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 while they fellow coaches slog it out on the sidelines, but now is the time for them to spring into action. The major European season is almost over, which means some teams are making the decision on whether to stick or twist with their current managers.
For some it’ll be an easy choice, while others may have to weigh up the pros and cons before making the call, especially as clubs also start planning for transfer moves. The biggest question when managers are sacked or close to getting the chop is always, who is there to come in?
We’ve ranked the best 10 managers currently without a job who could be up for grabs this summer — not including Luciano Spalletti who is taking a year-long sabbatical having led Napoli to the Serie A title.
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10. Ruud van Nistelrooy
A relative newbie to the managerial game, Ruud van Nistelrooy did enough at PSV to prove himself and there may be a line of suitors waiting to sweep the Dutchman off his feet. Taking charge of PSV in March 2022, Van Nistelrooy won his very first game in charge, beating Ajax in the Dutch Super Cup and would later add the KNVB Cup, with PSV beating Ajax again in that final. PSV ended the campaign second, finishing six points clear of third-placed Ajax and seven behind Feyenoord, but they also had to finish without Van Nistelrooy, who resigned before the final day citing inefficient support within the club. He left with a record of 34 wins from 50 games, losing just five times in the league.
9. Marcelo Gallardo
Seen as one of the next up-and-coming tacticians who could take the European game by storm in the coming years, Marcelo Gallardo is a three-time South American Coach of the Year during his eight seasons with River Plate and a two-time winner of the prestigious Copa Libertadores. He worked extensively under Marcelo Bielsa during his time with the Argentina national team as a player and shared an international dressing room with Diego Simeone and Mauricio Pochettino. Gallardo is always high up the lists of favourites whenever there is a job going in Europe, so it’s incredible we still haven’t seen him make the jump.
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 of 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 a ruthlessly well-oiled machine. The polarising Portuguese guided them to the Champions League for the first time in six years and ended the club’s nine-year wait for a Le Classique triumph against rivals PSG. He would eventually be replaced by Jorge Sampaoli, who didn’t last long in the job.
7. Vitor Pereira
We could have put any number of different coaches in this slot, from Jesse Marsch to Frank Lampard, with the likes of Ralph Hasenhuttl and Chris Wilder also available. However, due to the sheer number of times he’s been linked with jobs in England, we’ve gone with Vitor Pereira.
The Portuguese tactician has been around the block with multiple spells at Porto, as well as sitting in the dugout for the likes of Olympiacos, Fenerbahce, Flamengo and more. Much, much more.
Pereira has been linked with the likes of Everton and Wolves in the past — the former on multiple occasions and, apparently, he turned them down — but for one reason or another, it never came to pass. He remains on the market and you can bet the rumour mill will circulate once again over the coming months.
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6. Graham Potter
Graham Potter’s stock has fallen slightly after his disastrous spell at Stamford Bridge that saw him record the lowest win rate of any permanent manager in the club’s history (39%), but his spells at Östersunds FK, Swansea and Brighton should not be forgotten. Known for his innovation, methodical approach and man-management skills, Potter first came to the attention of the world after leading Swedish side Östersunds FK to the top flight for the first time in their history in 2015, before guiding them to an eighth place finish in their first campaign.
After beating Arsenal in the Europa League with the Swedish minnows, Potter returned to the UK for a spell at Championship side Swansea before replacing Chris Hughton at the Amex. After two seasons fighting off relegation, he led them to their best-ever Premier League finish in 2021/22, ending the season in ninth, before leaving for what he thought was his big break at Stamford Bridge, but it was not to be.
5. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Solskjaer’s spell at Man Utd sure was strange. The former striker was certainly given a fair crack, staying in the job for nearly three years. And in fairness to him, he enjoyed a 54.17% win rate and reached the Europa League final in 2021. However, things just never quite took off and it always felt Solskjaer was out of his depth at one of the world’s biggest clubs (though fortunes haven’t really improved that much since he left).
What you can say for certain is it’s very surprising he hasn’t been offered another role in slightly more relaxed and modest surroundings, given his experience in the Old Trafford pressure cooker and the fact he’s still only 50 years old.
