Power Ranking Every La Liga Manager
La Liga is over, and there is a new champion in town: Atletico Madrid.
While Diego Simeone has secured Los Rojiblancos’ place at the top of the table, are there other managers who deserve to be recognised for merely ensuring their team stayed up?
By taking into account their resources and working conditions, the following slides rank the managers who ended the season in charge of their respective clubs.
20. Gabriel Calderon
It’s tough to blame Gabriel Calderon for Real Betis’ demise, given he was their third manager of the season, but the 54-year-old did little to inspire any sort of belief that the club could get out of the pickle they were in at the bottom of the table.
He won just six of the 21 matches that he took charge of in his first managerial job in Spain—also losing to city rivals Sevilla in the Europa League last 16.
So while Pepe Mel and Juan Carlos Garrido share the blame, Calderon wasn’t good enough either. That is why the club have already announced that he will leave his seat in the dugout, per Football Espana.
19. Juan Ignacio Martinez
Juan Ignacio Martinez worked wonders with Levante, famously leading them to the top of La Liga, albeit briefly, before eventually guiding them into the Europa League during a two-year stay in Valencia.
He parted company with the club last summer, though, and soon wound up in the hot seat at Real Valladolid.
La Pucela hoped for a similar impact to that which he had at Levante, but they limply surrendered their ties with La Liga en route to a 19th-place finish. Their lackluster defeat to Granada on the final day of the season characterised their campaign.
18. Lucas Alcaraz
Some pre-season predictions suggested Granada could be the surprise package, but with Lucas Alcaraz in charge, you never felt that was going to be especially likely.
Granada were one of the few clubs that arguably strengthened over last summer, so it is disappointing that they had to rely on winning at Real Valladolid on the final day of the season before they could celebrate another season among Spain’s elite.
It will be interesting over the summer to see if they decide to stick with Alcaraz.
17. Javi Gracia
After a 14-year stay in La Liga, Osasuna’s final day win against Real Betis wasn’t enough to prevent them from losing the LFP badges that are placed on the sleeves of their shirts.
Javi Gracia replaced Jose Luis Mendilibar in September, but despite hammering Atletico Madrid 3-0 in Pamplona and holding Real Madrid and Barcelona to draws, he couldn’t save the club from dropping down a division.
Despite that, there’s a feeling his reputation has remained intact, so don’t be surprised to see him back in charge of a La Liga side before Osasuna get the chance to bounce back.
16. Cosmin Contra
The fact Cosmin Contra is so low on this list is in part due to his predecessor at Getafe, Luis Garcia, who had left the Madrid-based club in a real spot of bother at the wrong end of the table.
Contra arrived and won four of his 11 games in charge of the club to eventually ensure they would maintain their top-flight status on the final weekend of the season.
The Romanian will presumably continue to head the club next season, although there are still plenty of questions to be answered in regard to how far he can take them.
15. Francisco Rodriguez
Newly promoted Almeria didn’t win their first league match this season until October 30—they’d already played 10 times by that point, picking up just three draws in those opening fixtures.
From that point on though, Francisco Rodriguez deserve credit for guiding the club out of the bottom three and securing another season of shoulder rubbing with the biggest clubs in Spain.
Almeria won three of their last four matches to ensure they evaded the relegation bullet.
Pizzi replaced Miroslav Dukic as Valencia manager in December and, in true Valencian style, has already had plenty of ups and downs.
A win at Camp Nou is the obvious highlight, while the last-minute defeat to Sevilla in the Europa League at the Mestalla hurt the Argentine coach—it looked like Valencia had completed an unlikely comeback when they led 3-0 heading into stoppage time.
Ultimately, he missed the admittedly tough target of qualifying for Europe again next season, as the club only mustered an eighth-place finish.
13. Bernd Schuster
Bernd Schuster is another manager who will leave his post, although at one point it looked as if he wouldn’t even last as long as he did at Malaga.
To be fair, he had a difficult job: He took over a squad that were dismantled from the season before and full of players who had not been paid their wages in full for several months.
At times Malaga looked shaky, but they never became overly involved with the battle at the bottom of the table and actually managed to end the season on the brink of the top 10.
12. Javier Aguirre
Espanyol, the other club in Barcelona, raced out of the traps under Javier Aguirre this season and were unbeaten in their opening five matches. They’d later become the first team to beat Atletico Madrid in the league this season as well.
That good form continued for a while, before they ended the season with no wins in eight games.
Aguirre will now leave the club after taking over the season before when they were bottom of the table and stabilising them. The new manager has a tough act to follow.
11. Joaquin Caparros
When Levante were thumped 7-0 on the opening day of the season at Barcelona, you worried about Joaquin Caparros.
He’s a wily old manager, though, and has had a lot of success with moderately sized clubs in Spain. The past season with Levante actually turned out quite well.
A 2-0 win against Atletico Madrid threatened to ruin Diego Simeone’s side’s title bid as well, as the Valencian club ended the season strongly en route to a top-10 finish.
10. Jagoba Arrasate
Real Sociedad were dealt a blow last summer when manager Philippe Montanier decided he would not extend his stay at Anoeta after impressively guiding a talented crop of players into the Champions League.
The club appointed from within by hiring Jagoba Arrasate, and the new man got off to a slow start.
Their Champions League campaign was a no-starter as they slumped out in the group stages and struggled to move through the gears in the league.
