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Top 10 managers we want to see return next season

Antonio Conte
Antonio Conte

At the start of the year, The Sack Race released a video in which we listed 10 managers we wanted to see return in 2021.

Of the 10, six have since bagged jobs. Now, with large parts of Europe gearing up for the new 2021/22 season, we've had a fresh look at the Job Centre and picked out 10 unemployed managers who we hope will be gracing the touchline before 2021 is out.

For the purpose of the article, we’ve focused on managers who have predominantly worked in Europe; featuring serial winners, up-and-coming talents, and wounded bosses bidding to bounce back...

Antonio Conte

  • Clubs: Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta, Siena, Juventus, Italy, Chelsea, Inter Milan
  • Honours: Serie A x4, Serie B x1, Supercoppa Italiana x2, Premier League x1, FA Cup x1
  • Available Since: May 2021

It’s difficult to comprehend how one of the very best bosses on the planet is currently out of work. Yes, that’s right. Antonio Conte, winner of five league titles in his last seven seasons at club level, is available for hire. At a big price, mind.

The Italian vacated his post at Inter Milan in May shortly after he had propelled the club to their first Scudetto in over a decade, thus ending the dominance of former employers Juventus. The 51-year-old was swiftly linked with Tottenham, but talks collapsed, with Conte reportedly unimpressed with the size of the club’s transfer budget.

As soon as an elite job crops up, expect Conte to be hotly linked.

Zinedine Zidane
Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane

  • Clubs: Real Madrid x2
  • Honours: Champions League x3, La Liga x2, Spanish Super Cup x2, UEFA Super Cup x2, FIFA Club World Cup x2
  • Available Since: May 2021

One honour Antonio Conte has yet to win as a manager is the Champions League, a trophy his former Juventus teammate Zinedine Zidane has lifted a record three times.

In two spells in charge of Real Madrid he’s won 11 trophies - including two league titles - boasts a 66.16% win rate, and has managed one of the greatest players of all time: Cristiano Ronaldo.

Zidane doesn’t need to prove himself to anyone. He wouldn’t care less what anyone else thinks anyway. Just look at his trophy cabinet.

However, from a managerial perspective it would be interesting to see the Frenchman test himself at another club, perhaps in a different league. Or maybe he just has his sights set on a stint in the international arena.

He’s been hotly linked with the France job, but with Didier Deschamps not going anywhere until after the 2022 World Cup, Zidane may have to bide his time with that one.

Ernesto Valverde
Ernesto Valverde

Ernesto Valverde

  • Clubs:  Athletic Bilbao x2, Espanyol, Olympiakos x2, Villarreal, Valencia, Barcelona
  • Honours: Greek title x3, Greek Cup x2, La liga x2, Copa del Rey x1, Spanish Super Cup x2
  • Available Since: January 2020

For some reason Ernesto Valverde often gets overlooked whenever a top job arises.

It’s now been 18 months since the Spaniard was sacked by Barcelona when they were top of the league, having scooped the title in each of his two full seasons. The Catalan club have failed to win the title since his exit.

Valverde has 10 trophies on his CV, including five league titles. He led Athletic Bilbao to their first trophy in three decades, took Espanyol to a UEFA Cup final which they lost on penalties, and accumulated 91 wins from 127 games across two dominant spells at Olympiakos.

He was tentatively linked with Tottenham recently - then again, who wasn’t? - and we penned a piece on why he represented an attractive option for the indecisive club. In the end Nuno Santo was appointed, meaning Valverde remains stuck in the Job Centre. Although, he seems quite content to continue indulging in his passion for photography until the right opportunity presents itself.

Lucien Favre
Lucien Favre

Lucien Favre

  • Clubs: Echallens, Yverdon Sport, Servette, Zurich, Hertha BSC, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Nice, Dortmund
  • Honours: Swiss titles x2, Swiss Cup x2, Swiss promotions x2, German Super Cup x1, 
  • Available Since: December 2020

Rewind to a month ago and Lucien Favre was all set to sign a three-year deal at Crystal Palace, only to perform a last-gasp u-turn. It was a real shame as the Eagles would have acquired themselves a brilliant boss.

