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Will Premier League Managers Outshine Their Players in 2016/17?

Daniel Tiluk@@danieltilukFeatured ColumnistApril 8, 2016

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Chelsea parted company with manager Jose Mourinho last December; three months later, they appointed Antonio Conte as first team-head coach, effective once his duties with Italy's national team are completed after Euro 2016.

His Portuguese predecessor is linked with many jobs (like the Syrian national team, as noted by the Telegraph's Callum Davis), but the most popular rumoured landing spot is Manchester United.

Current Red Devils manager Louis van Gaal and the former Blues' boss worked together previously, but—as exemplified by the Daily Express' James Dickenson—it's probably one or the other next year at Old Trafford. 

Adding Conte and possibly Mourinho to the Premier League managerial ranks reads like the 1970s heavyweight boxing division. Arsene Wenger, Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino are already in charge at Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, respectively. Pep Guardiola, once done with Bayern Munich, will join Manchester City—taking over for current manager Manuel Pellegrini.

The surprise packages of 2015/16—Claudio Ranieri and Mauricio Pochettino just will not disappear.
The surprise packages of 2015/16—Claudio Ranieri and Mauricio Pochettino just will not disappear.Michael Regan/Getty Images

Not to be forgotten, Claudio Ranieri has worked magic with Leicester City. Arguably the best former player of all EPL managers, Ronald Koeman, expertly controls Southampton, and—if miracles exist—Rafael Benitez could be on the St. James' Park touchline next season if Newcastle United somehow escape relegation.

Mourinho or Van Gaal, Guardiola, Klopp, Wenger, Benitez and Conte are considered world-class managers. Whether Pochettino, Ranieri and Koeman fit that description is more a matter of interpretation.

Either way, England's top division will have at least five world-class managers in 2016/17—rising up to nine depending on one's proclivities and this season's relegation battle.

When looking at the players they might coach, however, one begins questioning whether there would be more top-end managerial talent than top-end playing talent.

Compile the world's best footballers and hundreds would be found in the Premier League. England is an attractive destination. Possessing a passionate sporting culture, monetary advantage and traditional powerhouses—some comprising the world's most popular domestic sporting competition—English clubs, namely those in the Premier League, are coveted entities.

Antonio Conte is tasked with restoring Chelsea; that's not an easy ask with the surrounding competition.
Antonio Conte is tasked with restoring Chelsea; that's not an easy ask with the surrounding competition.Claudio Villa/Getty Images

The Premier League might have more world-class managers than world-class players next season...

— Daniel Tiluk (@danieltiluk) April 4, 2016

Jurgen Klopp will have the summer to revamp Liverpool in his own image.
Jurgen Klopp will have the summer to revamp Liverpool in his own image.Oliver Kremer at Pixolli Studios/Getty Images

With a few exceptions and omissions, there are around 10 ideal destinations for footballers to ply their trade outside of England. At those teams, talent and potential abound. Just as some do, though, many of the world's best footballers do not play in the Premier League. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern and Paris Saint-Germain hold countless world-class superstars, sometimes even legends.

Playing talent, therefore, is widespread.

The number of world-class, superstar managers, though, is far less bountiful. Carlo Ancelotti will be the best head coach not managing in the Premier League next season—if Mourinho finds an English club—but the Italian's Munich reign only exists because Guardiola wanted to test English football at Manchester City.

Elite clubs can stockpile great players, but one great manager can only manage one team.

A manager is worth more to his team than most players. There are exceptions that prove the rule—like Pele, Diego Maradona or Zinedine Zidane—but a manager's ability to sign players, choose starting XIs and make substitutions while dictating style, formation and/or pace makes a massive difference. Finding great footballing minds to make trusted calculations is invaluable.

On a sabbatical, if Jose Mourinho lands with Manchester United—all hell will break loose.
On a sabbatical, if Jose Mourinho lands with Manchester United—all hell will break loose.Clive Rose/Getty Images

2016/17 looks primed for several accomplished names to battle for the Premier League title. The upcoming class of managers could be the league's best ever—just what the sport required after many of the so-called contenders fell flat on their faces in 2015/16.

Guardiola and Conte's introduction add more firepower to an already combustible experience; if Mourinho finds his way back in, the recipe for the most entertaining and plot-heavy season in Premier League history would be ready.

Would this hide the fact English football has fallen behind Spain and Germany? Momentarily.

Would another season of subpar European displays put England's fourth-place UEFA Champions League spot in danger? Possibly.

Would players become secondary to their manager's press conferences, post-match reactions and touchline antics? Definitely.

Would you be able to turn away? Not a chance.

*Stats via WhoScored.com; transfer fees via Soccerbase where not noted.