at PSG, although the Spanish League is more competitive on a more regular basis. Both boards do not appear to adhere to teambuilding orthodoxies. Rather, they look to hoover up all the top talent and put them together on a pitch. If Pochettino has struggled at PSG, Real Madrid will take that to a whole other level, because the Real board and fans demand immediate success and for that success to achieved in a certain way. They sacked Jupp Heynckes in the 90s after one season in charge, even after he’d won the Champions League, because they didn’t compete in the league and the football played was not what the board wanted. Real Madrid chews people up and spits people out. Does Pochettino want to put himself in that kind of environment?

I can’t see Real Madrid or Tottenham appointing someone like Conte either. Conte has the kind of personality that you either bond with him and will run through brick walls for him, or you utterly despise him and will end up in a huge argument with him. We saw that at Chelsea where he got some of the best football out of Eden Hazard, but alienated Diego Costa and Willian to the point where one requested to leave and the other was on the verge of doing the same if Conte stayed. Conte seems to need to have far more control than any modern board is willing to give him, particularly around the topic of transfers. He does have a proven track record of winning trophies at club level however, and that may be enough for one those clubs with a vacancy in the dugout to take the plunge and bring him on board.

The main point is that each of these teams want to play a certain way, and there are not enough of those types of managers to go around. So it will be very interesting to see who ends up where.

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