La Liga: 10 Candidates to Replace Jose Mourinho as Real Madrid Manager
Jose Mourinho has cut a forlorn figure at the Bernabeu lately. The aftermath of the Clasico miniseries put a downer on his entire season and ensured that he would only end up with the Copa Del Rey as a small consolation.
What’s more, he has not settled in Madrid the same way he did his other clubs. At Chelsea, the media loved him but the owner tried to mess with him. At Inter, the owner loved him but the media tried to mess with him. Here in the capital, both the media and the club officials have, in one way or another, tried to mess with him.
Mourinho may not stay more than one season at the Bernabeu, and if he leaves, he would have no shortage of job offers from elite clubs. I for one think that it would be a bad move by Perez and co. to let Jose walk, considering that the signs for success were there, and they were only stopped this season by one of the all-time great club squads in its prime.
But a few names have already been sounded out in the press as to his eventual replacement. The following is a rundown of 10 of the most popular candidates to be linked with the job. Whoever they are, they must be prepared for all the boardroom/media baggage that comes with the job.
Louis Van Gaal
Van Gaal is another world class manager on the job market whose profile would probably match the expectations of Real Madrid. Both him and Mourinho have inextricably crossed paths ever since Mourinho’s days as Van Gaal’s assistant at Barcelona.
They both similarly stand out as managers. Mourinho because of his meticulous nature, tactical savvy and ability as a defensive guru and Van Gaal because of his meticulous nature, tactical savvy and ability as an offensive guru.
But Van Gaal is probably the one manager in football who takes the "my way or the highway" approach to a level that even surpasses Mourinho. Imagine his delight when Jorge Valdano gives him a signing that he has no use for or the press chides him for playing the kids too much.
Add his past Barcelona ties to that mix, and it’s obvious that this won’t end well.
Both men’s status as Real Madrid icons has seen them linked with the job.
Michel spent 14 years manning the right flank for them in the '80s and '90s, winning 16 trophies in all. Laudrup meanwhile will always hold a special place in Madrid hearts after transferring from Barcelona in 1994 and promptly helping his new club to break Barcelona’s five-year title winning streak (his status is evidenced by Madrid fans voting him as the 12th best player in the club’s history despite only one transcendent season and one mediocre season making up his two year stint at the capital).
The two old boys currently ply their trade at La Liga commoners Getafe (Michel) and Mallorca (Laudrup). Though they have shown signs of managerial acumen, their records this season (Getafe 16th, Mallorca 11th) don’t jump out at you and definitely don’t scream, “Champions League title at the Bernabeu next season!”
Their relative lack of managerial profile might ultimately come back to haunt them in the job, in much the same way it did Manuel Pelligrini (whose record of 96 points last year is one that Mourinho mathematically cannot better this season, another reason that he should have never been sacked).
Laudrup and Michel will be cheered by the fans for their historical connections but will have to overcome a fair bit of skepticism about their ability if they are to make it at Madrid.
Blanc is high on the Real Madrid shortlist, if reports are to be believed.
He had a fantastic spell at Bordeaux from 2007-10 and was the manager who broke Lyon’s seven-year title streak in 2008-09.
His record for France so far has also been admirable, with wins against Brazil and England and comfortably topping France’s Euro 2012 group.
He’s one of the best up-and-coming managers and unlike Michel/ Laudrup, has just enough of a high profile to not feel Roy Hodgsoned at Real Madrid. Additionally, he’s flexible and genial enough to adapt to the demands of the Madrid press and boardroom without retreating stubbornly into his shell.
But the racial quotas controversy is still in full flow and will probably end up leaving a bad taste in the mouth. For those who don’t know, Blanc, along with other members of the France Football Federation have been accused of initiating a system of quotas at the country’s training centers that would limit the amount of black and Arab players.
If the investigation ends badly, the stigma may not be something that bodes well with the Real Madrid fans. Otherwise, a good choice.
Biesla may be hoping to parlay his friendship with Jorge Valdano into a full time position as Real Madrid’s top man.
Biesla put together a fantastic record with Chile from 2007-11. He favors a swashbuckling approach to football, with most of the focus on speedy wide men and a high chance creation ratio, something that should go down well at the capital.
He is also known for his patience with the press, sometimes putting in four-hour press conferences just so everyone gets their questions answered. You can bet that there would be no Mourinho-style walkout with him in charge.
The only problem is that he hasn’t managed a club team in nearly 14 years. The club game has changed a lot in that time, and it all depends on how well he is able to learn on the fly.
Ancelotti has been linked to Roma if he leaves his post at Chelsea, but that could all change if Madrid decide to throw their hat in the ring.
You can’t fully blame him for Chelsea’s season; it was more a result of subpar squad investment and planning in the last few years that inevitably blew up when The House That Jose Built came in need of repairs.
Ancelotti himself is a great tactician, who is really adept at instilling discipline in his team and structuring his formation to match the opposition.
The only problem is that Real Madrid would be signing him to do the same job that he ultimately failed to do at Chelsea—conquer Europe.