However, they did eventually begin to resemble themselves, gradually rising up the table before dropping back into a seventh-place finish. They also reached the semifinal stage of the Copa del Rey.
9. Fran Escriba
Fran Escriba brought Elche up from La Segunda Division as champions in 2012/13 and had assured their safety in La Liga with a week to spare.
A last-day defeat to Sevilla makes them look a little uncomfortable in the final standings, but that should not take away from the club's fantastic season.
With their tiny budget and blunt forward line, many people thought that Elche would struggle to hang around in the Spanish top flight, but having done exactly that, they may struggle to hold onto their manager.
8. Gerardo Martino
You get the feeling it has not been an overly enjoyable experience for Gerardo "Tata" Martino to manage Barcelona.
The Argentine coach’s spell in charge of the club coincided with the Neymar tax scandal, Sandro Rosell’s resignation, the FIFA transfer ban and also, sadly, Tito Vilanova’s death.
Martino has never looked for excuses during his reign though, and he will leave the club this summer having maintained his dignity and earned the respect of European football.
Unfortunately, results on the pitch didn’t quite go his way. He tasted defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League and to Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final. He also drew with Atletico in La Liga on the final day of the season, when a win would have kept the title at Camp Nou.
7. Luis Enrique
While impressive, Celta Vigo’s final position of ninth is perhaps a bit misleading.
For large parts of the season the Galicians did look like they could be in trouble; however, they pulled their finger out over the final quarter of the season and accelerated through a bunch of teams in the middle of the table that were separated by just a few points.
That said, this side dodged relegation on the final day last season, so finishing inside the top 10 is of massive credit to Luis Enrique.
So much so in fact that the former Real Madrid and Barcelona manager has replaced Gerardo Martino on the Camp Nou bench, per BBC.
6. Carlo Ancelotti
Real Madrid may not have won the league, but they won the Copa del Rey and could yet win the Champions League—which would definitely bump Carlo Ancelotti up a couple of places on this list.
And while finishing third, behind both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, would usually be considered a sackable offence, the nature of this season’s title race and Ancelotti’s work away from the pitch afford the Italian a certain amount of good will.
He arrived at the Bernabeu with a torn dressing room thanks to Jose Mourinho, but he soon pieced it back together.
Particular highlights have been the way he’s managed the goalkeeper situation, the way he’s incorporated Gareth Bale and the way he had the foresight to see that Angel Di Maria could offer his style more than Mesut Ozil.
In 2012/13 Villarreal were playing in La Segunda Division; in 2014/15 they will be playing in the Europa League.
Marcelino isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but nobody can sniff at the way he has guided the Yellow Submarine into a sixth-place finish, ahead of Real Sociedad and Valencia, on the back of promotion just a season earlier.
In finishing so high, Villarreal have secured the best finish of a promoted side since Celta Vigo in 2006/07.
The success could eventually be his downfall. The expectations are now raised at a club that have featured in the Champions League more than once in the last decade, but for now he can enjoy the limelight.
4. Unai Emery
Real Madrid slammed seven goals past Sevilla in a post-Clasico rage, leaving Unai Emery’s job as manager hanging in the balance.
That was in October, though; now, in May, he has managed to guide Sevilla to a fifth-place finish and steered them to Europa League success in Turin against Benfica recently.
How much say he had in the transfer market is unknown, but the players who arrived last summer have been particularly key in the club’s success since making a poor start: Carlos Bacca, Stephane M’bia and Daniel Carrico.
Nevertheless, some old heads—Ivan Rakitic especially, but players like Federico Fazio too—could be key to Emery building on this campaign’s success next season.
3. Paco Jemez
After Rayo Vallecano’s final game of the season against Getafe, Paco Jemez more or less suggested in his post-match press conference that he wouldn’t be at the club next season, per Inside Spanish Football.
He’s likely to be highly sought after by clubs in Spain and beyond with managerial vacancies.
At one point Rayo looked doomed with Real Betis this season, but Jemez stuck to his guns, was true to his style and was rewarded by a fantastic run of results in the second half of the season, which propelled the Vallecas club into a finishing position of 12th.
Parallels can perhaps be drawn with Roberto Martinez at Wigan, except Jemez was working with less money and a bigger turnover in players, and he didn’t get relegated.
2. Ernesto Valverde
If Marcelo Bielsa is remembered for bringing Athletic Bilbao back into fashion, Ernesto Valverde will be remembered as the man who elevated them into the Champions League.
He left Valencia at the end of last season to return to Athletic for a second spell in charge of the club, and as Sid Lowe noted in his Guardian column, the sequel has been even better than the original.
Without the services of Javi Martinez and Fernando Llorente, a new crop of Basque stars have rise—Aymeric Laporte, Ander Iturraspe, Ander Herrera, Iker Muniain (the list goes on)—and will rub shoulders at Europe’s top table next season.
Athletic ended the season fourth in the table, seven points ahead of fifth-place Sevilla.
1. Diego Simeone
What a remarkable job Diego "El Cholo" Simeone has done at Atletico Madrid.
To take the league title down to the last day of the season was impressive in itself, but to then win it at Camp Nou arguably capped the most significant achievement in European football this season.
The 44-year-old former Atletico player has not had the luxury of spending power. Instead, he had to sell players, such as Radamel Falcao, during his time in charge, but he has led a squad that cost less than £50 million to assemble to the very top of Spanish football.
Things could still get better too: They take on Real Madrid in the Champions League final on Saturday.
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