This is the age of disposable managers, but the fact that people are disposed from the role when they don’t meet requirements, sometimes as early as two months, tells us about the importance a manager has on the shape and success of a club. The success, continuity, growth and well being of a club, big or small is on the shoulders of one man and this is the time when TheHardTackle acknowledges the best of the last season.
Massimiliano Allegri (Juventus)
There were a lot of sneers and sniggers that went Allegri’s way after he was appointed Juventus’s boss as Conte took over the Italian national side. Succeeding a man that had won three successive titles for the Old Lady was always going to be an uphill task. Especially since things went so bad for Allegri in his last season at Milan. The club finished 11th in the table and everyone forgot that the same man had led Rossoneri to the scudetto in 2011, a second placed finish in his second season, a third-place finish despite a horrible start in the season after that. That too, despite seeing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Alessandro Nesta depart. After being relieved from his duties at Milan, Allegri was approached by Juventus and naturally, there were plenty of sceptical supporters as the 47 year-old was perceived as not good being enough for the role. Fast forward twelve months and the same man came whisker close to winning the treble. Allegri ended the season with the scudetto, the Coppa Italia (first in twenty years) and guided his side to the Champions League final (he beat the riches of Real Madrid on the way). At first, Allegri was accused of not bringing anything new to the table by sticking to Conte’s 3-5-2, but as the season progressed, one could see what the former Cagliari coach was adding to the side.
Allegri becomes only the sixth manager ever to win Serie A with two different teams and the first ever to do so in his first season at each one.
Luis Enrique (Barcelona)
When Barcelona were defeated 1-0 at Real Sociedad (much to the amusement of Premier League fans, no points for guessing why), a crisis opened. That night, Lionel Messi sat on the bench and added more fuel to the fire by not attending the training session (which was open to supporters) the next day. It being January, there were plenty of rumors claiming Messi was going to join Chelsea as he wants “a new challenge”. Jeremy Mathieu confirmed that there was a clash between the two. The same day (of Messi sitting out the session), sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta was sacked and his assistant and former player Carles Puyol quit hours later. Needless to say, there was plenty of tension at Camp Nou and at the time, Real Madrid were cruising in all competitions. It was surprising for many to see Enrique not getting the sack. Six months on, the former Roma coach has won all the trophies he could as Barcelona manager and the choice of leaving the club (which many felt he could post Zubizarreta’s sacking) was completely in hands. Of course, the manager has since signed a year extension which will see him with the Catalan giants till 2016-17.
Luis Enrique insisted that titles won with a a patadA?na were worthless. A patadA?n is an aimless hoof
Many claim that the Spaniard had the services of Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr. and Luis Suarez at his disposal and anyone would win with such a team. But it takes a worthy coach to bring the best out of his team. The best attack and the best defence – surely some credit lies with the manager?
Unai Emery (Sevilla)
Unai Emery is definitely the next big thing in manager world at the moment. The 43 year-old has two Europa League trophies to boast in successive years. Emery is an extremely engaging and intriguing character to watch on the field and listen to in interviews. He talks about ideas and method and his obsession with detail. His tactic board, use of videos and implementing ideas on the training pitch is reminiscent of Marcelo Bielsa.
Emery saved Valencia from a torrid position in the league and helped them finish sixth when he took over in 2008, (earning them a Europa League spot for next year). No one could have foreseen that the following season, Valencia finished 3rd in the league. He had to see David Villa, Juan Mata, David Silva leave due to financial reasons but Emery ensured Los Che remain the best behind biggies Barcelona and Real Madrid. Valencia decided to part company with him despite his relative success at the club (third placed finishes, regular Champions League participation) and Valenica’s loss was Sevilla’s gain. Emery took over the club in January 2013 and has since steered the Andalusian side to two Europa League trophies, the second one after the departure of Ivan Rakitic, Alberto Moreno and Federico Fazio. The 43 year-old was linked with the AC Milan, Napoli and West Ham job but decided to extend his contract at Sevilla. It will be interesting to see how far the Spaniard goes next season and whether the lure of bigger teams will take him away from Sevilla.
- Jose Mourinho (Chelsea)The “Special One” of course deserves a special mention. The Portuguese had his typical second season with the Blues. He helped the side to the title and also won the League Cup, achieving a domestic double. While this is certainly admirable, the fact that the English Premier League was so poor this season and Chelsea almost walked their way to the title keeps Mourinho out of the first category. His role can still of course, not be belittled.
- Laurent Blanc (PSG)Blanc helped PSG to a domestic treble. The title was won after a very average start to the tournament. The fact that this is what is least expected from the PSG side keeps Blanc out of the manager of the season contention. PSG have to now do better in the Champions League as they seemed to have reached a ceiling in the competition.
- Ronald Koeman (Southampton)The Dutchman saw very important players leave the south-coast club last summer but despite this, his side managed to be in contention for a Champions League till almost the end. Shrewd buys, smart tactics made for a pretty season for the St. Mary’s outfit.
- Lucien Favre (Borussia M nchengladbach)Favre’s Gladbach side finished third in the league behind Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg (qualifying for the Champions League group stages) but what the Swiss has done with his side is perhaps unmatched in Europe. Raphael Honigstein of The Guardian writes: “Gladbacha s wage bill is approximately A?28m. Their net transfer spend since 2010-11 is close to zero. They have no external investors, no minority shareholders, not even a kind-hearted shirt-sponsor from an autocratic country. The club belongs to the fans.” In such circumstances, what the Swiss has done with the team, is admirable to say the least.