He also ranks somewhere between Al Gore and the dad from American Pie for charisma, which will never sit well with the notoriously picky Madrid media, who like to be wined and dined during press conferences.
And look at how he has struggled to balance his squad when Fernando Torres was thrust upon him—what will happen when Perez/Valdano decides to force a galactico into the Madrid team?
Ancelotti may just be throwing himself back into the same boat if he makes this move.
The Wenger to Madrid rumor has been around the block more than a few times, with Wenger always deciding to stay loyal to Arsenal. It looks like the two parties will do their old dance again this summer, only Madrid are praying that this time, the night ends with Florentino Perez and Arsene Wenger stumbling out from somewhere, laughing arm in arm and sharing a cab on the way back to the Bernabeu.
Wenger would finally be the world class attacking coach that Real Madrid has been pining for throughout the Perez era. Wengerball would translate extremely well into La Liga, and his memorable soundbites would be gold for the Madrid press.
He is probably the one manager in world football that the media respects the most. Additionally, he’d be joining a team with a solid defense already in place, so the struggles that he has had with assembling a back four at Arsenal would largely be a moot point.
But the one thing that Real Madrid craves more than attractive football is trophies, and the mini civil war currently going on at Arsenal between the pro/anti Wenger fans is reaching the level of a dispute between Ronaldinho and Adriano over who gets the last slice of pizza.
Madrid demands instant success, and Wenger is content to slowly build for it. If he pulls his, “Second place is no disaster” rhetoric at Madrid, then there is a good chance of a Roy Hodgson-esque mutiny in the Madrid community when their philosophies inevitably clash or even worse, they continue their inferiority complex to Barcelona.
It is intriguing on paper, but both parties are ultimately too incompatible for it to work. On the other hand, I’d pay to see the look on Perez’s face when he sends Wenger out with a €70 million war chest and he returns on August 31st with Abou Diaby, Gael Clichy, a €40 million check and €10 million in the youth player equivalent of magic beans.
The Fachtman is out of a job and Real Madrid may be out of a manager. Benitez has become an almost universal figure of ridicule, which can be unwarranted and hilarious at the same time.
But whatever his faults, Rafa has proven himself to be one of the better managers in the Champions League. His record since 2004: 2004-05 (winner); 2005-06 (round of 16); 2006-07 (runner-up); 2007-08 (semi final); 2008-09 (quarter final); 2009-10 (group stage).
Sure, the success rate tailed off towards the end, but you have to remember that this was all done with a series of Liverpool squads that weren’t quite of elite caliber—a credit to his tactical acumen.
He’s one of the few relatively high profile managers on the market. Also, his one glaring weaknesses (transfer market savvy) would presumably be minimized at Real Madrid, given that many of the major personnel decisions are made by Florentino Perez and co.
Just imagine the shock and horror in the football world if Rafa succeeded for Real Madrid where Mourinho failed, not to mention the reaction from Mourinho himself. In fact, I’d advocate this move just to hear the sneering disdain from Mourinho if Rafa won the Champions League.
But the Real Madrid community hasn’t always made Mourinho feel wholly at home, so I doubt that they would take kindly to what they might see as a lesser version of him, who also doesn’t come close to matching his charisma.
Just remember what happened the last time that Rafa took over a Mourinho-inspired team.
Andre Vilas Boas
A quick rundown of the Jose Mourinho connections and similarities. Both have little playing experience (or in Vilas Boas’s case, none at all). Both cut their teeth under Sir Bobby Robson. Vilas Boas became a trusted voice in Mourinho’s ear and followed him to his jobs at Chelsea and Inter. Both made their names as young, talented managers at Porto after historically dominant seasons.
Managerial prodigies are becoming somewhat in vogue in the last few years, but Vilas Boas is probably the most highly regarded since Jose himself.
But all that is not to suggest that he is some Mourinho knockoff or that he’s even trying to follow in Mourinho’s footsteps. Vilas Boas is very much his own man. He’s no less determined than Mourinho but asserts his authority quietly rather than in the brash, confident style of The Special One (something that you’ll never hear the humble Vilas Boas anoint himself by the way).
He is probably even more analytical and studious in his approach to the game, in fact serving as Mourinho’s "observer" during their days together at Porto. He is as good of an attacking coach as Mourinho is a defensive one, and like Jose, he commands universal respect and devotion across his dressing room.
At Madrid, Vilas Boas’ resolute personality would seemingly enable him to resist much of the pressures from the board/fans and crucially, he will resist it without the borderline arrogance of Mourinho, which rubs so many people the wrong way.
But Vilas Boas hasn’t given any hints that he intends to leave Porto anytime soon. You get the feeling that he’d want to at least test himself in his maiden Champions League campaign next season. If he wins it however, expect the already growing comparisons to explode far beyond Messi/Maradonna levels.
If Madrid can pull it off, they may potentially have the next face of the managerial dugout.
Only because it would stir up a storm of s**t so bad, that it would make this year’s Classico mini-series look like an after school special.
You’d probably even have to get Samuel L. Jackson to break out his Pulp Fiction Jheri curl to play the normally reserved Rijkaard if there ever was a movie made about it.