To kick things off, apologies in advance to the sensitive geek collective who also like soccer—an admittedly small niche, to be fair. Today we have mixed fantasy franchise references ahoy, so hold on to your Spock ears.
There is going to be hint of both The Hobbit and Hogwarts at Real Madrid over the next few months when a new manager is appointed, with the challenge of bringing the Golden Fleece that is the Champions League to the Spanish capital. Better make that a touch of Jason and the Argonauts, too.
Fans going into Madrid’s stadium for the first home game may well be put into houses by a Santiago Bernabeu sorting hat to find out where they stand in terms of the team’s latest trainer.
The older generation are still ruing the day the club let Vicente Del Bosque go in 2003. Those more with the program, but still of a conservative nature regret the rather harsh firing of Manuel Pellegrini in 2010. Many young punks are set to miss the rabble-rousing ways of Jose Mourinho, whose departure looks imminent. On top of all that, there will be the pragmatic "move with the times" brigade who will immediately support the replacement for the Portuguese Provoker.
This Real Madrid factional split could be an issue, if the next coach appointed is not the Chosen One capable of ruling them all.
Current PSG boss Carlo Ancelotti is the front-runner, after the president of the French club told L’Equipe that Real Madrid had already asked permission to speak to the Italian. “We respect all clubs and we expect the same in return,” was the retort from Nasser Al-Khelaifi on the approach from the Spanish side, who claimed he reminded the Real Madrid general manager, Jose Angel Sanchez, that Ancelotti had another year left on his contract.
A poll published on May 6 in the print-only edition of Marca reported that 62 percent of those who voted did not want Ancelotti to be the next boss. Sadly, there was no indication of who supporters did want, which might have been helpful.
Certainly, Ancelotti has a fine managerial resume having managed big clubs, won domestic trophies in three countries along with two Champions League titles in 2003 and 2007. Unfortunately, though, Ancelotti happens to be Italian, which immediately puts the manager at a disadvantage in a country that feels itself infinitely superior to the dour, defensive football nation across the Mediterranean.
Rafa Benitez is another manager who has won the Champions League, with Liverpool in 2005, as well as La Liga, with Valencia in 2002 and 2004. Curiously, though, the current Chelsea boss, who both played and coached in Real Madrid’s youth system, is a name that has not really been on the gossip horizon in Spain. Perhaps, Florentino Perez is not so keen on a manager rejected by Liverpool, Milan and, most recently of all, Chelsea, should the "interim" nature of Benitez’s latest post stay true to its nature.
However, there is one name that has yet to do the rounds in Spain—and probably never will—who would be an excellent fit for Real Madrid, should Perez want to think outside the box for the club’s next bench-sitter. A little further down the league resides a manager who has brought a club in financial ruins from the second division to the brink of Europe.
He is a coach who is in charge of a huge, historical club with a passionate but demanding fanbase who are nearly impossible to please.
He is a trainer, whose team have been playing the most thrilling football in La Liga.
He is a manager whose playing background is also in the youth ranks of Real Madrid and who is Madrid born and bred. What's more, his team has beaten Real Madrid in the current campaign.
Pepe Mel of Real Betis is a figure who deserves a chance of the big time.
He may not be famous, he may not be glamorous, but by thunder he is a worthy candidate of sitting in the Real Madrid hot seat. In Spain, Mel is well-liked, well-respected and might be the manager to bring a bit of peace to the Santiago Bernabeu stands next season.