Real Madrid: Solari could be the next best option post-Zidane
With Julen Lopetegui sacked, B team coach Santiago Solari has 14 days to convince Real Madrid that he is the man to lead the club. Andy Brassell says Solari's stable approach could be the right fit...
"The little gestures, often loaded with political meaning, make all the difference at Real Madrid. In his introductory press conference, Solari did nothing to dispel the sense that he wants the top job on a full-time basis."
Already, it feels like a touch of calm has been restored. The morning after Julen Lopetegui's sacking as Real Madrid coach, the training session led by his replacement (at least for now), Castilla boss Santiago Solari, had a feel of the familiar to it. Spanish media were quick to pick up on the sight of Antonio Pintus, the conditioning guru handpicked by Zinedine Zidane to work with him after the pair had dovetailed at Juventus in the '90s, taking the players through their Tuesday warm-up, having been marginalised under Lopetegui.
The little gestures, often loaded with political meaning, make all the difference at Real Madrid. In his introductory press conference, Solari did nothing to dispel the sense that he wants the top job on a full-time basis, which is one of the reasons he's the favourite to get the gig in the Betfair Exchange market at [1.5].
Solari's big chance
The timing is key here. The federation's rulebook states that any caretaker can be in charge for a maximum of 14 days before he is either appointed to the end of the current campaign or a permanent alternative is found. This fortnight would see Los Merengues through their next four fixtures, starting at Melilla in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday and ending with the tricky trip to Celta Vigo on Sunday November 11 - after which we have an international break.
When Solari spoke of an "opportunity", that's exactly what he sees; a trial period with a very definite decision date on the horizon. In this time leading up to the hiatus, the new man will get a chance to test himself in three different competitions and to put together a compelling mini-resumé.
Pochettino to use Madrid as leverage?
Timing is also important in assessing the other candidates. Tottenham's Mauricio Pochettino is second-favourite at [4.2], with his recent expressions of frustration at his club's transfer market approach taken as being more significant than his longer-term demeanour, which seems very much invested in the north London club's widescreen vision.
Perhaps the Bernabéu post coming up right now gives the Argentinian handy leverage to get more of what he wants out of the notoriously frugal Daniel Levy. Either way, Pochettino is acutely aware of his own value, even if he must have doubts that he would receive the same patience or be offered quite the same influence as he enjoys at Tottenham.
Conte splits opinion
Antonio Conte - priced at [3.6] - was the favourite for the role this time last week, but multiple reports in Spain suggest that the dressing room isn't sold on the idea of the Italian taking the helm. While player power is rarely seen as a positive thing in this context, Florentino Pérez's megastars may have done him a favour here.
That the positive of Conte's work at Juventus and Chelsea far outstrips the negative is not up for debate. What is also clear is that he has very little pedigree in the Champions League, having reached a sum total of one quarter-final. The Champions League, of course, is the only currency that matters at the Bernabéu.
Back to the (less successful) future
With both Conte and Roberto Martínez (the Belgium coach is priced at [6.0]), one feels that El Real would be heading back to the territory of the Champions League dry years which preceded La Décima in 2014, hopping from big name coach to big name coach - Carlos Queiroz, Vanderlei Luxemburgo, Fabio Capello et al - without making any sort of dent in Europe.
Solari, on the other hand, is low-risk and carries the odour of Zidane, a club man who can bring poise and intelligence to the room. That is exactly what worked during the run of three straight Champions League, covering a multitude of sins, and Pérez should not be blind to that.