Valencia fans were so unhappy with the sacking of Marcelino just weeks into the season, and just a few months after he’d led the club back to the Champions League and to an historic Copa del Rey final win over Barcelona, that they filled the streets outside the Mestalla to demand answers: Why had the best manager in their recent history been dumped so unceremoniously?
Indeed, Valencia’s decision to sack Marcelino back in September appeared to lack logic. According to the man himself, the Copa del Rey triumph might actually have been the thing that ultimately cost him his job.
“During the season, we received direct and indirect messages that we had to discount [the Copa],” he explained, talking about Peter Lim, the club’s owner.
“They didn't tell me why they didn't want the Copa, only that it was a minor tournament and that I could be putting the main goal [Champions League qualification] at risk. Winning the Copa was the trigger for this situation.”
The Spaniard might not be of the calibre of some of the other names speculated to be on the shortlist of the two Premier League clubs, but his candidacy should be taken seriously.
Marcelino is used to entering toxic environments as a coach and getting results.
That’s what he did at Valencia, Spanish football’s biggest sleeping giant before his arrival in 2017. Within one season he had guided Valencia back to the Champions League and managed to sustain that achievement by once again finishing in the top four last season.
Marcelino has been attracting interest from the Premier League
Of course, both Arsenal and Everton require strong characters at this time, with a disconnect opening up between those on the pitch and those in the stands at both clubs. They both need somebody to held re-establish that connection and the angry reaction to Marcelino’s sacking at Valencia suggests he would stand a chance of doing this in the Premier League.
Some may argue that Arsenal would only be repeating the mistakes made in appointing Unai Emery by turning to Marcelino.
On the face of things, that’s a reasonable argument to make given that Marcelino has over ever achieved moderate success in La Liga. He doesn’t even have the Europa League track record that Emery had before pitching up at the Emirates Stadium.
But unlike Emery, Marcelino has shown he can handle a tumultuous footballing environment like the one he would walk into at Arsenal.
Emery, on the other hand, had folded under the pressure at Paris Saint-Germain. What’s more, Marcelino is much more of a pragmatist than Emery, whose biggest failing was his idealism. The 54-year-old will take what he has and use a system and shape to facilitate that best rather than attempt to force players into something that doesn’t suit them.
This pragmatism might make Marcelino a more natural fit for Everton.
In recent years, the Toffees have attempted to modernise their ways, but find themselves further away from doing that than ever before. Marcelino would be a sensible compromise, moving them away from the days of David Moyes, but still holding on to the values that made them competitive at the top end of the Premier League for so long.
Marcelino might not be Carlo Ancelotti or Max Allegri (two of the more illustrious names linked with the Arsenal or Everton jobs), he might not even have the fan recognition of someone like Mikel Arteta or Patrick Vieira, but the former Valencia and Villarreal boss may be a suitable solution for one of them.