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 2022/23 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 (keeping it to those most recently at clubs and not national teams, sorry Joachim Löw) who may yet feature at some point this campaign.
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10. Javi Gracia
The brilliant Spaniard has time and again proven himself capable of building defensively solid sides that can frustrate and occasionally draw blood from those with bigger budgets. In his first job in England he kept Watford in the Premier League and guided them to their first FA Cup final in 35 years. A poor start to the following season saw him sacked, and in 2020/21 he struggled to make Valencia make sense (but who wouldn’t struggle to do that?).
He is currently out of work, waiting for a good opportunity to jump back into management having left Al-Sadd after just 22 games in charge. The former Watford man was brought into replace Barcelona bound Xavi and helped the Qatari side retain their title after a thumping 8-2 win over Al Ahli but then departed soon after.
9. Sean Dyche
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Having twice guided Burnley to promotion and stabilised the Turf Moor club in the Premier League following their second elevation in 2016, Sean Dyche became an integral part of the top-flight furniture, charming fans up and down the land with his gravelly yet insightful pressers, while he made the Clarets a team that everyone hated facing.
Willing to ruffle a few feathers, defend stoutly and grind out results, Burnley were the mid-30s James Milner of the Premier League under Dyche, not glamorous or flashy, but ruthlessly disciplined, effective, hard-nosed and athletic. Unfortunately, last season Burnley finally cracked, and following a string of poor results, Dyche left Turf Moor after a decade in the dugout.
8. Quique Setién
Hailed as a future Barcelona manager during his highly fruitful stint at Real Betis, Quique Setien was seen as a man who upheld the Cruyffist 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 no surprise to see him rock up in the Catalan dugout in January 2020 even though it was clear he wasn’t the club’s first choice. Admittedly, he joined at quite a chaotic period for the club, and left that summer having made little in the way of a good impression. Setien’s failure to rouse a ramshackle Barcelona with an unhappy Messi doesn’t mean he couldn’t be a tremendous success elsewhere, albeit people will not be quick to forget the 8-2 thrashing his side endured at the hands of Bayern Munich.
7. 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 ended the club’s nine-year wait for a Le Classique triumph against rivals PSG. He would eventually be replaced by the man above him on this list, Sampaoli.
6. Rafael Benitez
The Spaniard has one of the more star-studded CVs in the sport, including a spell at Newcastle where, he didn’t necessarily enjoy continental success or lift major silverware, but brought a disillusioned, commodified fanbase together, hoisting the club up from the murk and battling against a self-imploding Tyneside tide. It didn’t work out at Goodison Park for various reasons, and in truth, it never really felt like it would work from the outset, but there can be no question that his phone probably hasn’t stopped ringing since he left the Toffees in January.
Rafa himself explained in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports how his ties with the red side of the city made running Everton the way he wanted near impossible.
“At the time Everton came in with the offer, I knew I would give my best and do everything to try to improve things. I knew it could be difficult because I was at Liverpool, so maybe I couldn’t make some decisions. It was very clear for us at the beginning.
“I realised we had to change things inside, but I couldn’t do it straight away because I was a former Red and it could be seen as ‘oh, he’s come in to change our club’.
“In another club, I would have made those decisions. I did it in the past, because you know very clearly that is the way to improve, but there at Everton I couldn’t do it.”
5. Jorge Sampaoli
Jorge Sampaoli sensationally quit Marseille at the start of last month despite guiding the club to second in Ligue 1 during the 2021/22 season. He was reportedly dissatisfied with the club’s ambition (or lack of) in the transfer market, having failed to retain the services of Boubacar Kamara, who left on a free transfer for Aston Villa and former Arsenal loanee William Saliba. Still, his legacy will live on at the Stade Velodrome after the club achieved a runners-up position, finishing just below perennial table-toppers PSG.
Famed for winning the Copa America with Chile in 2015 and earning that year’s South American Coach of the Year award, the Marcelo Bielsa disciple boasts quite the Curriculum Vitae that also includes stints as manager of Argentina, Sevilla and current Brazilian champions Atletico Mineiro. We can image it won’t be too long before Sampaoli returns to the touchline.
4. Marcelo Bielsa
The man, the myth, the legend. Marcelo Bielsa is as enigmatic as they come, but his esoteric teachings have shaped and moulded the careers of some of today’s finest tacticians. Aloof and mysterious, Bielsa’s uncanny brand of high-pressing football made Leeds a joy to watch as he ended the club’s protracted exile from the Premier League and then made them a ruthlessly attacking side in that first season back in the big time. Leeds were eventually found out last term as various injury issues and problems with consistency butchered the club’s hopes of pushing on, and the club reluctantly parted with a man who had long become immortalised at Elland Road.
3. Mauricio Pochettino
He finally won a trophy, so there’s that. Mauricio Pochettino returned to management last year after a two-year sabbatical following his spell as Tottenham boss, and he took on arguably the most-lucrative job in the sport. As it transpired, domestic success isn’t enough in the French capital, and a failure to make significant Champions League inroads ultimately meant that the top Parisian brass lost faith in Pochettino.
The Argentine is still highly thought of in the white side of North London, having overseen the club’s final season at White Hart Lane (where Spurs would go unbeaten), before guiding the Lilywhites to their first ever Champions League final in 2019.
He may have unfinished business in the Premier League and it will be interesting to see where he pitches up next.
2. Thomas Tuchel
Such is the life of a Chelsea manager. No club better epitomises the revolving door nature of modern management. Even though he was hired under a different regime, Thomas Tuchel would have known he wasn’t going to be at Stamford Bridge for the long haul. A poor start to 2022/23 saw the former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain head coach being shown the door.
He leaves the British capital with his head held high, averaging a trophy every 33.3 games and knowing that he is the only manager in the club’s history to win the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.
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’m going, but I’m not jumping overboard, nor am I tired of coaching,” said the 48-year-old in May last year, 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 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.