Solskjaer is currently touring around the United States taking in facilities and knowledge at MLS clubs, which caused him to be linked with Charlotte FC. However, club president Joe LaBue quickly shut that speculation down.
“To be very clear, Ole visited our facility along with many other MLS facilities last week. It’s common and best practice to host people from across the globe and we’ll continue to do so. We’re proud of what we’ve built. End of story here,” LaBue wrote on X.
To be very clear, Ole visited our facility along with many other MLS facilities last week. It’s common and best practice to host people from across the globe and we’ll continue to do so. We’re proud of what we’ve built. End of story here. https://t.co/EZV0qLNk2p
— Joe LaBue (@JCLaBue) October 11, 2023
4. Hansi Flick
Everything seemed right for Hansi Flick and Germany on paper. Here we had the assistant coach of Die Mannschaft’s 2014 World Cup success and someone coming off back-to-back Bundesliga titles and a Champions League success with Bayern Munich, where he incredibly lost just seven of 86 games.
However, after a relatively solid start, things capitulated quickly, with Flick’s Germany crashing out of the 2022 World Cup in the group stage — the second time in a row they were dumped out at that stage — while his reign ended with three straight defeats, the last a 4-1 humiliation to Japan.
That said, Flick has already proven what he can do in club football and is still only 58, so as long as the appetite is still there, he should have no shortage of offers.
3. Julen Lopetegui
After helping them pull away from the relegation battle, it felt like Wolves were about to be led into another period of challenging in the top half of the Premier League by Julen Lopetegui. However, the Spaniard left his post on the eve of the 2023/24 season, citing Wolves’ financial situation as the reason.
Lopetegui has revealed he’s still living in Wolverhampton and has a lot of love for the area and the club’s fans.
“I am very happy to be here,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live. “I enjoy a lot of things about Wolverhampton and feel a lot of love from the city and all the people. I feel that they have taken care of me and my family and we have fantastic memories. All my life I wish the best not only for the football club but for all the people in this city.”
However, a manager of his standing won’t be out of work for long. Lopetegui himself has said he’s been getting to know England a little better and has ambitions to remain here long-term.
“My wife and I are trying to take advantage of our free time,” he continued. “We want to know more about the culture of England and we love the history. We have visited a lot of cities and will continue.
“At the weekend, I try to see different matches and be aware of what is happening the Premier League. We are very happy here and I have the ambition to stay here for longer.”
2. Antonio Conte
Well, that didn’t last long, did it? After being appointed only 16 months ago, Antonio Conte has parted ways from Tottenham almost as dramatically as he joined. He is now a managerial free agent. Having been identified by Daniel Levy as the man to finally deliver silverware success to Spurs, a notion reinforced by the Italian’s track record and bulging trophy cabinet — having won titles for Chelsea, Juventus, Inter and even Bari (if you count Serie B) — he was ultimately unable to bring something tangible to the table in north London.
He joined to so much fanfare in November 2021 and looked to have been a power-shifting appointment, a potentially club-defining move from Levy. Signs were promising as he thwarted Arsenal’s threats in 2021/22 to secure Champions League football, while he also brought in what initially looked like a bunch of game-changers over the summer. However, the wheels fell off at an alarming rate in 2022/23, and his frustration reached a zenith after he went off on a 20-minute rant criticising the club following Spurs’ 3-3 draw with Southampton.
“Tottenham’s story is this – 20 years there is this owner and they never won something,” Conte vented. “We are 11 players that go into the pitch. I see selfish players, I see players that don’t want to help each other and don’t put their heart [in].”
He was never going to survive the Levy chopping block after that, was he?
1. Zinedine Zidane
After failing to deliver any silverware in 2020/21, the Frenchman left the Bernabeu claiming Madrid didn’t show enough faith in him. However, Zizou isn’t done with coaching just yet.
“I will be back soon. Wait, wait a little bit. Soon, soon. I’m not far from coaching again,” Zidane recently told RMC Sport.
It’s only a matter of time till the managerial merry-go-round starts turning in Europe yet again, and there is no manager out there who can boast a CV as decorated as Zinedine Zidane. He will be the sought-after name whenever big vacancies come up, but he is smart enough to pick the right job that will allow him to best flex his man-management muscles.