Mauricio Pochettino leads race to replace Zidane at Real Madrid

Tottenham’s Argentinian manager Mauricio Pochettino tops the bookmakers’ list of favorites to replace Zinedine Zidane as manager of Real Madrid. (Reuters)
Updated 02 June 2018

Mauricio Pochettino leads race to replace Zidane at Real Madrid

  • The 46-year-old Argentinian’s coaching nous, man-management skills and consistency with Tottenham Hotspur has hoisted him among the favorites to replace Zidane.
  • Under Pochettino, Spurs have secured three successive top-four finishes in the Premier League, allowing the London club to rub shoulders with the elite of European football on a regular basis.

PARIS: The race to succeed Zinedine Zidane is on following the Frenchman’s shock resignation from Real Madrid on Thursday, only days after steering the Spanish giants to a third successive Champions League trophy.
Tottenham’s Argentinian manager Mauricio Pochettino tops the bookmakers’ list of favorites, with Chelsea handler Antonio Conte and former long-time Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger also in the mix.
AFP Sport looks at the potential candidates:
As a former center-back with Barcelona-based Espanyol, Pochettino has vast experience of Spain’s La Liga.
But it is the 46-year-old Argentinian’s coaching nous, man-management skills and consistency with Tottenham Hotspur that has hoisted him among the favorites to replace Zidane.
Under Pochettino, Spurs have secured three successive top-four finishes in the Premier League, allowing the London club to rub shoulders with the elite of European football on a regular basis.
But Pochettino has yet to win a trophy in any of his coaching stints, at Espanyol (2009-2012), Southampton (2013-2014) or Tottenham.
Pochettino signed a new, improved contract extension until 2023 last week and Spanish sports newspaper AS reported Friday that it does not contain any written agreement allowing him to leave if Real make an approach.
Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is a notoriously tough negotiator, but apparently has good relations with Real president Florentino Perez.
Amid claims that Chelsea’s players are fed up with his demanding training sessions and intense ways, Conte could soon be on his way out of the club, who have been linked to current Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri.
But whether the 48-year-old Italian is an adequate replacement for the taciturn Zidane, and the right choice for such a demanding club, is up for debate.
Conte enjoyed unbridled success with Juventus in Italy’s Serie A, leading the club to three successive domestic titles before joining Chelsea.
But in Europe, the Turin giants struggled, failing to reach the Champions League final in his tenure.
Conte led Chelsea to the Premier League title in his first season in charge at Stamford Bridge, in 2016-2017, but failed to repeat the achievement in a far less successful 2017-2018 season, in which only an FA Cup triumph saved his reputation.
Wenger is available and has the name and the top-level experience, having coached Arsenal for 22 years in England’s Premier League and, less regularly, in Real’s favorite playground of the Champions League.
But would Real Madrid’s demanding fans back the 68-year-old Frenchman, whose last piece of silverware with the Gunners came in 2017 with the FA Cup? His last league honors date back 13 years to 2004, proving the steady decline during his long reign.
Wenger spent the intervening years trying, unsuccessfully, to replicate the success of his early campaigns.
Real, record 13-times winners of the Champions League including the last three years in succession, are used to winning trophies and fans will expect a coach with lofty ambitions.
Leading Liverpool to the Champions League final, and a 3-1 defeat to Real last Saturday, won’t have done any harm to Klopp’s chances of joining the Spanish giants.
But whether the easy-going, fan-hugging German fits the bill at Europe’s most successful club remains to be seen.
In coaching terms Klopp’s CV stands up to scrutiny: tactics, man management and unfettered enthusiasm for the game and his players are among his biggest attributes.
But the 50-year-old’s rate of success is less impressive.
Klopp led Borussia Dortmund to the Champions League final in 2013, only to suffer defeat to Bayern Munich.
Three other runner-up places grace Klopp’s CV, including the English League Cup (2016), the Europa League (2016) and this season’s Champions League.
In the absence of a standout favorite from outside the club, Real president Florentino Perez could opt to promote from within and push their under-19s coach Jose Maria Gutierrez, known as Guti, into the Real hot seat.
A former star midfielder for Real, who made over 500 appearances between 1995 and 2010, Guti’s intimate knowledge of the club would be a distinct advantage over his rivals.
As coach of Real’s under-19s, Guti enjoyed regular contact with Zidane and his successful methods.
On paper, the 41-year-old Guti is an outsider as he has yet to cut his coaching teeth at senior coaching level — although, prior to his appointment in 2016, the same could be said about Zidane.
The Frenchman, who made over 150 appearances for Real, became a sports director with Real in 2011 before becoming assistant to Carlo Ancelotti in 2013 and then heading the Real Madrid ‘B’ team.


Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

Updated 10 December 2019

Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

  • Injury-hit Reds have consistently leaked goals despite streaking clear at the top of Premier League

LONDON: Liverpool travel to Salzburg on Tuesday needing to avoid defeat to the confident Austrian champions to guard against an embarrassing Champions League group stage exit for the holders.

Jurgen Klopp's men are used to getting through to the knockout stages the hard way. In each of the past two seasons they have needed home wins to secure a place in the last 16 before going on to make the final.

However, the specter of a free-scoring Salzburg, led by the Champions League's top scorer in Erlin Braut Haaland spells trouble for an injury-hit Liverpool backline that has consistently leaked goals this season despite streaking clear at the top of the Premier League.

The Reds' recorded a first clean sheet in 14 games in Saturday's 3-0 win at Bournemouth, but lost another center back as Dejan Lovren limped off in the first half.

Should the Croatian miss the trip to Austria, Joe Gomez will be Klopp's only fit partner for Virgil van Dijk in central defense.

Van Dijk narrowly missed out to Lionel Messi in the battle for the Ballon d'Or last week in recognition of the transformative effect he has had on Liverpool's fortunes over the past two years.

But even the towering Dutchman has been incapable of stopping the steady flow of goals against in recent months.

Injuries have meant there has been a constant rotation of Lovren, Gomez and Joel Matip alongside Van Dijk, while the attacking impetus offered by fullbacks Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold leaves space in behind to be exploited.

Goalkeeper Alisson Becker also missed the first two months of the season due to a calf injury to further unsettle the backline.

The Brazilian is now back, but another injury to Fabinho has robbed the back four of the best player to protect them in the holding midfield role.

"I forgot how it feels, to be honest," said Klopp on finally ending the long wait for a clean sheet at the weekend.

"It's great, we should have them more often. It was the most-used word in the dressing room by the boys — "clean sheet, clean sheet, clean sheet."

"Obviously everybody was desperate for that, now we have it so let's have it more often.

"The next game where a clean sheet would be useful is already around the corner, against Salzburg on Tuesday."

That is easier said than done as Liverpool know from their first meeting with Jesse Marsch's men in October.

The hosts seemed to be cruising to another Anfield win in the Champions League as they raced into a 3-0 lead, but Salzburg hit back to level at 3-3 before Mohamed Salah's winner ensured Liverpool edged a seven-goal thriller.

Salzburg have scored 87 goals in 24 games in all competitions this season, 28 of which have come from Norwegian wonderkid Haaland in just 21 appearances.

The 19-year-old started on the bench when the sides met at Anfield due to injury, but came on to inspire the visitors' revival in the second half and scored one of his eight Champions League goals.

"He's not the only threat from Salzburg but he's a proper one," said Klopp of the danger posed by Haaland ahead of the sides' first clash.

Salzburg need to win to make the last 16 on their first appearance in the group stage in 25 years.

A point would be enough for Liverpool to progress, but they need to win to secure top spot in Group E ahead of Napoli.

Given Liverpool's paucity of clean sheets and Salzburg's thirst for goals, attack would appear to be the best form of defencse for the European champions.