Favre’s 30-year CV may not be splattered with major silverware, but he has an enviable track record of bringing through young players - including Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho - and elevating mid-table clubs to new heights. In his last 16 full seasons ​​the Swiss boss has never finished lower than 10th.

He completely transformed Nice, whom he led to their best league finish since 1976 (3rd). Hertha BSC and Borussia Monchengladbach both finished in the Bundesliga top-four under Favre, who then stepped up into the Borussia Dortmund post and came agonisingly close to bringing an end to Bayern Munich’s domestic dominance.

At the time of writing he reportedly features on a four-man shortlist for the Bordeaux job, so we may not have to wait long for Favre’s return.

Lluís Cortés

  • Clubs: FC Barcelona Femení
  • Honours: Women's Champions League x1, Primera División x2, Copa de la Reina x2, Supercopa de España x1, Copa Catalunya Femenina x1
  • Available Since: June 2021

Emma Hayes is a world class manager who enjoyed another dominant season with Chelsea Women. Hayes only lost four matches in all competitions last term, the fourth and final being a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Barcelona in the Champions League final - see video above.

You’ve got to be pretty damn good to give a Hayes-led side a schooling like that. Step forward Lluís Cortés, who in two-and-a-half seasons as Barcelona Women’s head coach delivered nine trophies, including a historic treble last season: Primera División, Copa de la Reina and Champions League.

His final game was a 9-1 trouncing of Eibar which saw his side end the league season with 99 points having accrued 33 wins from 34 games, with 167 goals scored. In all competitions the Spaniard’s record was a simply stunning: 92 wins, four draws, and just seven defeats.

Cortes, 34, unexpectedly left in June and will surely be showered with options from now until he confirms his next job.

Chris Wilder
Chris Wilder

Chris Wilder

  • Clubs: Alfreton Town, Halifax Town, Oxford, Northampton, Sheffield United
  • Honours: Championship promotion, League One x1, League Two x2, National League promotion, non-league titles/cups x5
  • Available Since: March 2021

A proper manager. Chris Wilder has done the hard yards. By working his way up the English football pyramid his time in management has encompassed almost everything. What a journey it’s been.

Wilder won the quadruple with non-league Alfreton Town, was in charge of financially-hit Halifax when they were forced to dissolve, led Oxford back into the Football League, won the League Two title with Northampton Town, then cannonballed Sheffield United from League One to 9th in the Premier League.

His innovative overlapping centre-backs - cooked up with long-time assistant Alan Knill - perplexed some of the very best managerial minds in the Premier League.

READ: When The Sack Race met Chris Wilder

The memories he conjured up at his beloved Blades will never be forgotten. Yes, his five-year tenure eventually ran out of steam last season, but Wilder will be back.

As you’d expect he’s been linked with a plethora of posts in the last six months, including West Brom and Celtic, but surely it won’t be too long until we see the passionate boss back in the dugout.

Paulo Fonseca
Paulo Fonseca

Paulo Fonseca

  • Clubs: Dezembro, Odivelas, Pinhalnovense, Aves, Pacos de Ferreira x2, Porto, Braga, Shakhtar Donetsk, Roma
  • Honours: Ukrainian title x3, Ukrainian cup x3, Ukranian Super Cup x1, Cup of Portugal x1, Portuguese Super Cup x1
  • Available Since: June 2021

Like the aforementioned Lucien Favre, Paulo Fonseca appeared destined to venture over to the Premier League this summer, but alas, it was not meant to be.

The Portuguese coach was linked with Crystal Palace. Everton too. And Tottenham, a job he seemed nailed on for at one point. 

Fonseca has just come off the back of an entertaining two-year spell at Roma, whom he led to the Europa League semi-finals last term, but missed out on a top-four finish on both occasions. 

