England National Team: 5 Foreign Candidates to Succeed Fabio Capello
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The breaking news today is that the English FA won't be naming a new England manager before the 2012 European Championships.
Unfortunately, this does nothing to quell our excitement and anxiety as speculation continues to rage over the FA's next appointment in the England hot-seat.
Much of the noise ringing around the country has been in favor of an Englishman in charge of his home nation, and this is a view endorsed by fans, players and managers alike.
The current favorite is Harry Redknapp. But when we take a step back, do we see a plethora of English-born managers who come across as ready for international management at the highest level? The unfortunate answer is no.
While country of birth might be considered important in international management, it might not be the wisest idea to rule out top-class foreign coaches just because they're not English.
Lindsay Eanet lists six possible candidates for the next England job, five of whom are English-born, in a thorough read. (As for the sole exception, I apologize to Lindsay for stealing his name.)
As a follow-up, here are five foreign candidates that the English FA would do well to consider in their next round of interviews.
They share two common attributes: They are seasoned professionals at the highest levels of professional football management; and they are fluent in English. They also do not include Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger and Roberto Mancini, all three of whom I believe would make excellent England managers. Alas, Euro 2012 might just come a bit too soon.
Without further ado...
5. Rafael Benitez
Rafa Benitez: Former Liverpool Favorite
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Say what you will about Rafael Benitez, but the man is a tactical genius.
For Liverpool fans, the brilliant tail-end to the 2008-2009 season will be remembered for its goalscoring, attacking blitz that tallied four goals at home against Real Madrid, four away at Manchester United, and five against Aston Villa, amongst other high-scoring results.
But Benitez's crowning achievements, his tactical triumphs, have always come when he's the underdog.
Starting with unfashionable Valencia's surprise clinching of the La Liga title over Real Madrid and Barcelona, Benitez took his methods to Anfield, where he fashioned many a memorable European victory. Barcelona at the Camp Nou. Internazionale at the San Siro. European semifinals against Chelsea. The list goes on.
With an England team that doesn't possess the silky smooth passing skills of Spain and the individual brilliance of Brazil and Argentina, Benitez would be able to alter his team and formation to each specific opponent. And with the underdog tag that England have increasingly been labeled, he would be more than capable of springing a surprise with his effective counter-attacking style in the results-oriented business that is international football.
The only thing that works against him is the similarity in personality and management style with the incumbent Fabio Capello. Benitez has been known for the distance he maintains with his players, and England may be searching for a departure from this style.
And, of course, it doesn't help that the English media have portrayed Benitez as a clueless control-freak who drove Liverpool into financial ruin and who wasn't fit to lace Jose Mourinho's boots at Internazionale...
4. Ottmar Hitzfeld
Ottmar Hitzfeld: Der General
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You don't get voted World Coach of the Year twice unless you're quite brilliant.
Ottmar Hitzfeld was awarded the prestigious accolade in his spells with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, and the latter's fans also bestowed him with the honor of Bayern Munich's greatest coach ever.
During his team at Dortmund, Hitzfeld didn't manage to win the league title, but he led his charges to a memorable Champions League victory over Juventus. Cue his first World Coach of the Year title.
His first season at Bayern, during which he secured the Bundesliga title on a record margin, is best remembered for Manchester United's dramatic last-minute victory in the 1999 Champions League final. The season after, Hitzfeld led Bayern to the double and the semifinals of the Champions League.
He wouldn't be deterred in his third year, when a penalty shootout victory over Valencia brought him European glory in Milan. This made him only the second coach ever to win Europe's biggest title with two different clubs. Another World Coach of the Year went his way.
After winning the 2007-2008 Bundelisga title for Bayern, Hitzfeld went on his way and took over as coach of the Switzerland national team. He masterminded a Swiss victory over Spain in the Group Stages of the 2010 World Cup finals, which would be the only loss suffered by the eventual world champions.
