Who’s the next Fergie? Mourinho? Cruyff? World football’s up-and-coming managers named
1) The next Fergie...
Alex Neil (Norwich)
Neil and Alex Ferguson were born just 10 miles apart but the similarity doesn’t end there. The Norwich manager is just 34 but has already taken two teams – the Canaries and his former club, Hamilton – to top-tier promotions, and has an air of control and authority well beyond his years.
Genial and friendly to the press, Neil nonetheless has a persona that commands instant respect – and with one look into those steely eyes you strongly sense he isn’t averse to dishing out the odd hair dryer if required.
2) The next Van Gaal...
Patrick Kluivert (Curacao)
Kluivert had been keen to join Van Gaal, his mentor from Ajax and Barcelona, at Manchester United but the veteran had told him to stand on his own two feet. So Kluivert went all the way to the tiny Caribbean island of Curacao, the land of his ancestors, to begin the process.
He has already led them through two rounds of World Cup qualification, seeing a side largely assembled from the Dutch leagues play some slick football. Kluivert, a forthright and sometimes abrasive personality just like Van Gaal, has his eyes on a good European job in the foreseeable future.
3) The next Wenger...
Gaizka Garitano (Unattached)
Garitano is professedly a football nut – one who visited England during the Spanish season’s winter break to watch matches as a fan. He is also an exceptionally bright individual and it can’t be long before the 39-year-old – who has left Eibar despite the club receiving a reprieve from relegation to Spain’s second tier – is snapped up by a bigger club.
That tiny Eibar are in La Liga at all owes much to his genius; he led them to successive promotions from the third division after taking over in 2012. Like Wenger, who comes from Alsace, the Basque-born Garitano has a strong sense of regional identity; like Wenger he’s a polymath, with a degree in journalism and an interest in composing poetry.
4) The next Villas-Boas...
Johnny McKinstry (Rwanda)
Akin to AVB, the Northern Ireland-born McKinstry started out with an international role in his 20s. He’d been head coach of Craig Bellamy’s football academy in Sierra Leone before being offered the national team job there aged 27.
McKinstry led them to steady improvement before being harshly dismissed during the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers; he was quickly appointed to lead a promising Rwanda side and oversaw an impressive win in Mozambique in his first game.
Still just 29, McKinstry is a methodical, modern tactician whose use of video analysis made a big difference with the Leone Stars. He preaches an attractive brand of football and should end up back in Europe before long.
5) The next Cruyff...
Henrik Larsson (Helsingborg)
Larsson’s stock in Swedish football needs no explanation and, like Cruyff, he’s now managing one of the clubs he served as a player. Turning Helsingborg’s fortunes around may be a more difficult job than keeping lowly Falkenberg in the top flight, as he did last season, and they currently lie in mid-table with the season almost at its halfway stage.
Like Cruyff, he has a big name to live up to – and like Cruyff he‘ll hope that his son, the 18-year-old Jordan Larsson, can emerge from his shadow and be a vital member of his side.
6) The next Guardiola...
Eddie Howe (Bournemouth)
Sometimes you wonder whether Howe can do any wrong (unless, perhaps, you're a slightly perplexed Burnley fan). In his first spell in charge at Bournemouth, where he had previously been a player, he led the seemingly doomed Cherries to Football League survival. In his second, he took them from League One to the Premier League in two-and-a-half years.
Howe’s team plays wonderful attacking football, mixing patience in possession with an ability to change speed devastatingly at the blink of an eye, but the manager himself is coolness personified on the touchline and away from it too. Howe is only 37 but has achieved more than most managers will in a lifetime – and like Guardiola, he’s made his name at the club he loves.
7) The next Klopp...
Thomas Tuchel (Borussia Dortmund)
It’s almost as if Borussia Dortmund had the succession planned to perfection. Previous success at Mainz? Tick. Just the right side of 40? Tick? Charismatic, extroverted and fidgety but with a football mind to rival the very best? Tick. Knows when to quit while he’s ahead? Tick.
Tuchel doesn’t quite match Klopp’s zaniness but it’s as close a fit as you can get and, having completed a year out after leading Mainz to seventh in the Bundesliga, he’ll be energised to reproduce the kind of exhaustingly high-tempo football Dortmund fans have been accustomed to. Dull moments can be discounted.
8) The next Souness...
Sinisa Mihajlovic (AC Milan)
Renowned hard man who managed a steady stream of high-profile jobs despite a fluctuating track record? Rings a bell or two, and Mihajlovic struck lucky again when he was appointed Milan coach this summer.
Although he impressively consolidated Sampdoria back in Serie A during his two seasons there, it would be an almighty ask for him to rejuvenate the flailing Rossoneri, whose track record of employing big names to turn their fortunes around has been distinctly iffy.
Never mind the fact that he’s a former Inter player; underwhelming spells in charge of Fiorentina and Serbia in particular make for a chequered back catalogue.
9) The next Mourinho...
Roberto Stellone (Frosinone)
Stellone described his team as “practical and intelligent” after their surprise promotion to Serie A – the first ever for the club based 50 miles from Rome. Such characteristics would be music to Mourinho’s ears and Stellone, the former Napoli and Torino striker who’s still just 37, has a pragmatism that will serve him well.
Although Frosinone, who’d only just been promoted from the third tier, were the second-highest scorers in Serie B, 13 of their 20 wins came by the odd goal and, in a tense promotion finale, they showed an aptitude for grinding out results when it really mattered.