He previously won a hat-trick of league and cup doubles at Shakhtar Donetsk, impressively led Braga to Taça de Portugal glory, and took Paços de Ferreira into the Champions League qualifiers for the first time. Despite starting off with success in the form of the Super Cup, his 37-game tenure at Porto will be remembered as a disappointing one.

Diego Martínez

  • Clubs: Arenas Armilla, Motril, Osasuna, Granada
  • Honours: Promotion into La Liga
  • Available Since: May 2021

Diego Martinez may not be a household name in the UK, but over in Spain he’s just completed an extremely impressive three year tenure at Granada. His work there coupled with his newly available status means that he’s sure to attract attention from many clubs across the continent.

Appointed a year after Tony Adams, in his first season he won promotion to La Liga, and even led the top-flight after 10 games before securing a superb 7th-place finish which earned an historic first qualification into the Europa League, where he reached the quarter-finals last season (losing to Man Utd). All achieved on a modest budget.

Martinez, just 40, has already been awarded the coveted Miguel Muñoz Trophy - similar to the UK’s LMA Award - and has been described by Guillem Balague as a “delightfully affable and approachable manager”.

“His philosophy is a system based on hard work, solidarity and team unity - it is an adventure they all want to be part of,” Balague added. “All this coupled with an attention to detail and unfaltering support and loyalty towards the players he has available to him has created the perfect mentality and atmosphere in the Granada changing room. He does not consider himself to be the star of the show but rather one part of a collective effort.”

Rudi Garcia

  • Clubs: St Etienne, Dijon, Le Mans, Lille, Roma, Marseille, Lyon
  • Honours: Ligue 1 x1, French Cup x1
  • Available Since: May 2021

Like many managers on this list, Rudi Garcia only recently become unemployed after leaving Lyon in May.

Garcia’s major achievements include leading Lyon to the Champions League semi-finals and French League Cup final, Marseille to a Europa League final, and Lille to the French league and cup double, while Roma twice finished runners-up in Serie A under his watch. 

Linked with Everton last month, the three-time French Manager of the Year is a former assistant manager to John Toshack at St Etienne. Furthermore he helped develop a certain Eden Hazard at Lille and Memphis Depay has just enjoyed his most fruitful ever season at Lyon.

Quique Setien
Quique Setien

Quique Setién

  • Clubs: Racing Santander, Poli Ejido, Equatorial Guinea, Logrones, Lugo, Las Palmas, Real Betis, Barcelona
  • Honours: Promotion to La Liga, promotion to Segunda División
  • Available Since: August 2020

It's all gone quiet in Quique Setien’s corner since he was sacked by Barcelona last summer after just 25 games; you’ll need no reminding of the seismic 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

On paper it appeared to be a fantastic fit, with the Johan Cruyff disciple bidding to bring his high-energy, free-flowing, attacking philosophy to the Catalan club. It didn’t work out, but sometimes that’s just how it goes in the managerial world. It would be silly to simply write off Setien because of that one six-month stint.

In two seasons at Real Betis, Setien led the club to 6th in La Liga (2018); the club’s highest finish since 2005. Prior to that, he implemented an aesthetic style of football at Las Palmas who he steered to their highest finish in 40 years (11th), while he’s managed the Equatorial Guinea national team and was an assistant coach to the Russia national beach soccer team.

We may still waiting for Setien to return to management, but maybe a change of career could be on the horizon given that he is a keen chess player who has played against world champions Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov. “There is less and less to see in football,” he once commented. “I prefer to play chess a lot of the time.”

Shout-Outs

There’s plenty of other out-of-work managers waiting patiently for their next opportunity. It’s now been a year since Eddie Howe left Bournemouth, veterans Roy Hodgson and Sam Allardyce may both feel they have another job in them, Frank Lampard is still available for hire.

Then there's Joachim Low who is seeking a new challenge following 15 years in charge of Germany. It's unlikely to be the last we've seen of veteran Claudio Ranieri, while newbie Andrea Pirlo will no doubt be eager to jump straight back into management.

Keep an eye on the movements of Andre Villas-Boas and Domenico Tedesco too.

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