Real Madrid: 7 Possible Replacements for Jose Mourinho
Despite his repeated assertions to the contrary, there remains plenty of speculation that Jose Mourinho will leave Real Madrid this summer if the team wins the Champions League, or even perhaps if they don't.
The Portuguese coach has form in that area, symbolically removing his winner's medal and leaving the pitch while his Porto players still celebrated, lifting the European Cup in 2004. Soon enough, he was manager of Chelsea.
He then repeated the trick in 2010, when he left Inter Milan as European champions to take over at the Bernabeu.
Mourinho has never made a secret of the fact that he does not plan to stay at any one club forever, nor his desire to one day return and manage in England once again.
The mere possibility of that happening has been enough to see many new names bring linked with the Bernabeu hot seat, some more likely than others.
Here are seven managers who have been identified as possible replacements for Mourinho should he leave Real this summer.
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The Argentinian coach has deservedly won plaudits for his Athletic Bilbao team's exploits in Europe this season, in particular their evisceration of Manchester United.
His tactical nous and commitment to attacking football also worked wonders for the Chilean national team in reaching the 2010 World Cup and, on paper, make him an ideal fit for Real.
However, he is not nicknamed "El Loco" for nothing. If they see one coach who likes to say as do as he pleases this summer, will the Real Madrid hierarchy be willing to hire another boss noted for his string character and eccentricities?
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Heynckes ended Real's 32-year wait for another European Cup triumph when he led them to the trophy in 1998. However, in typical Real style, he was ushered out of the door after just one season in charge, due to the club only finishing fourth in La Liga.
After spending a nomadic decade or so with largely unsuccessful spells in Portugal, Spain and back in his native Germany, Heynckes has found joy again with his second spell at Bayern Munich.
While it looks like Borussia Dortmund are going to win the Bundesliga again, leading Bayern to a 2-1 win over Real in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal may well put him in the frame for a return to the Bernabeu, especially if his current side can finish the job off there next week.
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Madrid-born Benitez knows Real very well, having graduated from their youth ranks and spending the majority of his unremarkable playing career with the club's B team.
Before striking out as a manager in his own he was even assistant to Vicente del Bosque during the mid-1990s.
Despite his most recent spell in management ending in failure at Inter Milan, Benitez still enjoys a good reputation in Spain after winning two league titles with Valencia and the Champions League with Liverpool. He didn't do his standing in his homeland any harm by thrashing Real 4-0 while in charge of the Reds in 2009 either.
Benitez would prefer to stay in England, where he still spends much of his time, and after the Inter debacle would he want to take on the thankless task of following Mourinho again?
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Despite some fans calling for Wenger to go during possibly the lowest ebb of his 16 years at Arsenal earlier in the season, the thought of him leaving the Gunners is a difficult one to grasp.
It has been reported in the past—by the Daily Mail in January, for example—that Real have targeted the Frenchman in one of their regular searches for a new manager, but Wenger has so resisted any overtures from the Spanish giants that may or may not have been made.
The conditions do not seem as conducive to Wenger making the move as they perhaps have been in the past—after completely transforming the club he would surely want to leave with as strong a legacy as possible—but stranger things have happened in football.
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Laudrup's reputation as a player in Spain is so unimpeachable that even the fact he moved directly from Barcelona to Real Madrid could not diminish the respect held for him in La Liga.
Since retiring, the Dane has proven himself to be as classy an operator in the dugout as he was on the pitch. He won many admirers for the way he got Getafe—by some distance Madrid's third club—playing attractive football.
After a move to Spartak Moscow did not work out, he again impressed in Spain by helping Mallorca avoid relegation, only to resign early in his second season after a row with the club president.
It may be far from the most likely appointment, but bringing Laudrup back to the Bernabeu would go down well with the fans and give a wonderful player the ultimate chance to prove his managerial credentials.
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Even with his recent torrid reign in charge of England—which ended with his resignation in February—Capello has a managerial résumé that can be held up against any of his contemporaries and most of his predecessors.
Two notable entries on his CV are his two seasons at Real Madrid, one a decade before the other but both ending with him winning the league title and promptly being shown the door. It was not enough for Capello to win—he had to win the "Real Madrid way."
Now that the Italian is available again and will have enjoyed a nice break from the game, Real president Florentino Perez may decide to plump for a familiar face who knows the club and has a track record of success at the Bernabeu.
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Seen by many as the preferred choice to replace Mourinho as and when the Portuguese decides to leave, Germany head coach Joachim Loew can greatly enhance his prospects if he manages to beat Spain to the European Championship this summer.
For all the wonders he has worked for Germany, Loew has little pedigree in club management. His greatest achievement at that level was leading Stuttgart to the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final in 1998.
However, he took his chance at international level with aplomb, leading Germany to the semifinals in South Africa two years ago where they lost to Spain. That run prompted Real to sign Germany stars Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira. Could success this summer see them poach another highly-rated German talent?