10 Managers Who Need Miracles to Keep Their Jobs in 2013
Football managers have a wonderful job—yet they are often precariously placed between success and being idolised, and failure and being hounded out of a club.
Relative success, steady building and laying groundwork for 12 months at a time can count for nothing if suddenly five defeats in a row are staring them in the face.
During the 2011-12 season, 37 managers lost their jobs in England's top four flights, while in Spain's top flight alone there were changes in head coach at Atletico Madrid, Villarreal (twice), Real Mallorca, Racing Santander (twice), Real Zaragoza, Granada, Sporting Gijon (twice), Sevilla and Real Vallecano.
It's safe to say that there does not seem to be much opportunity for the longest-serving manager record to be broken at many clubs throughout Europe.
Here are 10 bosses who are facing an uphill struggle to not have their names added to an increasingly long list and lose their jobs in 2013.
Jose Mourinho, Real Madrid
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Sitting pretty in third place in the domestic league and having qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League might be termed a relatively decent first half of the season for most clubs.
But then, Real Madrid are not most clubs.
This is a club that sacked their manager (Juup Heynckes) in 1998 after he delivered their first European Cup in more than 30 years—but finished fourth in the league.
Jose Mourinho is widely acknowledged as one of the very finest coaches in the world of modern-day football. But even he will not be immune to the chop if he cannot pick his side up over the second half of the season, and significantly.
Despite having finally wrested La Liga title from the vise-like grip of Barcelona last season, it seems that the campaign took much of the will to battle out of his players. Real Madrid currently sit a whopping 16 points behind the league leaders with only 18 matches played so far.
Mourinho likely needs a big turnaround to avoid having to walk or be pushed out the Bernabeu exit door by the end of the season.
Franky Vercauteren, Sporting Lisbon
Sporting Lisbon have been all too regularly forced to play the "insignificant other" in the Portuguese top flight, with Benfica and Porto dominating proceedings.
Last season Sporting ended the campaign in a relatively respectable fourth place, 16 points off winners Porto but within touching distance of Sporting Braga ahead of them in third.
The new campaign, however, did not get off to a good start as Ricardo Sa Pinto was sacked just months in. Sporting sat just one point above the drop zone after six league games and they turned to Belgian Franky Vercauteren to help solve their trouble.
Despite having won league championships in his home country, Vercauteren was perhaps a surprise choice. At age 56, he has only had two notable spells as manager: a short-lived stint in charge of the Belgian national team, and less than one year with Al Jazira in the UAE.
These were hardly ringing endorsements of a coach on the up.
Even so, he started fairly well in his new role, losing just one of his opening four league matches with Sporting.
Three months on, though, and Vercauteren has yet to show a significant improvement. He has won only one of his league games as manager and the side now sit in 12th position, one point above the relegation zone—exactly where they were when he took over in mid-October.
Sporting Lisbon will not entertain thoughts of relegation. The Belgian has much work to do to salvage the season and his job, and he needs to start fast.
His club has not won away from home this season, and four of the next seven league matches are away from the Estadio Jose Alvalade.
Alan Pardew, Newcastle United
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September 27, 2012.
Things are looking good in the North-East. Newcastle United were sitting in fourth place in the Premier League, much-heralded scout Graham Carr had signed a long-term contract extension and key players such as Yohan Cabaye and Cheik Tiote were wowing the domestic top flight.
Then, Newcastle made the extraordinary decision to hand their manager Alan Pardew an eight-year contract.
Fast forward three-plus months.
Things are not looking quite so rosy. The Magpies sit just two points off the relegation zone in the Premiership, Cabaye has played only half the games this term and leading goalscorer Demba Ba has been signed on the cheap by Chelsea.
And they've just been dumped out of the FA Cup by Brighton. And Shola Ameobi had to be captain. And he got sent off.
The eight-year contract is still in place, though.
Sure, Newcastle have had a whole bundle of injuries to contend with. Ryan and Steven Taylor have both been absent, as have Tiote and Cabaye.
But Newcastle simply don't have the depth or quality in their squad to maintain last season's top five finish.
Even so, the shocking plummet to concede 39 goals in 21 games and be the only side without an away win apart from Reading has been something to behold.
