It is scarcely believable, but after Zinedine Zidane’s resignation from his post as Real Madrid manager today a surprise candidate to replace him has emerged.
Arsene Wenger, recently relieved of his duties as Arsenal boss, has been installed as a shock favourite for the role by a number of bookmakers; sparking outrage and downright surprise from supporters of the Galacticos.
Zidane’s decision came just five days after he led Real to a third consecutive Champions League triumph, becoming just the third manager after Bob Paisley and Carlo Ancelotti to land a trio of European Cup/Champions League triumphs.
“It’s a strange moment to do so, I know, but an important one too. I had to do this for everyone,” Zidane said at a hastily arranged press conference. “I love this club, but what I think is that this team needs to continue winning, I think it needs a change, a different voice, another methodology. And that’s why I took this decision.”
Conspiracy theorists have their own ideas, of course, with some suggesting that Zidane was pushed to resign after allegedly falling out with Cristiano Ronaldo, but whatever the truth the new Real manager will have a collection of the world’s finest players at his disposal.
But will that man be Wenger?
On a Wenger and a Prayer
The new Real Madrid head coach, whomever they may be, will have two simple objectives: keep the Galacticos competitive in the Champions League wile wrestling domestic dominance away from Barcelona.
Is Wenger the man for the job? It would be a bold move given that the Gunners have never really challenged on the continental stage with him at the helm, and their last Premier League title came well over a decade ago.
Indeed, the Arsenal trophy cabinet has looked rather bare in the past few years; hence why the Frenchman was let go.
So why would Real, one of the biggest clubs on the planet, take a risk employing a manager who appears to have lost his Midas touch many moons ago?
It makes no sense, and bookmaker quotes making Wenger the 11/8 favourite to take over at the Bernabeu seem almost laughable.
There has to be some better candidates out there….right?
Mauricio Pochettino at 9/2
Bad news Tottenham fans: Mauricio Pochettino could be on Real’s wanted list.
He has done a sterling job at the London club, taking them from nowhere men to genuine Premier League title challengers and without spending ludicrous sums of money.
His suitors will point to the job he has done in turning the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen into such outstanding players, and while bringing people through isn’t exactly the Real way – why would it be when you have a black chequebook? – it is still a measure of his managerial nous.
Poch could instil come much-needed defensive solidity into the Galacticos, and arguably introduce the consistency they need to challenge in multiple competitions simultaneously.
Tottenham won’t want to lose a prized asset of course, but Real have the resources to loosen the grip of any club on the planet. The rest might just be down to the Argentine himself….
Antonio Conte at 6/1
The Chelsea manager may himself be looking for a new job in the summer, and his silverware-laden CV would naturally appeal to Florentino Perez.
But Conte is something of a pragmatist, and a prickly presence in media interviews, and Real have tended to appoint rather more charismatic figures in recent years.
The Italian tends to prefer a defence-orientated approach, hence the 3-4-3 system that has proven so successful when managing Italy and Chelsea.
But that would be a seismic shift in style for the Galacticos, and as such it would be a surprise if Conte is on Perez’s radar.
Guti at 6/1
You may just about remember Guti; the blond-haired midfielder who made more than 500 appearances for Real as a player. He was part of the side that won three Champions Leagues and five La Liga titles.
These days he does a bit of coaching work with the club’s youngsters, but it would take a huge leap of faith for him to be installed as the first team’s head coach without any prior managerial experience.
Maurizio Sarri at 10/1
One of the more probable appointments – if Pochettino decides not to take the job – would be the former Napoli boss, Maurizio Sarri.
He left the Naples club last week after missing out on the Serie A title to Juventus, but he will be fondly remembered by the club after instilling a swashbuckling, adventurous style to their play.
That suits Real down to a tee, particularly when paired with Sarri’s win rate of 66% at his former employer.
The black marks against his name are two-fold: a) he’s never managed outside of Italy, and b) he’s ever had to really deal with a number of world-class talents, and their varying personalities, inside the dressing room before.
Perhaps that will be enough to convince Perez that Poch is the right man for the job….or, heaven forbid, Wenger!?