The January gossip columns have churned out a multitude of stories already, varying widely in truth. Not content with stories about players, The Daily Mail has suggested that there could be managerial dealings done in the near future as well. The report states that a forthcoming League Managers’ Association meeting could have an “astonishing twist” due to the presence of Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson, Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho, and …Pep Guardiola.
Unfortunately, I am much more sceptical about the potential meaning of this event than other observers. The current state of managerial positions in the Premier League ensures that speculation is inevitable: Chelsea look set to replace Benitez in the summer; Sir Alex can not go on managing forever; Mancini has shown signs that the burden of expectation is heavy at the Etihad; and Arsene Wenger’s job security seems to decline by the week.
Guardiola and Mourinho are two of the hottest managerial properties in world football – it is obvious they will be linked with all of the above roles. Pep’s ‘sabbatical’ is clearly nearing an end. Recent social appearances have seen him looking enthusiastic and fresh for a new challenge. Many pundits would argue that his next position could be more defining than his golden time at Barcelona. Guardiola was more of an overseer than an architect, and will be asked to do much more of a construction job in his next role.
Meanwhile at Madrid, something is clearly not right. Mourinho’s magic spell appears to be on the wane, with the unhappiness of Ronaldo earlier in the season now compounded by the Casillas saga that has bemused many supporters. However, the disastrous league campaign could yet prove to be a blessing in their quest for Champions’ League glory. There is nothing the ‘Special One’ would like more than to deliver Real’s 10th European Cup, and of course, his third with a different club. Whatever happens, I would be surprised if Mourinho is still in Madrid for the new season.
A meeting of Sir Alex, Pep, and Jose sounds like a great opportunity for Fergie to decide who should take over the coveted Manchester United manager role. For journalists and bloggers, it is another chance to hypothesise on who will have the unenviable task of replacing Ferguson. In reality, it is doubtful that such a conversation will happen on this occasion.
The fascinating aspect of this LMA meeting from my perspective is that it shows the desire and enthusiasm of managers working in our country. They are clearly eager to improve their performance in the role of manager – from banal tasks of administration to the intricacies of tactics. The fact this meeting has drawn the biggest names in world football is very exciting.
We are very lucky to have some promising young managers performing very well this season: Chris Hughton, Brian Laudrup and Steve Clarke standing out as candidates for manager of the year. There are also several young managers in League football making waves – Michael Appleton, Eddie Howe and Karl Robinson are just three examples of emerging talents. The opportunity to learn from the likes of Mourinho and Guardiola is unbeatable, and hopefully there will be more of this in the future.
Taking place at St. George’s Park – with the presence of Roy Hodgson – also hints that the FA is starting to implement the long-term structures that our national game has needed for a long time. This is a small step, but a very encouraging one.