The dugout can be an unforgiving terrain, with managers only ever a few bad results away from the chopping block.
This may explain why there are often more than a few elite coaches resting up mid-season while their fellow coaches slog it out on the sidelines.
The 2021/22 season is no exception to that trend. Currently out of work are more than handful of renowned and, in some cases, esteemed managers, waiting in the wings for a chairman’s text. We’ve ranked said managers, who may yet feature at some point this campaign.
Premier League 2021/22 ‘Bottom at Christmas’ odds from William Hill
- Norwich (7/4)
- Burnley (9/2)
- Watford (9/2)
- Crystal Palace (5/1)
- Brentford (10/1)
- Southampton (14/1)
Odds correct at time of publication (11:45, 10/09/21). You have to be 18+ to gamble. Be Gamble Aware.
10. Chris Wilder
Chris Wilder has revealed he hasn’t been short of opportunities since leaving Sheffield United by mutual consent back in March.
“There have been a couple of opportunities. It has to be right for me,” he told Sky Sports. “The next job is a really important one because I’m getting judged off the back of a relegation and I’ve not enjoyed that. I didn’t like it, I’ve owned it but I want to move on and be part of a club that’s inclusive, that’s going in the right direction, that’s together and that wants to go and achieve.”
Few fair-minded pundits would hold that relegation against him too much. The Blades had a tiny budget compared to the rest of the Premier League and the very fact Wilder was able to drag them from the depths of League One and into the top flight in just three years, then keep them there at the first time of asking, speaks for itself.
While unlikely to get one of the top jobs, Wilder’s tactical innovations and ability to get the best out of a limited group of players are sure to make him an interesting candidate for a number of vacancies.
At this point honourable mentions should go to Eddie Howe and Frank Lampard, two candidates for this spot on the list who make up a trio of talented English coaches without clubs right now.
9. Quique Setien
Hailed as a future Barcelona manager during his highly fruitful stint at Real Betis, Quique Setien was seen as a man who upheld the Cruyffian principles that have been firmly entrenched at Camp Nou since the Dutchman gracefully orbited the touchline.
His Betis side played like a mini Barca, so it was so surprise to see him rock up in the Catalan dugout in January 2020. Admittedly, he joined at quite a chaotic period for the club, and left that summer, though fans will not be quick to forget the 8-2 thrashing his side endured at the hands of Bayern Munich.
8. Andre Villas-Boas
It can be argued that Andre Villas-Boas is still trying to re-establish his reputation following those two utterly underwhelming stints at Chelsea and Tottenham, having ventured to Russia and China to evade the intense limelight off Europe’s top five leagues, before returning to Marseille in 2019.
His time as OM boss ended acrimoniously due to off-the-field differences but, on the turf, Les Phoceens were ruthlessly well-oiled machine. The polarising Portuguese guided them to the Champions League for the first time in six years and ending the club’s nine-year wait for a Le Classique triumph against rivals PSG.
7. Lucien Favre
Tipped to join Crystal Palace in the summer, only to make a U-turn at the eleventh hour, Favre remains out of work following his dismissal as Borussia Dortmund manager. Exceptional managerial spells at Borussia Monchengladbach and Nice saw the Swiss technocrat join the Ruhr Valley giants in 2018 with the hope of blooding the prodigious young talent BVB had assembled and re-establish the club as a consistent fixture in the latter stages of European competition. Favre can be credited with the rapid developments of Jadon Sancho and Giovanni Reyna among others, but very weak title challenges ultimately saw Favre relieved of his duties.
6. Diego Martinez
Diego Martinez produced wonders at Granada in every respect. First the Galician guided them to promotion from the Segunda Division in his maiden season, then he masterminded a seventh-placed finish on their La Liga return, entering the Europa League for the first time in the club’s history; and finally, he took Granada to the quarter-finals of the competition last campaign, in which they were eliminated by Manchester United. He also managed another top-of-the-table finish in La Liga with the added strain of ‘Thursday nights’. Such fantastic work in just three seasons! The 40-year-old has a bright future in the dugout.
5. Paulo Fonseca
The immaculately-dressed Paulo Fonseca is well-tailored and well-respected. The Mozambique-born manager garnered a burgeoning reputation as a modern, progressive coach during his stint at Shakhtar Donetsk, though he was largely unable to translate that form to the Eternal City.
Roma finished fifth and seventh in his two seasons at the Stadio Olimpico as the Giallorossi remain without Champions League football for a third straight season now. However, his reputation seemingly remains intact. There just seems to be something very reassuring and resolute about a man whose suit game is that strong.
4. Claudio Ranieri
At this point there really isn’t much more to say about Claudio Ranieri, which is a testament to his achievements in the game. That Leicester City fairy tale will remain his Magnum Opus, and even despite forgetful stints at Fulham, Nantes and Roma, his legacy, reputation and esteem will never be tarnished nor sullied. He actually proved very resourceful in his last position at Sampdoria, first staving off the threat of relegation after he inherited a squad at the bottom of Serie A midway through 2019/20, before guiding them to a ninth-placed finish last term.
3. Ernesto Valverde
Make no mistake, there were some very questionable signings during the Valverde era at Barcelona, chiefly the acquisitions of Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann for eye-watering nine-figure sums, though that bad business can largely be attributed to a spendthrift board who lacked long-term vision.
Valverde was ‘backed’, a term bordering on the cliche these days, but his ‘backing’ was a poorly-assembled squad of individuals. For his part, though, Barca won back-to-back La Liga titles and the Copa del Rey between 2018 and 2019. It unravelled in the end for La Liga’s 2015/16 ‘Coach of the Year’, but the blame cannot be solely levelled at Valverde, particularly given how the club have fared since his exit.
2. Zinedine Zidane
After failing to deliver any silverware last season, the Frenchman left the Bernabeu claiming Real didn’t show enough faith in him. However, Zizou isn’t done yet.
“I’m going, but I’m not jumping overboard, nor am I tired of coaching,” said the 48-year-old, signalling his intent to continue on in management.
It’s only a matter of time till the managerial merry-go-round starts turning in Europe, and there are few available candidates out there with a better pedigree than Zidane.
1. Antonio Conte
A world-class manager in every respect. Conte is a magnet for silverware, a fastidious coach who will implement change and get immediate results. His Inter stint is well-documented, having reclaimed the Scudetto 11 years after the Nerazzurri conceded it to rivals Milan, while he is lauded at Chelsea, Juventus and the Italian national side among others. There can be no question that Conte is the hottest ticket around at the minute, and whoever signs him up next may as well dust off the trophy cabinet the minute he puts pen to paper.