Immediately after lifting Real Madrid’s 13th European Cup in Kiev and an unprecedented three-in-a-row, nobody would have expected Zinedine Zidane to leave the club. However, this is exactly what has materialised. For President Florintino Perez and co, they now face an uphill task of finding an adequate replacement to the most adored man in the club. Here, we look at the candidates that will be on their radar and decipher who is the best candidate to be Real Madrid’s new manager following the magic of Zidane.
Top of the pile appears to be Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino. Real Madrid have long been linked with the former Espanyol man and would have to be impressed with the development of his Tottenham side into a regular Champions League outfit. Working on a tight budget and ability to effectively man-manage players in order to get the best out of them, it is not a massive turn away from how Zidane managed over the past two and half years. The Argentine has helped make Harry Kane a household name across Europe since moving from Southampton in 2013. His intense and attacking style of play should only entice the board to want him at the club even more.
Having beaten Real Madrid this season in the Champions League group stage, it was the perfect platform for Pochettino to present his case. Undoubtedly impressed, Perez will have the Spurs chief top of his wanted list. His anti-Barcelona persuasion will only play into the story even more. The one great obstacle for Real Madrid landing their man is that he has recently signed a new contract with Tottenham. As reported by The Independent however, Pochettino has also made comments hinting that he would be open to moving to the Spanish capital: “When Real Madrid call you, you have to listen to them. Although in this case it doesn’t depend on me. I have just signed a long contract with Tottenham and I am very happy here.”
Another name that has been echoing around the vacant position is former Arsenal chief Arsene Wenger. This is a name that should not be ruled out of the running too quickly. Rafael Benitez, who held the position before Zidane was long admired by Florentino Perez and was believed to be destined for the position long before he got it. Benitez was almost automatically ruled out of the job by many supporters, yet Perez had him pinned up as the poster-boy for the club and eventually got his man. A similar story runs with Wenger and his relationship with Real Madrid’s President. Apparently, Wenger rejected Real Madrid’s approaches at least three times during his tenure at Arsenal. Speaking in 2009, Wenger had the following to say: “Real is the club of my childhood. When I was a kid, watching those guys in white, winning everything, then of course I am attracted by that club, but I have a pact with the young players of my team, and I want to succeed with that bet.” This isn’t the best option for Real Madrid, Wenger showed over the past number of years that he was incapable of either getting the best out of his players, or structuring the team in a manner where they could play with unity. Definitely one to avoid for me but – Perez is a big fan – and Wenger’s charm and personality suits the image and culture of the club.
Keeping with the theme of England-based managers, the current (for now) Chelsea manager has no doubt the pedigree and qualifications to take over from his ex-teammate, Zidane. Having solidified a Juventus team that was in Serie B not long before he took over, he made them into a machine in Italy. Since joining Chelsea, a similar pattern was developing. He gathered the best of what was available to him and created a championship winning team. His failings in Europe will certainly stand against him, but with Barcelona having won seven of the last ten La Liga titles, there appears to be a re-focus on the domestic front at Real Madrid. For some within the club, appointing the former Italian manager would be seen as a step back in time to when Jose Mourinho was at the helm. This is certainly something they don’t want to experience again and Conte’s over-zealous personality will probably stand against him in this instance.
Last time Real Madrid appointed a rookie coach as their main man, they went on to win nine trophies in two and half years. Guti is seen as a man destined for the position eventually and there were talks of him being taken on as Zidane’s assistant. Having come through the academy at the club as a player and be an ever-present during the Galacticos period, Guti is a much adored man in Madrid. He has shown great promise with his coaching abilities of late also. In charge of Real Madrid’s under-19’s, the Madrid native led his side to a historic double in 2016/17. By coaching his side to play very attractive attacking football, he will have gathered a lot of attention within the club. Unlike Castilla manager and fellow ex-player Santiago Solari, Guti’s side have been performing admirably. His lack of experience coaching in a first team scenario will probably stand against him in this instance and will be seen as a ‘one for the future’ instead.
World Cup Managers (Jorge Sampaoli, Joachim Low, Didier Deschamps etc.)
World Cup winning manager Joachim Low has been strongly linked with the recently-vacated position. For Real Madrid however, appointing a World Cup participating manager would be a terrible move. In any case, according to ESPN, the German manager has distanced himself from taking over from Zidane: “You can rule me out completely … For me it is not an issue, I am focused now on the World Cup.” Normally, an incoming manager would be given prior warning and have the opportunity to at least go through what he would want from his new squad. With Real Madrid now potentially going through a period of transition, additional time and care is needed for the incoming manager. To appoint a manager who is in charge of any team at this years World Cup would be tragic for Madrid. The same reasoning applies to Jorge Sampaoli, Didier Deschamps along with former Real Madrid player and Castilla manager Julen Lopetgui.
Outside of those mentioned, Laurent Blanc and Maurizio Sarri have been the two other names more associated with Zidane’s vacated position. Laurent Blanc has been linked with nearly every job available since stepping down as PSG manager at the end of the 2015/16 season. He is still yet to manage a different team however and his stock seems to have depleted significantly even though he has been successful with Bordeaux as well as PSG. Outside of the fact Maurizio Sarri is as good as signed on to be new Chelsea manager, Real Madrid are in no way interested in him. If Antonio Conte – due to his personality – is too extreme and similar to Mourinho … Sarri is far worse! The football he gets his team to play is incredible, no question about the quality of his coaching. The image he gives off and his attitude is furthest from what Real Madrid are looking for however; click HERE for a report on such from Sky Sports. Sarri is essentially the Italian version of Marcelo Bielsa!!
The Ideal Scenario
The very best outcome in terms of a managerial package for Real Madrid facing into the new season would be to get Mauricio Pochettino appointed as soon as possible. This is going to be an uphill task to deal with Daniel Levy again. After Luca Modric and then Gareth Bale, the Real Madrid broad never wanted to deal with him again. To get their main man, this is necessary however. The ideal scenario would be to get Guti in to work with Pochettino as his assistant manager in a similar way to what Zidane did under Carlo Ancelotti. This should give Guti the experience of dealing with a first team and groom him for the role in the future. Last thing Real Madrid will want is to have this issue drag on for two months where players will become restless. A difficult job is in store for whoever takes over but getting him in the door is the first task.