In the build-up to Atletico Madrid’s Champions League last-16 clash against Liverpool, the future of the Spanish side’s iconic long-serving manager, Diego Simeone, was under the microscope at a club he’d evolved into a European force.
In the summer Atletico Madrid underwent a period of huge transition following the departures of stalwarts such as Antoine Griezmann, Diego Godin and Juanfran, as the club splashed the cash on a number of exciting new recruits including £113m-priced youngster João Félix.
The defence may have remained resolute and stubborn but the expected excitement in attack never quite materialised with a dearth of goals a cause for concern as the team failed to fully gel and excite.
In the weeks prior to the game against Jurgen Klopp’s men, Atletico had suffered defeats to rivals Real in the league and the Spanish Super Cup final, lost to Eibar, failed to beat Leganes and most humbling of all had been booted out of the Copa del Rey by minnows Cultural Leonesa.
The whispers grew louder and the media reports more venomous yet any question marks surrounding Simeone’s future were wiped out over the course of two-legs against Liverpool during which the Argentinian managerial maestro orchestrated home-and-away wins over Klopp’s reigning World and European Champions.
The current campaign has since been disrupted and it’s not yet known when, or even if, it will resume. But if we can use this pause in play to look further afield for a moment: should Simeone ever decide to seek a fresh challenge outside of the Spanish capital, there would be one almighty scramble to be crowned his successor at the Wanda Metropolitano.
With that said, Paddy Power now offer a next Atletico Madrid manager market, which we’ve delved into to pick out four potential future candidates for Los Rojiblancos.
Jose Bordalas' character and style of play has drawn comparisons to Diego Simeone
The Ready-Made Replacement: Jose Bordalas
“Every game it’s like you’re playing for your life; if you don’t win it’s an absolute disaster,” revealed former Getafe player Juan Cala to the Guardian when asked what it’s like playing under Jose Bordalas.
In terms of a ready made replacement at Atletico Madrid, then they need look no further than the current 2/1 favourite.
The smack-bang in your face similarities between Bordalas and Simeone are plain for all to see. Both are fiery, intense and demanding characters who employ a pragmatic and unapologetic yet effective brand of football - with a favoured 4-4-2 formation - in which they frustrate and squeeze the optimism out of their opponents.
Bordalas is already located in Madrid, over at Getafe, with whom he’s propelled from the Spanish Segunda relegation zone through to the latter stages of the Europa League.
His team function as a collective unit, made up of lower league players and journeymen, who he’s built in his own image and soared up to 8th and 5th in the past two La Liga seasons, while they are currently 5th in the table, ahead of Atletico and one point off 3rd.
Bordalas’ achievements last season were so impressive he was awarded both the Miguel Muñoz Trophy and UEFA La Liga Coach of the Year honours. While Atletico would represent a significant step up but it’s a role he has the confidence and ability to thrive in.
For a more in-depth insight into Bordalas and his methods, check out this excellent video by Tifo Football.
The Big Name: Mauricio Pochettino
Here at The Sack Race, Mauricio Pochettino has been discussed quite a lot already this week; featuring in articles on the managers we want to see return to the Premier League and the best gaffers who’ve never won the title.
For good reason too, he’s a class manager and, alongside Max Allegri, is the most high-profile unemployed manager at the time of writing.
It’s another Madrid club that Pochettino is consistently linked with, while up until Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s recent rejuvenation he was hotly touted as a replacement for the previously under-fire Norwegian at Man Utd. A move to Germany, at either Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund, has also been speculated as has a switch to Italy.
Simply put, the managerial arena is the former Tottenham and Southampton managers’ oyster at the moment. As soon as a top job becomes available he will be right in contention.
So would Pochettino suit Atletico?
Appointing Pochettino, who began his managerial career in Spain at Espanyol, would represent a shift in style and formation for the club.
Simeone’s fellow countryman and former national teammate favours a possession-based yet attack-minded 4-2-3-1 set-up, which could be music to the ears of the club’s high-profile acquisition João Félix.
“We are not a team that can play fighting like Atletico Madrid, who are so comfortable playing deeper, going on counterattack and when it is 1-0, and in the last five minutes they’re impossible to penetrate,” Pochettino said when he was Tottenham manager. “The team [Spurs] plays how we feel. I don’t feel to play like Atletico do. We feel different, and cannot translate a different idea.”
- Jose Bordalas: 2/1— The Sack Race (@thesackrace) March 24, 2020
- Marcelino: 6/1
- Mauricio Pochettino: 15/2
- Rafa Benitez: 12/1
- Joachim Low: 80/1
Odds have been released on the future Atletico Madrid manager if - and its a big if - Diego Simeone should ever leave 🔴⚪️
BeGambleAware | 18+#Atleti
Ready For The Next Level: Nuno Santo
The Premier League is currently in the era of the ‘Super Managers’ with England’s top-flight home to the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti. Knocking on the door of this managerial group are a cluster of gaffers including Nuno Santo who is bidding to roar Wolves into the top-four.
Santo has overseen a huge transition at Wolves, with whom he propelled from the Championship to Europe in the space of two years. Now in Santo’s third term, the Midlands club continue to excel; they are five points off 4th place and one-leg away from the Europa League quarter-finals. Unimaginable a few years ago.
Santo has previously managed in Spain at Valencia where he spent 18 months at the helm. In his one and only complete campaign he led his side into the Champions League, took four points off Atletico Madrid, and another four off Real, and scooped the La Liga Manager of the Month three times.
Santo, who has also managed Rio Ave and Porto, tends to switch between a 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 formation with his team’s cohesiveness, ability to unbalance teams and effectiveness on the counter frustrating many a high-profile manager.
Just this season alone he’s conjured up a spectacular double over Pep Guardiola, is undefeated against Man Utd and Arsenal over three games, and a few weeks ago he beat Jose Mourinho, who recently said of his fellow countryman:
“In my opinion, and I hope the Wolves fans and board forgive me, I think he has conditions for bigger [club]. I hope one day the bigger comes because he is doing fantastic work."
Like with Pochettino, Santo would bring a different philosophy to Atletico, but it’s one that is sure to entertain and appease players and fans alike. He’s also very cool and affable, which always helps.
But Santo’s project at Wolves is an exciting one, meaning it would take one tempting offer for him to leave Molineux anytime soon.
Nuno Santo has so far enjoyed a cracking spell at Wolves
The Serial Winner: Max Allegri
Since leaving Juventus last summer after a trophy-drenched five seasons, Max Allegri has been linked with PSG, Man Utd and Real Madrid to name just a few clubs, while some reports have even suggested that a return to Turin could be on the cards.
Allegri won 10 trophies at Juventus, and featured in two Champions League finals, while he previously led AC Milan to the Scudetto and Supercoppa Italiana, and Sassuolo to a first promotion into Serie B.
The Italian is a serial winner who wouldn’t make any huge changes at Atletico, but instead look to gradually evolve their style. He’s big on compactness and shape, yet is tactical versatile and not afraid to instigate change when necessary.
He knows how to handle pressure, expectation and ego and could prove to be an ideal long-term successor to Simeone, should he jet away from Spain in the near future.
His links to Real Madrid means a managerial move to the other big capital club will probably never suffice, yet Rafa Benitez (12/1) would definitely be a suitable replacement style-wise.
Elsewhere Marcelino (6/1), Ernesto Valverde (15/2) and Imanol Alguacil (20/1) know La Liga better than most.
Otherwise, Pep Guardiola at 150/1 anyone?