Jose Mourinho remains out of work almost 10 months after being sacked by Manchester United, but is that about to change?
With almost a quarter of the season gone, several European clubs have already lost their patience and are on the lookout for a new boss, with a string of high-profile managers still on the market.
Mourinho turns down Lyon meeting
Hopes were high for Lyon after last season. They reached the Champions League knockout stage for the first time since 2012 and finished third in Ligue 1 before appointing former Arsenal and Barcelona defender Sylvinho as their new coach.
But after winning three of his first 11 games in charge, the rookie boss was sacked after Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at St-Etienne left Lyon 14th, although fellow Brazilian Juninho remains as sporting director.
“[Club president] Jean-Michel Aulas initially wanted to take a step back and let Juninho run the club but he realised that he wasn’t ready and, more importantly, that Sylvinho was just not the right guy for the club,” said French journalist Laurens. “I think they made the right decision to sack him that early.”
Former France and Paris St-Germain coach Laurent Blanc is the favourite to succeed Sylvinho, while ex-Roma and Marseille coach Rudi Garcia is also set to meet with Aulas.
“After thinking a bit outside the box with someone who is inexperienced, Lyon are now going to the other extreme,” Laurens added. “Arsene Wenger was keen on the job but it’s not going to happen.
“Jose Mourinho was also in contact with Lyon, he exchanged text messages with Aulas and turned down the opportunity to meet with him. Aulas has a strict process to name the next manager.
“He will meet the contenders on the shortlist then he and his people, like Gerard Houllier and Bernard Lacombe, will decide who’s the best. Jose could potentially have been on that list. I guess Lyon is just not big enough for Jose.”
Mourinho was a guest at Lille’s draw with Nimes on Sunday, while Ghislain Printant (St-Etienne) and Alain Casanova (Toulouse) have also been sacked in Ligue 1 in the last week.
Milan act swiftly, Allegri still available
The biggest club to part company with their manager so far is AC Milan, who came fifth in Italy last term – their best finish since 2013.
In Serie A, there is a saying that a doomed manager “won’t get to eat his panettone”, meaning he will be sacked before he gets a chance to enjoy the Italian Christmas tradition.
Summer appointment Marco Giampaolo referenced it before last Saturday’s crucial game with struggling Genoa but despite a dramatic win for the Rossoneri, it wasn’t enough to save Giampaolo’s job and he was replaced by Stefano Pioli after three wins from seven games.
“The board was unwilling to let this drift any longer,” said Serie A reporter Horncastle. “They believe there is enough talent in the squad to at least compete to get back into the Champions League for the first time since 2014.”
Milan sacked Massimiliano Allegri in January 2014 and he went on to win the Scudetto in each of his five seasons with Juventus. The 52-year-old is on a sabbatical after leaving the Italian champions in May and Balague asked if Allegri is waiting for a call from Manchester United.
“He’s weighing up his options at the moment,” said Horncastle. “His intention is very much to work in England one day. I just think the right opportunity hasn’t emerged for him, nor has it been at the right time.
“When he was at Juventus, there were opportunities to go. The clubs that came in for him, I think he took a look at them and thought ‘maybe, once upon a time, that would have been a good job. Not so much now’.”
Giampaolo was the second Serie A coach to be sacked this term – a day after bottom club Sampdoria got rid of Eusebio di Francesco – and Horncastle fears Genoa’s Aurelio Andreazzoli will be next.
“They’ve had a poor start, but they’ve played some good football and Andreazzoli’s a good character,” he said. “I hope he gets to eat lots of panettone!”
Laurens sees Leonardo Jardim (Nantes) as the next departure in France, while Spanish journalist Balague believes Celta Vigo or Real Betis will be the next La Liga clubs to wield the axe.
Balague added that ex-Watford boss Javi Gracia has turned down the Espanyol job after they sacked David Gallego, while Barcelona dismissed former goalkeeper Victor Valdes as their Under-19s coach.
Ramos targets Tokyo 2020
Sergio Ramos is set to win his 168th cap in Spain’s Euro 2020 qualifier with Norway on Saturday, beating the record held by former Real Madrid team-mate Iker Casillas. Yet the 33-year-old defender doesn’t want to stop there.
He may have already won a World Cup and two European Championships but now wants to represent Spain at next year’s Tokyo Olympics. Ramos can play as one of his nation’s three over-age players.
“He is part of our golden generation and is one of the last ones left, with Sergio Busquets, and now he wants to play in Tokyo,” said Balague. “He wants to be present in all the potential trophies of Spain.
“It’s something you don’t normally get – top players like him, who are at the end or peak of their careers, wanting to play in the Olympics. There is a lot of hope for Spain’s Under-23s for that Olympics.”