With the FIFA World Cup™ dominating the football landscape and several major clubs tightening their purse strings, this close season has witnessed precious few Galactico-style transfers. Indeed, with dramatic deals such as Barcelona’s snaring of David Villa in short supply, headlines have tended to be dominated less by movement of players than by changes of coach.
And no wonder. From Real Madrid to Brazil, from Italy to Liverpool, a great number of the world’s most famous club and international sides have installed a new man at the helm over the past couple of months.
In this respect, the FIFA World Cup has acted to stimulate the market, with South Africa 2010 concluding a host of professional adventures for the tournament’s successful, and not so successful, coaches. Honduras’s Reinaldo Rueda became the latest casualty on Wednesday, resigning just 24 hours after Diego Maradona’s acrimonious departure from Argentina hot seat was confirmed.
Rueda, in fact, became the 14th coach to step down or be sacked in the wake of the FIFA World Cup, with Maradona, Dunga, Marcello Lippi and Sven-Goran Eriksson among the tournament’s most high-profile casualties. Several have yet to be replaced, with Argentina, Côte d’Ivoire, Australia, Cameroon and Japan still searching for successors to Maradona, Eriksson, Pim Verbeek, Paul Le Guen and Takeshi Okada respectively.
Elsewhere, there has already been the ushering in of new eras, with Brazil, for example, recruiting former Corinthians coach Mano Menezes. The subsequent naming of 11 uncapped players in his first squad, which showed just four survivors from South Africa 2010, represented a bold statement of intent from Menezes, who has been entrusted with restoring some of the team’s lost style and swagger.
''I will try to choose the way that gives us the best chance of winning,” was his response to that challenge. “If that can be done with the 'beautiful game' that everyone likes, it would be the best.''
In Italy, Cesare Prandelli is the man charged with restoring past glories after the four-time champions – still without a win in 2010 - endured their worst-ever FIFA World Cup. The former Fiorentina coach has spoken of “transforming the negativity into something positive," and a similar – although almost certainly greater – challenge faces Laurent Blanc in France.
With the country’s entire FIFA World Cup squad suspended for one match following a miserable, dispute-ridden campaign, Raymond Domenech’s successor must plan for the future while also healing a growing rift between Les Bleus and the French public. "I will keep as fundamental criteria spirit, behaviour, commitment to the shirt,” said the 1998 world champion. "Those that don't have it, that don't want it, let them go."
In Greece, a different challenge – that of succeeding a legend – faces Fernando Santos. The Portuguese, named the Greek league’s coach of the decade earlier this year, has signalled that Otto Rehhagel’s departure will lead to a more adventurous style of football for the national team.
While Greece have opted for another foreigner, South Africa responded to a morale-boosting FIFA World Cup by entrusting one of their own to take the team forward. Having served his apprenticeship as assistant to both Carlos Alberto Parreira and Joel Santana, Pitso Mosimane – a successful club coach with SuperSport United – promised at his unveiling to “turn Bafana Bafana into world beaters.”
Like Mosimane, Korea Republic’s new coach, Cho Kwang-Rae, is bidding to build on some encouraging progress, with Huh Jung-Moo’s successor speaking of building a team “that will bring joy to the Korean people”. Mexico, meanwhile, have yet to appoint a permanent heir to Javier Aguirre, but they have put in place two interim coaches: Enrique Meza, who will oversee the friendly against Spain on 11 August, and Efrain Flores, who will lead the team for the remainder of the year.
Many of the post-FIFA World Cup changes have had a knock-on effect in the club arena, with Bordeaux, for example, replacing Blanc with Jean Tigana, and Adilson Batista, the former Cruzeiro coach, stepping in to Menezes’ shoes at Corinthians. The managerial merry-go-round rarely stops in Brazil and recent months have been no exception, with Internacional recruiting Vasco’s Celso Roth, and Palmeiras confirming the appointment of Luis Felipe Scolari.
The return of Scolari to the club with which he won the Copa Libertadores stole the headlines for a time, but there is one coach who tends to ensure that his counterparts rarely hog the limelight for long. Jose Mourinho, in his own inimitable style, certainly took centre stage when, fresh from a second UEFA Champions League triumph, he confirmed a long-heralded switch to the Bernabeu.
"I don't know if I was born to coach Real Madrid but I was born to be a football coach," said the former Inter Milan boss. "I am Jose Mourinho and I don't change. I arrive with all my qualities and my defects.”
The Special One’s arrival in Madrid created a vacancy in Milan, of course, and it was Rafael Benitez – recently dismissed by Liverpool – to whom Inter turned. The Reds, in turn, secured the appointment of a former Inter coach in Fulham’s Roy Hodgson, whose place at Craven Cottage has been taken by Mark Hughes. Avram Grant was the Premier League’s other big mover, taking over at West Ham United from Gianfranco Zola.
There has been even more significant upheaval in Zola’s homeland, where Italy’s three most successful clubs – Juventus, AC Milan and Inter – all changed coaches, with Massimiliano Allegri succeeding Leonardo at Milan and Juve appointing Luigi Del Neri. Other major clubs also have new men at the helm, with Claudio Borghi taking charge at Boca Juniors, Neil Lennon assuming control at Celtic and Bernd Schuster earning the job at Turkish giants Besiktas.
Steve McClaren, meanwhile, was rewarded for his title-winning exploits in the Netherlands with a move to Wolfsburg, while Manuel Jose, Walter Zenga, Jorge Fossati and Trond Sollied have been lured to Saudi Arabia with Al Ittihad, Al Nasr, Al Shabab and Al Ahli respectively.
Elsewhere, Henri Michel has swapped Egypt’s Zamalek for Raja Casablanca in Morocco, while there were high-profile appointments in UAE and Qatar, with Ilija Petkovic (Al Ahli, QAT), Pericles Chamusca (Al Arabi), Laszlo Boloni (Al Wahda) and David O'Leary (Al Ahli, UAE) all making the move east.
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