The soccer world is dumb, and full of nonsense. “This Week in Dumb Nonsense” is one writer’s attempt to come to terms with that, um, nonsense.
Julen Lopetegui has been sent on his merry way by Real Madrid following Sunday’s 5-1 loss to Barcelona. Perhaps it was a harsh decision given he was tasked with following the act of the best manager in the club’s modern history without any replacement for the best player in the club’s modern history, but then Florentino Perez has never been one to shy away from a borderline unreasonable midseason sacking. So it goes.
Lopetegui has been replaced on an interim basis by former player and Castilla coach Santiago Solari, who has no top-level managerial experience to speak of. On its face, that seems like an obviously bad idea, though to be fair the last former player with no managerial experience promoted from Castilla in the middle of a season proved to be quite successful. Then again, that player was Zinedine Zidane, several widely spaced rungs above Solari in the Galacticos rankings.
Outside of Solari, however, there are no obvious candidates readily available. Antonio Conte was the most obvious, readily available candidate, but then Sergio Ramos told reporters that if anyone who hasn’t won at least one Champions League even so much as thinks about telling the players what to do he’ll personally rip their arms out of their sockets (maybe). Anyway, now Conte seems readily unavailable, which leaves, well, who does it leave?
The dream candidate is probably Mauricio Pochettino, but it seems hard to imagine he’ll leave Tottenham in the middle of the season, if at all, even if he is growing frustrated with the various financial restrictions placed on him by the club.
Jose Mourinho’s name has also been thrown haphazardly around over the past few weeks, to what seems to be general dismay among Madridistas. With United reportedly planning to give him £100 million to spend in January, however, it seems he’ll hang on at The Theatre Of Incoherent Transfer Policy a little while yet.
All of which suggests that if Real can’t abide Solari through the end of the season, they may have to think outside the box, which at least according to this list of odds is a very silly place indeed. To save you the trouble, if not any actual money, here are a few of the highlights.
1. We may as well cut right to the chase, which is that Neil Warnock — the current Cardiff manager and a man whose greatest career accomplishment is receiving a possibly fictional verbal tirade from Sean Bean during a particularly unhappy spell at Sheffield United — is 500/1 to be the next Real Madrid manager. That’s only five times less likely than Thomas Tuchel and Jurgen Klopp. I won’t pretend to know how such odds are calculated, but you don’t have to be Einstein to figure out that’s money well spent.
2. Fernando Hierro, meanwhile, is 50/1. Hierro, a club legend and former captain, would under a lot of circumstances be a perfectly reasonable, if slightly risky, choice. Under these circumstances — which are that the last thing Hierro did as a manager was replace Lopetegui under controversial circumstances and lead Spain to a humiliating World Cup round of 16 defeat to Russia — under these circumstances Hierro would be a perfectly unreasonable choice.
3. Arsene Wenger has been in the headlines recently for some Big Sam-esque hints about a return to management. The thing about Wenger, though, is that the legacy-undermining portion of his tenure at Arsenal was so protracted it’s hard to know what his pedigree even amounts to anymore. Is he good? Is he bad? There’s only one way to find out! (Bonus question: why is no one placing money on Big Sam?)
4. It took Roberto Martinez only three short seasons to become a laughing stock at Everton, but only one short World Cup with Belgium to rehabilitate his image so completely he’s now 8/1 to take over at the Bernabeu. Without Romelu Lukaku at his disposal, it will be tough for him to recreate his signature tactic of playing Romelu Lukaku out of position, but if there’s one thing every Martinez team has in common it’s turning even routine 2-0 wins into exciting 5-4 losses, which you don’t have to be, um, Archimedes to figure out is better than 5-1. He might help them sign Eden Hazard too.