Hitzfeld is the only coach on this list to not have had any experience with Premier League football and the English press. Unfortunately, this might be the biggest disadvantage for a man who's achieved such great footballing heights.
3. Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill: Led the English Brigade at Aston Villa
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Been there, done that.
Martin O'Neill practically ran the English national team, supplying a good proportion of its playing staff while in charge of Aston Villa.
For a non-Top Four club to be the Premier League's most prolific conveyor belt of young English talent, this English backbone took Aston Villa to Europe and earned O'Neill plenty of plaudits.
It is a testament to his eye for young domestic talent, and a sad state of Villan affairs, that the O'Neill graduates of Gareth Barry, Ashley Young, James Milner and Stewart Downing now find themselves at other clubs. But another famed O'Neill product, Gabriel Agbonlahor, remains at the club as their currently longest-serving player.
Prior to his departure, O'Neill also presided over the development of young talents Marc Albrighton and Ciaran Clark, who have established themselves as fixtures in the Villa team.
O'Neill's English-centric and youth-centric policy provided ample evidence that England does possess talented youngsters who can mature into top-class performers given the right guidance.
With his famously enthusiastic celebrations and his much-reputed man management style, O'Neill also ticks the box for off-the-pitch attributes. And this wouldn't be his first time linked with the England job either.
We just have to wonder how well an appointment of a Northern Irishman would sit with the England fans, though.
2. Carlo Ancelotti
Carlo Ancelotti: Winner with Both Milan and Chelsea
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As is often the case with managers who succeed Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant and Luiz Felipe Scolari ultimately succumbed to fan and board pressure to win as successfully as the Special One.
Not so Carlo Ancelotti.
Fresh from his achievements with AC Milan in Serie A and in Europe, Ancelotti joined the Blues and made an instant impact, winning the Premier League and the FA Cup in his first season, also Chelsea's first ever double.
He also defied the stereotypes associated with an Italian manager in the process, as his team amassed 103 goals over the 2009-2010 domestic campaign, the first to score over 100 in the league in almost 50 years. This attacking philosophy carried well into a blistering start to the 2010-2011 season.
Chelsea's start didn't sustain, and they finished the campaign in a very respectable second place. Like so many managers before him, Ancelotti missed out on owner Roman Abramovich's holy grail, the Champions League title, and consequently missed out on a longer Chelsea career.
His achievements as a player and his European pedigree as a manager will not be diminished following his Chelsea dismissal, however. The facts state that Carlo Ancelotti is a world-class coach, and he has the medals to prove it.
Ancelotti's affable personality and man management style also won him plenty of friends in England, and it is this experience with English expectations that will mark him out as a top candidate for the England job.
1. Guus Hiddink
Guus Hiddink: The Dutch Master
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Let's be honest here—who didn't see this coming?
There is no list of the world's best football coaches that's complete without a mention of Guus Hiddink, and this list is no exception.
The man is a master at his job, and he has results and achievements across the world to show for his brilliance.
Hiddink's first astounding achievement was at the helm of PSV Eindhoven, where he won the European Cup and the Treble in his first full season.
He ensured his place in the pantheons of football following his spell in charge of the South Korean national team, whom he took to the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup. His subsequent four years with PSV yielded three Dutch League titles. His total haul of six Eredivisie championships and four Dutch Cups makes him the most successful Dutch coach ever.
Hiddink followed this up by working more magic with lesser-known national teams, taking Australia to the Knockout Stages of the 2006 World Cup, and Russia to the semifinals of the 2008 European Championships. He would also famously guide Chelsea to a FA Cup victory in his five months as a caretaker role at Stamford Bridge.
Famous for his man management style, which has been called motivational and inspirational, and for his defensive organization, his calm demeanor in the face of pressure, excellent grasp of English, and knack for bringing success wherever he goes marks Guus Hiddink as the outstanding foreign candidate to succeed Fabio Capello.