It's hard to wonder what might have more of an effect on those at the top of the club: the pay-out needed to get rid of Pardew if their form remains the same (eight defeats in last 10 league games), or the drop in income if Newcastle United are relegated.
Marcelo Bielsa, Athletic Bilbao
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Marcelo Bielsa is a great manager, but his personality and style have at times led to him having a few spiky moments with players and board members at clubs.
In his first spell as a club manager since the late 1990s, Bielsa has led Athletic Bilbao to two cup finals. Despite this, he seems almost certain to leave the club at some point this year.
Will-he-won't-he arguments about whether Bielsa will leave the club of his own accord have circulated for several months after an argument with his club last summer, which was eventually resolved.
Even so, the sale of Javi Martinez and the impending exit of Fernando Llorente means that he has seen the team—which he put together with such excitement for 2010-11—dismantled piece by piece.
Bilbao currently sit a disappointing 14th in La Liga after consecutive top-half finishes under the Argentine manager, and with his contract running only until the end of this season it seems likely he will depart sooner rather than later.
Massimo Allegri, AC Milan
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AC Milan are one of the most successful and renowned clubs in world football, so it is something of a shock to look at the Serie A table and see them floating about in seventh position at the midway stage.
Sure, teams can have an off season. And they still have plenty of time to bounce back up there, but they've shown precious few glimpses of having the potential to do so this term.
Last season under Mass Allegri, Milan finished an impressive second place—just four points off winners Juventus and with a huge 16-point buffer over third-place Udinese.
A massive overhaul of the playing staff, though, saw in excess of a dozen new arrivals taking the place of even more departures, amongst them some of the most senior and decorated players in Italian football.
Alessandro Nesta, Clarence Seedorf, Gennaro Gattuso and Mark van Bommel might have been approaching the end of their careers, but the collective experience and winning mentality they possess is impossible to replace in one swoop.
Superstars Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva departed for PSG, and squad players such as Taye Taiwo and the on-loan Alberto Aquilani and Maxi Lopez also all left.
Quite frankly, replacements including Bojan Krkic, Sulley Muntari (on a permanent deal) and Nigel de Jong, greater roles for those such as Urby Emanuelson and reduced effectiveness from Kevin-Prince Boateng and Antonio Nocerino mean that AC Milan's squad has gotten noticeably worse.
Milan need far better as a club than merely a top-half finish to show that such huge business last summer was worthwhile—and Allegri needs better as a manager to keep his job.
José Luis Mendilibar, Osasuna
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Jose Luis Mendilibar was appointed boss of Osasuna in early 2011, his first managerial post since the end of his relatively successful spell in charge of Valladolid.
Osasuna were in the relegation zone at the time. And the former Athletic Bilbao boss did a good job, steering them to safety by four points in the end—in an extremely tight league, it was good enough for a ninth place finish in La Liga.
Last season was his first full campaign in charge of the club. Osasuna were a far more consistent outfit, especially at home where they lost only three times—less than third place Valencia—and finished up the season in seventh place.
It's all gone rather horribly wrong this year though, with Osasuna ranked bottom of the league with just three wins from 18 games. This despite a great defensive record, which is the joint-fifth best in the league with Real Madrid.
The problem for Mendilibar and his team has been a woeful lack of scoring goals, with just 14 so far this campaign.
No player has managed more than four league goals this season, and their shot conversion rate as an entire team stands at an appalling six percent.
Mendilibar needs to find the solution to this particular problem pretty quickly if he wants to have the chance to help save the club he's done so much for over the past couple of seasons.
They are only a couple of points from safety. But the fixtures aren't going to get any easier, as two of their next three games are against Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Martin O'Neill, Sunderland
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It's all smiles in the North-East of England this season.
Newcastle United were mentioned earlier, and their big rivals Sunderland aren't faring much better.
Martin O'Neill had a pretty woeful 2012, leading the Black Cats to just seven Premier League victories between March and the end of the year.
Having won three out of four games through December, they looked to have been grinding out the points more than actually playing with any real quality. But two convincing defeats since then have seen them slip closer to the relegation zone once more.
Sunderland are not, at this stage, in imminent danger of the drop.
