Reviewing the Potential Candidates for Villa's Managerial Vacancy
Alex McLeish has gone, we can all breath a sigh of relief. But now the board must make the correct appointment in order to steady the rudderless ship at Villa Park.
It seemed, at least for a while, that Ole Gunnar Solskjær was in line for the job. Following meetings with Randy Lerner and Paul Faulkner in Birmingham, all signs pointed to the Norwegian becoming the new man in charge.
His potential appointment stirred the imaginations of the vast majority of Villa fans, and provided hope after one of the bleakest seasons in the club's history.
However, for whatever reason, it never came to be. Whether you believe Solskjær's assertions that he was loath to relocate his family, or if you choose to indulge yourself in the numerous conspiracy theories surrounding his withdrawal, there can be little doubt that the baby-faced assassin was in line to be the next manager of Aston Villa.
With that disappointment out of the way, let's take a look at the other potential candidates for the Villa Park vacancy.
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Before the hype surrounding Solskjær gripped the Villa Park faithful, Paul Lambert was the clear fans' choice. At the final game of the season, away at Carrow Road, the traveling Villans made their feelings known with chants of: "Paul Lambert's claret and blue army."
Lambert remains the bookies favourite for the job despite his insistence that he is happy at Norwich.
A Champions League winner as a player with Borussia Dortmund, Lambert has revitalised the Canaries, leading them to two successive promotions and an impressive first season back in the Premier League.
If Lambert is given permission to discuss a deal with Aston Villa, then I see little chance that he would reject the club.
He must be aware that repeating his success with Norwich is going to be extremely difficult with a relatively weak squad and a paper-thin transfer budget.
His reputation is at an all-time high, but another season at Carrow Road could see his stock plummet.
Key Signing: Elliott Bennett (£1.5m)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Despite his continuous links to Villa, Roberto Martinez appears to be a front-runner for the top job at Liverpool after meeting with owner, John Henry last week in Miami, FL.
However, doubts remain as to whether Martinez sees himself as ready for the Liverpool position, suggesting that he would prefer to gain further experience before accepting an offer for one of the top jobs in the country.
If this is his decision, then that surely places Villa at the top of his list. After rejecting the opportunity to talk to Villa last season, it seems that Martinez will finally be leaving Wigan, though his destination remains unclear.
Martinez began his managerial career at Swansea in 2007, where he instilled the current ethos for fast-paced attractive football that has been lauded during the Swans first season in the Premier League.
In 2009, he left for Wigan Athletic and has somehow managed to keep the club in the Premier League with a succession of late-season flourishes of form. Notable wins in Wigan's run-in this season came over Liverpool, Arsenal, and Manchester United.
Key Signing: Mohamed Diamé (£3m)
Roberto Di Matteo
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Roberto Di Matteo's future remains in limbo despite his incredible triumphs in the FA Cup and Champions League. Logic and reason would suggest that he will be given the opportunity to build on his success and continue into next season at Stamford Bridge.
But then, when has logic and reason ever been apparent at Chelsea while Abramovich has been signing the cheques?
However, there are doubts to his authority. OK, he won the double this season, but the rumours abounding portray him as a weak manager.
It has been implied that the key to Chelsea's success was Di Matteo's deferment to the old guard of Terry and Lampard, who both hold considerable weight in the dressing room and, perversely, the boardroom.
Before Chelsea, Di Matteo managed West Brom, leading them to the Premier League in his first season before being fired the following February in the midst of a dismal run of form.
Key Signing: Peter Odemwingie (£500,000)
Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images
Unemployed since his sacking from Inter Milan in December 2010, Benitez is possibly the highest profile manager linked to the Villa job.
Before his inauspicious stint at Inter, Benitez was one of the top managers in Europe. He won two league titles with Valencia, along with one UEFA Cup, before moving to Liverpool, where he led the team to two Champions League finals—winning one in spectacular fashion—and an FA Cup victory.
Following Gérard Houllier's exit last summer, the club were in talks with Benitez, though no progress was made when Benitez's demands for a transfer budget were nixed by the club.
His appointment now would suggest funds are available in the summer for new recruits after the asset-stripping of the club in past seasons.
Key Signings: Xabi Alonso (£10.7m); Fernando Torres (£25m)
Ian Walton/Getty Images
An unlikely choice, but the longer the search for a manager continues, the more likely it becomes.
MacDonald has been with the club in a number of capacities since 1995 and has managed the reserves since 2003.
Following Martin O'Neill's resignation is August, 2010, MacDonald became caretaker manager and oversaw victories against West Ham and Everton whilst also being at the helm for Villa's elimination from the Europa League at the hands of Rapid Wien and Villa's humiliating 6-0 loss to Newcastle United.
A popular man with the players, many of which have played for him at reserve level, he would be an uninspiring appointment for the board to make at a time when fan optimism is at a distinct low.