NAGER’S future is notoriously precarious but even by those standards this summer is shaping up to be a jamboree of job changes, with Europe’s biggest clubs training their sights on some prestigious names.
Rafael Benitez and Jose Mourinho brought the scramble into sharp focus this week with renewed and feverish speculation about their current positions and possible next destinations.
They would be by no means the only big movers, however, with the Manchester City hot-seat potentially up for grabs, and rising stars such as Laurent Blanc being touted for a shot at the big time.
Benitez has been on thin ice at Anfield for some time but he looks even more endangered after disgruntled midfielder Albert Riera claimed the manager does not talk to his players and labelled the club “a sinking ship”. Other signs of frustration at a woefully disappointing season are also seeping out, with Steven Gerrard’s recent irascible displays uncharacteristic of the normally focused Liverpool captain. The Spaniard’s past glories still afford him great credibility on the Continent, however, and if the Reds hierarchy can afford to let him go he may be able to choose between Juventus and a return to Real Madrid.
If Benitez does not return to the club at which he cut his coaching teeth, then Mourinho is strongly tipped to replace Manuel Pellegrini, who is a dead man walking after their shock Champions League last 16 exit. The former Chelsea boss has been successful but not loved in Italy and told anyone who would listen this week that he is considering his next move, with a sojourn to Spain and a return to his beloved England both on the agenda. Mourinho has been strongly linked with Liverpool, although such a move would depend on a cash injection at Anfield. Money would be no barrier to Manchester City, who are expected to replace Roberto Mancini if he fails to finish in the top four, while a sensational second spell at Stamford Bridge cannot be ruled out, although next season would seem too soon.
Mancini, replaced by Mourinho at Inter, has pedigree in his native Italy and has been touted as a successor to Marcello Lippi, whose contract as national coach expires after this summer’s World Cup.
A dark horse for the top jobs, however, could be managerial rookie Laurent Blanc, who has won respect by breaking Lyon’s monopoly on the French league title with Bordeaux. The 44-year-old, who this week also guided them into the Champions League quarter-finals, is said to be on Inter Milan’s hit-list, while is viewed by some as heir to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, where he enjoyed a spell as a player. Expect countless other clubs to join the queue.
AKA The Special One
Club Inter Milan
Major honours Porto: Portuguese league (2003, 2004), Portuguese cup (2003), UEFA Cup (2003), Champions League (2004); Chelsea: Premier League (2005, 2006), FA Cup (2007); Inter Milan: Serie A (2009)
Linked with Liverpool, Real Madrid, Man City, Chelsea
AKA The Style Icon
Club Manchester City
Major honours Fiorentina: Italian cup (2001); Lazio: Italian cup (2004); Inter Milan: Serie A (2006, 2007, 2008), Italian Cup (2005, 2006)
Linked with Italian national team
AKA The Left-Field Choice
Major honours Ligue 1 (2009)
Linked with Inter Milan, Manchester United, French national team
AKA The Control Freak
Major honours Liverpool: Champions League (2005), European Super Cup (2005), FA Cup (2006); Valencia: Spanish league (2002, 2004), UEFA Cup (2004)
Linked with Juventus, Real Madrid