Football Features

Ranked: The top 10 out-of-work managers right now

By Ben Green

Ranked: The top 10 out-of-work managers right now

Published: 12:50, 10 November 2021 | Updated: 14:20, 21 November 2021

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.

10. 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 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.

At this point an honourable mention should go to Frank Lampard, another candidate for a spot on the list, but his failure to get a tune out of the squad that a few months later won the Champions League under Thomas Tuchel knocks him down.

9. 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.

8. Javi Gracia

The brilliang 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.

7. 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.

6. Nuno Espirito Santo

The best beard in the Premier League is once again out of work having been sacked by Spurs just 10 games into the Premier League season and while that does seem harsh, Nuno was a poor fit for the club and it was widely acknowledged he wasn’t even in their top three choices for the job. So yes, he was poor, but manager’s can be poor sometimes.

What has been forgotten is how good Nuno was when he was Wolves manager. He unified a squad made up of Mendes-represented players and that was no small feat. Moreover, Nuno established a firm and dynamic system of play with his 3-4-3 shape and turned players like Adama Traoré, Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez into household names and Conor Coady into an England international.

Wolves were great under him (especially against the big sides) and if given the right kind of backing at a club that actually wants him, you can imagine the brilliantly bearded Portuguese with the absolutely lovely demeanour will be a big success again.

5. Daniel Farke

The soft-spoken German coach was really stuck in a tricky situation as Norwich boss. His system of play had created a dynamic side that made absolute mincemeat of the Championship. In their last two seasons in the division they won it both times racking up a combined total of 191 points via 56 wins and 23 draws with 168 goals scored.

Daniel Farke | Norwich | Premier League

However when scaled up to Premier League level that same squad simply lacked the quality to actively compete with better teams (in particular, to score the same number of goals they did in the Championship) and Farke’s unyielding devotion to his style of play left them wide open defensively.

He’s only just come onto the job market, so maybe some will be put off by Norwich’s struggles, but what if Farke was to be given charge of a team that, quite simply, could afford better players? What heights might he scale then? It’d be fun to find out!

4. 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 the Frenchman relieved of his duties.

3. 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.

2. 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’ as he proved himself incapable of handling a club with talent and confidence; a state he helped restore the Blaugrana to as they came within one game of winning La Liga unbeaten in 2017/18.

Valverde’s inability to learn his lesson in the Champions League, however, resulted in back-to-back second-leg collapses as the Blaugrana threw away three goal leads against Roma and Liverpool in 2018 and 2019. These collapses made plain that Valverde is not a coach cut out for the elite clubs. However as his first season showed, and as David Moyes is handily demonstrating in East London, a coach who isn’t suited to the elite clubs can still manage a mid-range club to elite levels of performance.

1. Zinedine Zidane

We’re so used to watching Zinedine Zidane lift trophies as a manager, it’s easy to forget he’s only actually been one at first-team level for five years. But during that time, he’s won two La Liga titles and three consecutive Champions Leagues with Real Madrid, alongside a wealth of Super Cups and Club World Cups. It is a trophy haul many could only dream of across an entire career.

After failing to deliver any silverware last season, 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, 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 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.


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