Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

A guide to the 37 managerial changes across the top five European leagues

Posted on 6 August 2021 by Madhavan Ramanujam

At the end of what feels like one season of football that was spread out over two years, a semblance of normality has returned, along with a sense of genuine anticipation for what’s to come in the upcoming campaign. However, one aspect of the game that has been anything but normal over this off season, has been the managerial merry go round across Europe. While four changes apiece in the Premier League and La Liga isn’t unduly abnormal, these are the only two leagues where last season’s title winning managers are still employed at the same club. In the other three, the total number of sideline replacements add up to 29 – eight in the Bundesliga, nine in Ligue 1 and 12 in Serie A.

Premier League

Jose Mourinho was let go by Tottenham Hotspur a week before the League Cup final against Manchester City, with 29 year old ex-player Ryan Mason placed on interim charge. A wide net was cast to find the Portuguese’s successor and after a managerial hunt spanning 72 days, involving what seemed like everyone but Nuno Espirito Santo, Spurs appointed Nuno Espirito Santo. His first official game in charge will also be against Manchester City, with new managing director Fabio Paratici and chairman Daniel Levy looking on, hoping they picked the right man.

Meanwhile, Wolverhampton Wanderers made light work of replacing Nuno and in an all Portuguese affair in keeping with the club’s recent history, appointed Bruno Lage. The ex- Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea City assistant coach had taken charge of a misfiring Benfica back in January 2019 and led them to the league title, before finishing second with the Eagles the following year.

Crystal Palace also have a new man in charge. An aristocrat of the game and the human embodiment of a safety net, Roy Hodgson ended his four year reign at Selhurst Park last season, making way for Patrick Viera. Topping it off all the way up north in Merseyside, Rafael Benitez filled the vacancy at Everton left behind by Carlo Ancelotti’s unexpected return to Real Madrid, despite his strong association with the red side of the city. 

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La Liga

The most high profile switch came in the capital, as Zinedine Zidane left Real Madrid for the third time (once as player, twice as coach) after the first trophy less season of his managerial career. Carlo Ancelotti replaced his ex-assistant at the White House after serving Everton the shortest of notices, as mentioned previously.

Michel Gonzalez is another to take charge of a club he had previous success with, as the Spaniard took over from Jose Bordalas at Getafe who departed to join Valencia. Finally, ex- Spain and Monaco coach Robert Moreno is now the top man at Granada, having taken over from the Andalusian club’s greatest ever manager of the modern era – Diego Martinez. Under Diego, the provincial club achieved promotion in 2019 and made the Copa Del Rey semi-final and Europa League quarter-final in 2020 and 2021 respectively.  

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Although eight dugouts across the German top division will see new faces this season, only three of them are new to the league. Hansi Flick –  a coach with the barely believable record of a trophy every 12 games in charge, left Bayern Munich at the end of last season due to internal tensions with sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.  The Bavarian touchline will now be commanded by Julian Nagelsmann, who the record champions managed to tempt away from RB Leipzig and also one who happens to be younger than the team’s captain. Jesse Marsch will lead the managerial wunderkid’s old team into the new season, with the American re-entering Europe after two consecutive league and cup doubles with Red Bull Salzberg. 

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Meanwhile in Dortmund, Marco Rose will take charge at the Signal Iduna Park this season, having swapped one Borussia for the other. As the announcement for the same was made as early as February, Monchengladbach had enough time to pick his successor, and they settled on Austrian Adi Hutter from Eintracht Frankfurt, who was replaced in the capital city by his fellow countryman Oliver Glasner.

Glasner led Wolfsburg to a fourth place finish last season, ensuring their return to the Champions League for the first time since 2016, and leading them out in it will be Mark Van Bommel. With Bayer Leverkusen also opting for a fresh face in Gerardo Seoane of Young Boys fame, seven of the top eight teams from last season will have a new coach this campaign. Rounding it off is FC Koln, who came back from a 1-0 home deficit to win 5-1 at Holstein Kiel in the relegation play-off last season to retain their status as a top division side. Steffen Baumgart, who dragged SC Paderborn into the Bundesliga after consecutive promotions, is the man tasked with improving the fortunes of the club based in Cologne. 

Ligue 1

Champions Lille could not hold on to their title winning manager Christophe Galtier, who elected to head down south to the Riviera and join Nice. Jocelyn Gourvennec was chosen to take his place, an appointment that was deemed unambitious in certain quarters. However, the ex- Guingamp and Bordeaux manager got off to the perfect start last week, beating an admittedly understrength PSG side to lift the Trophee des Champions. Meanwhile in Lyon, Rudi Garcia was let go after failing to secure Champions League qualification in a season where the club had no European commitments. Dutchman Peter Bosz will take his place this campaign.

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Montpellier and Brest performed the simplest of straight swaps, with Michel Der Zakarian going one way and Olivier Dall’Oglio going the other. After dumping France out of Euro 2020 with Switzerland, Vladimir Petkovic now finds himself at Bordeaux. The riverside club in southwest France has churned coaches at an alarming rate in recent history – a record the ex-Lazio manager will hope to correct.

Change is the buzzword at Strasbourg and Reims as well, with Julien Stephen and Oscar Garcia taking the place of long-serving Thierry Laurey and David Guion respectively. Finally, speaking of long serving managers, the longest serving manager across Europe’s top 5 leagues – Stephane Moulin, with 10 years at Angers announced his departure at the end of last season. Gerard Baticle, the ex-Lyon assistant manager will replace the 54 year old on the touchline this campaign.

Serie A

Even for a league that has traditionally put up high managerial turnover numbers, 12 at the start of a season is unheard of in the modern era. Out of the seven sisters (a group of seven clubs that can be ostensibly picked to win the title) only Milan and Atalanta have stuck with their coach from last season. The most glamorous appointment was made in the capital, with Jose Mourinho taking the mantle from his compatriot Paulo Fonseca. Up north in Turin, two trophies weren’t enough for Juventus to give Andrea Pirlo a second year. The Old Lady rekindled its relationship with Massimiliano Allegri. 

Antonio Conte was left frustrated at the lack of ambition shown at Inter after a title winning season and walked away, his replacement being Simone Inzaghi from Lazio. Another Premier League winning manager disenchanted by the stalling project ahead of him, Claudio Ranieri left Sampdoria, with Roberto D’Aversa taking his place. Back to Rome however, where the blue side of Stadio Olympico moved on quickly from Inzaghi, with the club appointing Maurizio Sarri whose enterprising brand of football with Napoli is still remembered fondly across the country. Interestingly, Sarri’s old club have also gone for a manager who thrilled the country in yesteryear, Luciano Spalleti. 

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Fiorentina did have a happy ending after the Gattuso debacle, as La Viola managed to woo Vincenzo Italiano, who is widely considered as the next best thing in Italy away from Spezia – a club he led to and kept in the top division. The Ligurians have opted for Thiago Motta to repeat the miracle. Meanwhile at Sassuolo, Roberto De Zerbi chose to leave for Shakhtar Donetsk at the end of last campaign, with Alessio Dionisi who won Seria B with Empoli replacing him for the upcoming one. Aurelio Andreazolli will maraud the Tuscan touchline this season instead. Finally, mastermind of the first Remontada against Barcelona in recent history, Eusebio Di Fransesco finds himself at Hellas Verona, filling the vacancy left by Ivan Juric’s move to Torino.