7 candidates to replace Zidane as Real Madrid manager

Henry Bushnell

Zinedine Zidane abruptly resigned on Thursday. And that means, just as abruptly, a Real Madrid managerial search has commenced.

Zidane stunned both the football world and, it seems, even Real Madrid itself with his announcement. So the club has no head start. It has no short list of candidates. But here are some it could consider:

1. Guti, Real Madrid U-19s

Before Zidane got the top job in Madrid, he was the B-team boss. Would Real promote from within again, given how well it worked last time around?

It just might. Guti, 41, has nearly been a Real Madrid lifter. He came up through the club’s academy, played 15 seasons for the first team, then returned to the club as a youth team coach two years after his playing career ended.

When Zidane was under fire at various points throughout this past season, Guti’s name arose as a possible replacement. He’ll likely be considered now that the position is actually open.

2. Maurizio Sarri, unattached

Sarri left Napoli after the 2017-18 season – a season in which his team came closer to interrupting Juventus’ Serie A title run than any other over the past seven years.

His on-field style would definitely fit at Real Madrid – albeit with some reinforcements necessary if he’s to introduce the high-intensity pressing side of it. But his track record at the highest level is relatively short. Before Napoli, he was more or less an Italian journeyman. And he’s 59. His résumé might not be sufficient.

3. Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham

Pochettino, it’s fair to say, is the least available manager on this list. He recently signed a new contract at Spurs, and with the club moving into a new stadium – and, Pochettino hopes, a new era of increased spending – he’ll be difficult for Real Madrid to pry away.

But surely Los Blancos will at least try. Because surely Pochettino would be the most desirable candidate – even if he, like Sarri, would have to begin his tenure with a bit of a squad revamp. He has worked wonders at Tottenham. He’s widely considered a top-five manager in the world. He should be top of the wish list.

4. Antonio Conte, Chelsea

Conte is expected to leave Chelsea at some point in the coming weeks. If he does, he’ll be the biggest name on the managerial market. And his main problem at Chelsea – constant bickering with the board and front office over a lack of spending – wouldn’t be one at Madrid. For the first time in his career, he’d have all the money he craves.

Other than that, though, he seems like a terrible fit. His unwavering intensity, which occasionally turns sour and grouchy, doesn’t jibe with Real Madrid’s ethos. His 3-4-3 pressing system doesn’t seem to fit with current personnel. He’ll be mentioned in the conversation because of his reputation, but don’t expect him to get the job.

5. Arsene Wenger, unattached

Wenger, remarkably, is some bookmakers’ favorite for the job. Would he be up for the pressure of it after dealing with so much criticism over the latter parts of his 22-year tenure at Arsenal? And would he want to go to a club at which he wouldn’t have full control? Plus … what from his final few years at Arsenal would make him attractive to Madrid?

Arsene Wenger is some bookmakers’ favorite to replace Zinedine Zidane as the next Real Madrid manager. (Getty)
Arsene Wenger is some bookmakers’ favorite to replace Zinedine Zidane as the next Real Madrid manager. (Getty)

This is a juicy thought, but it probably isn’t happening.

6. Max Allegri, Juventus

Allegri was reportedly a top candidate for the Arsenal job before the Gunners chose Unai Emery. He might not be available, and his defensive style might not be acceptable at Real Madrid. But given his recent success at the top level, he can’t be ignored in a search like this.

7. Jorge Sampaoli, Argentina

Sampaoli had success in Spain with Sevilla. He took on a short-term project with Argentina, but chances are – whether via sacking or resignation – he’ll be available after the upcoming World Cup. Would Madrid be willing to wait?

Probably not. And Sampaoli, for reasons similar to Sarri, might not be the greatest fit. His pressing system is more insane than those of other managers on this list, and would be a total departure from what Real Madrid has done over the past few years.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.

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