Managers and coaches play the most vital role in shaping the destiny of a team. This has been a very strange season throughout the Europe. Young managers have made their mark while senior pros have enhanced their reputation through astonishing achievements. In England, Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City made all the noise by claiming their first league title in 44 years. Challenging the might of their derby rivals, Manchester United and clinching the title in a nail biting finale adds flavor to their success. In Italy, an unknown figure in the managerial world, named Antonio Conte stunned everyone when his Juventus side won the Scudetto knocking AC Milan off their perch. In Spain, Real Madrid returned to the throne after dethroning Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona. The credit can swiftly be passed to ex-Porto boss Jose Mourinho. Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund became the envy of Europe demonstrating breath-taking football at times. Chelsea had a torrid start to their campaign but caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo changed their vicissitudes, guiding them to their maiden European Cup triumph. Diego Simeone, Luciano Spalletti, Frank De Boer and Alan Pardew punched above their weights and need special mention too for their outstanding achievement this season.
Let us have a look at all the nominees in details.
Roberto Mancini (Manchester City)
He forged a team. To unite big bunch of egos under one roof is itself a big achievement. Mere accumulation of top talents would not have made any difference. Mancini made them play as a team. He handled Carlos Tevez situation with a stiff hand. He out-smarted Ferguson using the old pros’ typical medicine of mind games. Above all, he never lost the faith. Even when they were free-falling with few games left. His side has shown every attributes of a champion team – winning at ease when in form and grinding results in adversities. They are now aiming to compete with Real Madrid and Barcelona. This is what confidence can do to a manager and a team. Targets have changed, body language has changed and so has the attitude. Hats off, Roberto!
Jose Mourinho (Real Madrid)
It was a typical Jose’s second season. We can find Jose’s typical traits here too. He made Santiago Bernabeu a fortress like he did with Stamford Bridge, San Siro and Estádio do Dragão. Secondly, his team has improved upon their away record of last season. Also, he gave an emphasis on a strong defensive set up, yet making the Los Blancos as the world’s most dangerous counter attacking team.
Finally, he got the better of Pep Guardiola from every aspect. His side might have missed the chance of lifting the elusive Champions League title, but reaching the semifinal (and only losing through penalties) is no mean achievement by any stretch of imagination.
Antonio Conte (Juventus)
Conte shatters all the myth that says rebuilding process of a team must start with a high profile figure at helm. Conte was the manager of Siena in 2010. Siena was in Serie B last season. Conte guided them to promotion. Juventus saw his potential, hired him and rest is history.
He guided the Old Lady to their 28th Scudetto title. What made this campaign interesting and special was they remained unbeaten throughout the season. Conte made perfect blend of old and new bloods at the club; signing Pirlo was the master stroke of all. The only fly in the ointment remained was they drew too many matches. But it hardly matters.
Jurgen Klopp (Borussia Dortmund)
Sealing the first place is difficult; holding on to it is even more difficult. This is perfectly apt for Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp who took his yellow brigade to back to back Bundesliga titles. But this season, it was remarkable.
They had to face the threat of Bayern Munich and other chasers for almost half of the season. Rest faded away towards the end leaving Bayern as their only competitor. But Klopp knew when to paddle to accelerator. Bayern lost the title finishing eight points behind them.
The road was bumpy. Klopp lost his priced asset Nuri Sahin to Real Madrid before the season started. He replaced him with a rising star Mario Goetze but before he could flourish properly injury forced him out for almost the entire second half of the campaign. Klopp didn’t get the services of Lucas Barrios as well. However, nothing seemed to dampen his firm determination. From relegation threatened side, to loitering on the misfortune of bankruptcy, Klopp took Dortmund to a new level altogether. Hero? Yes, a genius-hero.
Alan Pardew (Newcastle United)
Pardew needs a special mention of all the candidates. Newcastle have finished 5th in the table under him – could you still believe that? Almost all the pundits ticked them as relegation contenders. Pardew proved every one wrong. His signings, his simplicity, his reserved and composed demeanor won the hearts of many neutrals. The most admirable thing about his team was discipline. He deployed an old school formation of 4-4-2 and kept things simple. He was left with an onerous task of rebuilding a team that sold key figures in the summer. Almost every signing made by him clicked. The likes of Cabaye, Demba Ba, Cisse and Ben Arfa played a major role in shaping the club’s destiny. He is a welcome relief to puritans of the game. Money is not everything in football but team spirit is. ‘Smells like Toon-spirit’ – is the new mantra at Tyne side. Pardew, take a bow!
There are others who perhaps also deserved the fifth nomination based on their success. Luciano Spalletti won the Russian league title with Zenith St Petersberg in an emphatic way. Likewise, Frank De Boer who drew attentions of Liverpool few days back earned his fame as a manager by taking Ajax to the top of the Dutch league for the second time around. Roberto Di Matteo, the interim manager of Chelsea guided the Blues to FA Cup and Champions League triumph.
Football salutes these architects behind the club’s glory. Not at all managers can win titles, but surely they can win the hearts. Does football mean winning and losing? Probably not. That’s why figures like Pardew, Simione or even Edy Raja brings fresh air of romanticism in football. We can only cherish those priceless moments.
Winner: Antonio Conte
Juventus were far from a well-oiled machine when the erstwhile club captain Antonio Conte took over as manager and as the team started the season under the new manager, only a Champions League spot was set as a realistic ambition. What the team achieved under Conte in the next one year remains to be stored forever in the history books. Winning the title beating the favorites Milan and remaining unbeaten throughout the season is phenomenal. Adding to it, Juventus’ performances against the big teams deserve special mention for Conte’s abilities to deal with the big games.
Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp who stands second as per our voters’ verdict too deserves credits aplenty for the manner in which he defended the Bundesliga title especially after Bayern Munich looked unstoppable during the early stages in the season.