They sit 14th, four points clear of relegation, but the money spent by Martin O'Neill and his predecessor Steve Bruce on the playing squad means that the club should be aiming significantly higher than mere survival.
O'Neill's team is stagnant, predictable and lacking in real ability. Unless they start picking up the points soon and move further up the table, Sunderland will have to be looking at changing managers once more.
Joaquín Caparrós, RCD Mallorca
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Back into Spain's La Liga, Osasuna aren't the only club in a disappointing position after a good season during 2012-13.
Mallorca ended up in eighth last season, but are languishing just two points and two places above the relegation zone this time around.
Manager Joaquin Caparros is in his fourth managerial role in the last half a dozen years and seemed to have found a good formula at Los Bermellones last season. But this season, his team have been conceding goals at a rate of 1.7 per match—worse than two of the three teams relegated last season.
Throughout the latter part of the last decade Mallorca have been a fairly consistent top-half team. But since the relatively long-serving Gregorio Manzano left them in 2010, they have already had three managers.
If Caparros doesn't find a way to stop the rot, there is a big likelihood of him making way before the end of the season.
Mallorca famously went through 10 different managers between 1999 and 2003, and they will not hesitate to chop and change once more to avoid risking a relegation fight again.
Marco Kurz, Hoffenheim
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We finish up with two managers who have little to be judged on in their roles so far but face a magnificent battle to keep them nonetheless. First off, we head to Germany and the Bundesliga.
The mighty Ralf Rangnick brought Hoffenheim up from relative mediocrity to continent-wide fame with his exploits as manager of Hoffenheim. Since his departure just two years ago on New Year's Day of 2011, the club have fallen from grace somewhat and have barrelled through four coaches.
Marco Kurz became the fifth coach in two years just three weeks ago, having taken over after a poor spell under Markus Babbel and then Frank Kramer (caretaker boss).
After finishing seventh in their first season back in the top flight, Hoffenheim have managed successive 11th place finishes. But this season, they are currently 16th—in the relegation play-off spot.
Babbel was sacked in December. Hoffenheim turned to Kurz to save them, perhaps a decision tinged with an amount of fatalism and acceptance.
Kurz was in charge of Kaiserslautern last season. He left with them at the bottom of the table, a position they were unable to change, and they were relegated. Kurz had won just three of the 26 league games of the season he was manager for.
Now Hoffenheim expect him to turn around their fortunes and lead them to safety if nothing more for this season, which seems to be an optimistic expectation. Hoffenheim were four points behind Wolfsburg in 15th when Babbel was sacked; since then, the team have lost two further games and now trail safety by seven points.
Kurz has not yet had any league games in charge because of the winter break. But with Moenchengladbach (8th), Frankfurt (4th) and Freiburg (5th) as his first three games, he needs to hit the ground running to give his team a chance of surviving.
And, perhaps, himself a chance of staying in the job beyond the end of the season.
Gian Piero Gasperini, Palermo
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The second manager who has not yet had too much time with his new charges is Palermo boss Gian Piero Gasperini.
Palermo sit a disappointing 19th place in Serie A, two points from safety at the halfway point and having suffered a real dip in fortunes over the past 18 months.
Two and a half years ago they ended the campaign in fifth place, but the Sicilian side are in real danger of relegation this season. The campaign started badly with Giuseppe Sannino being fired just one month into his new job after winning only one single point from his opening three matches.
Gian Piero Gasperini was placed in charge—his first managerial role since the ill-fated stint he had at Inter Milan in 2011.
It's fair to say that Gasperini's record over the past three or four years hardly backs him up much, despite his prior good reputation (won, in part, by leading Genoa to fifth place in 2008-09).
Gasperini played over 100 league games for Palermo in the early 1980s and he will hope now to rebuild his managerial name with the same club. To do that, he is going to have to get the best out of a talented but underperforming group of players including Josip Ilicic, Edgar Barreto and Ezequiel Muñoz.
So far, he has managed just three wins from 16 league games, with their away form a particular cause for concern. Over the past 18 months, Palermo have won just once away from their home stadium—in April of last season against Bologna.
Statistics from WhoScored.com, Statto.com and TransferMarkt.co.uk