Mauricio Pochettino no longer tops the ranking of the best 10 available managers

Date published: Wednesday 21st September 2022 7:37 - Ian Watson

Mauricio Pochettino greets Thomas Tuchel.

This lot will be waiting by their phones for panicking chairman to dial their digits soon. Thomas Tuchel’s receiver could well be red hot.

Here’s how we’ve ranked the best managers currently out of work…

 

10) Andre Villas-Boas
AVB is without a job, that much we know. Whether or not he wants to work again is rather less clear.

Villas-Boas has never hidden his intention to retire early. “Fifteen years, that’s all,” he said while bossing Chelsea in 2011. Since he’s been managing since 2009, that leaves him only a couple of years, even if he has taken a few breaks along the way, diverting himself to personal ambitions like the Dakar Rally.

His last position was at Marseille, a role he walked away from in disgust over their transfer policy – a recurring theme, it would seem. Like many others before and since, he flopped at Chelsea but he had a 55% win ratio at Spurs, which is marginally better than Mauricio Pochettino and bettered only by Antonio Conte in the post-war era.

 

9) Jorge Sampaoli
The Chilean jumped the Marseille ship during the summer while the French side were taking too long to replace some of the players who finished as the best of the rest behind PSG in Ligue 1.

It was a tough gig. In Sampaoli’s words: “I arrived in Marseille when the fans had set fire to the training centre. I took on a team that was very badly beaten. We qualified for the Champions League by playing a certain way and for the next stage we needed more. The president said we couldn’t go too fast in the transfer market and that didn’t suit me.”

Another disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, Sampaoli’s stock is high again after it tanked in the wake of Argentina’s failure at the 2018 World Cup. He earned the job of managing Lionel Messi – something he struggled with – by succeeding with Chile. His season-and-a-bit reign with Marseille was the longest of five managerial positions he’s held since. Sampaoli has been linked with a return to Sevilla while Brighton were also said to have sounded him out about managing in the Premier League.

 

8) Rafael Benitez
Hindsight is 20/20 but Rafa at Everton never seemed a good fit. Should he be applauded for taking a chance, or judged for not seeing the problems that lay ahead?

Either way, Benitez is on the market and, having given an interview to Sky Sports this week, it seems he wants to make himself visible to any chairman looking for a steady hand.

Liverpool and Newcastle fans will certainly vouch for Rafa’s credentials; Real Madrid fans less so. But there is no doubting his credentials when it comes to organising and preparing a struggling side and making them harder to beat. It’s not for everyone in the modern game, but Leicester could certainly use a bit of what Benitez brings.

 


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7) Marcelino Toral
The Spaniard chose to walk away from Athletic Bilbao in the summer while not feeling the full confidence of the candidates in the club’s presidential election. “The time has come to step aside and close a beautiful story,” he said.

Marcelino has managed most of the clubs which sit beneath the big three in Spain, with spells at Valencia, Villarreal and Sevilla preceding his reign at Athletic. In Bilbao, he finished eighth and 10th. Previously, he has guided Valencia and Villarreal to top-four finishes, while beating Real Madrid on five occasions.

Marcelino could wait to see if Luis Enrique steps aside as Spain boss after the World Cup. Or a return to Sevilla might be on the cards if they bin Julen Lopetegui.

 

6) Sean Dyche
The ex-Burnley boss has had six months off after he was axed by the Clarets, presumably looking upon the current international break as his window to get back in to work.

What Dyche achieved at Burnley was remarkable. Staying at his post for a decade is commendable enough, but taking Burnley to the periphery of the top six and, albeit briefly, into Europe was a huge overachievement for a club with the Clarets’ budget and resources.

Perhaps staying for 10 years at Burnley has hampered Dyche since many still have him pegged as an old-school, Route One practitioner. Which would be an unfair characterisation. Yes, Dyche is pragmatic but that is an asset that should be prized by a fair few clubs. Brendan Rodgers must be looking over his shoulder.

 

5) Joachim Low
The German is one of only 20 managers to have won the World Cup. But no one has given him a route back into club football just yet after he stepped down last year from the Germany post which he occupied for 15 years – the longest international reign for a European nation.

“The will is there,” Low said during the summer. “I would like to coach a club again. That would be fun for me.”

Low ‘studied one or two offers’ and was heavily linked with the Fenerbahce job but his last club position remains the manager’s role at Austria Vienna, which he stepped away from 18 (eighteen) years ago. He might fancy Bayern; Bournemouth probably less so.

 

4) Marcelo Bielsa
Being sacked and leaving Leeds in the relegation mire might be a blot on some managers’ records. But Bielsa’s reign at Elland Road deserves far, far greater context.

It was he who got them back into the Premier League when, at times, it seemed they were destined never to return. And while he was at it, he made a city fall in love with its club once more with the kind of football that made Dirty Leeds a popular watch among the neutrals.

Bielsa will remain sanctified in West Yorkshire long, long after he moved out of his granny flat above a Wetherby sweet shop. And there’s barely a chairman out there who wouldn’t be intrigued by the possibility of replicating that impact elsewhere, especially since Bielsa prefers to rely on his coaching expertise more than his employer’s cheque book.

Mauricio Pochettino embraces Zinedine Zidane

 

3) Zinedine Zidane
Is Zizou a great coach, or just a great Real Madrid coach?

That isn’t to denigrate his achievements at the Bernabeu. Only Carlo Ancelotti has won the Champions League more often than the three occasions Zidane has won it. And the Frenchman stockpiled his winners’ medals in consecutive seasons. Add a couple of La Liga titles and Zidane’s record is unimpeachable.

Still, though, we’d love to see Zidane take another job. He seems to be very choosy – fair f***s, he’s certainly earned that right – having been linked with PSG, Manchester United and Chelsea in the past. He has spoken about his level of English being a barrier to managing in the Premier League, but we all want to Zidane to take the chance to prove he’s brilliant beyond the Bernabeu.

 

2) Mauricio Pochettino
We’re not sure when Pochettino slipped from the top spot in this ranking. Sometime in the past six months, probably. Perhaps when he was overlooked by Manchester United for the umpteenth time.

His spell at PSG hasn’t really enhanced his credentials, despite winning his first silverware as manager at the Parc des Princes. That said, you could stick an onion in a PSG bench jacket in the technical area and the Parisians would probably still win Ligue 1.

At no point did it ever appear that Pochettino was particularly happy in Paris. The lure was obvious and understandable, but never did it seem the kind of project that suited him. He built his reputation in the Premier League with Southampton and Spurs by building from the ground up, trusting young players and inspiring others to play above themselves.

Pochettino’s body of work remains strong enough to put him in the conversation for any job in the world. But he needs a chairman or owner ready for a project, rather than instant gratification. Might he find one in Nice?

 

1) Thomas Tuchel
The ex-Chelsea boss may have been ‘devastated’ by his sacking at Chelsea, which wasn’t as hard to foresee as he suggested. But Tuchel won’t be out of work for long. As it stands, his will be the number most sought in the Roladexes of any chairman at Champions League clubs who might be contemplating a change.

We’d be stunned if Juventus haven’t already put a call in to Tuchel’s agent to sound him out about replacing Max Allegri. Juve appear to need just the kind of jolt Tuchel gave Chelsea when he took over in January 2021 when, in under six months, he turned them into champions of Europe.

Bayern Munich are also said to be casting their eye Tuchel’s way while pressure mounts on Julian Nagelsmann, who seems to have annoyed his players with some public criticism after four Bundesliga games without a win. Which suggests Tuchel perhaps isn’t the man for them.

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