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New Wave of Spanish Coaches to Follow Roberto Martinez to British Football

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26: Everton manager Roberto Martinez looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Everton at Villa Park on October 26, 2013 in Birmingham, England  (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)
Ben Hoskins/Getty Images
Guillem BalagueFeatured ColumnistNovember 8, 2013

For many years it was almost impossible to convince British football fans that Spain had not just an abundance of talent in midfield but also quality defenders and forwards.

But like Julius Caesar before them; they came, they saw, they conquered.

Now it’s time another myth was laid to rest—namely the one that claims Spanish coaches rarely bring anything to the table to improve what is already there.

Slowly, the penny is beginning to drop. Finally the realisation that the magic thread that binds everything together—that has transformed the Spanish side into 21st century conquistadores—is not merely formed by a rich vein of extraordinarily gifted players, but through the strength, dedication, quality and enthusiasm of its coaches.

Apart from Roberto Martinez at Everton and adopted Spaniards Mauricio Pochettino (Southampton) and Michael Laudrup (Swansea), the only other "made in Spain" coach in the U.K. at the moment is Oscar Garcia at Brighton.

Aitor Karanka
Aitor KarankaDavid Ramos/Getty Images

But things could be changing. There are more-than-loud whispers emanating from Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace, as reported by Philip Tallentire of Gazette Live, that Aitor Karanka, the ex-Bilbao central defender and former No. 2 to Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid, could soon be in the hot seat at either of the two clubs—both currently looking for a new manager.

His mentor, Mourinho, has form when it comes to assisting the path of his former helpers—having aided the progress of present Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers as well as providing glowing references for Southampton’s Pochettino.

Sir Alex Ferguson has done likewise with many of the ex-players and coaches that he worked with and trusted. At the moment, it is more a case of Karanka wanting Middlesbrough than the other way around, but I am convinced an English club will give him a chance as Mourinho rates him highly.

Scotland is becoming a curious case. Without the budgets to attract the really big names, many top-rated coaches are showing themselves prepared to take a backward step financially in order to hop aboard the United Kingdom’s managerial merry-go-round. 

Antonio Tapia
Antonio TapiaLuis Bagu/Getty Images

And for seemingly the first time in their history, Scottish clubs are speaking to coaches from Spain.

Nostalgic for those long-gone glory days, they are looking to the cash-strapped La Liga—and not to the richer English league—as the footballing model they would like to follow. The clubs sense that if they want to get the best from their players while pleasing their fans, the search for innovative names that can bring new ideas to their clubs is the road to take.

In the past few weeks alone Antonio Tapia has been linked with Hibs, as per David Hardie of Edinburgh News, as has Albert Ferrer, who has also had contact with Kilmarnock (see my column for AS).

Also in my column for AS is the news that Pako Ayestaran, the former No. 2 to Rafael Benitez and Sanchez "Quique" Flores, also came close to joining Kilmarnock. However, the final offer on the table was rejected, and he is now coach at Estudiante Tecos of Mexico. In addition, Gerard Nus—who is now an assistant manager with Melbourne Heart—has been linked with Partick Thistle.

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