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.


Vardy hits double in Leicester’s 8th straight victory

Updated 09 December 2019

Vardy hits double in Leicester’s 8th straight victory

  • Leicester takes the second-place team within eight points of Liverpool

BIRMINGHAM: Jamie Vardy scored for an eighth straight game for Premier League high-flyer Leicester on Sunday with a double in a 4-1 dismantling of Aston Villa.

Kelechi Iheanacho and Jonny Evans also scored to help Leicester set a new club record of eight consecutive top-flight wins and take the second-place team within eight points of Liverpool.

Jack Grealish did make it 2-1 just before the break but the Foxes were rarely in danger.

Brendan Rodgers’ side are 14 points clear of fifth-placed Manchester United in the pursuit of Champions League qualification.

“We are up there, we are challenging and playing well,” Evans told broadcaster Sky Sports. “Probably now, today, I think people are starting to talk more about that.

“Coming away from Villa with a really good performance, I think that’s the best Villa team we have played against for quite a while and we had to grind it out and it shows we are capable of getting good results.”

By contrast, Villa is only out of the relegation zone on goal difference after slipping to a fifth defeat in seven games.

Villa was wide open and Leicester should have taken the lead after 10 minutes.

Caglar Soyuncu knocked James Maddison’s deep free-kick back for Evans, who could only shoot straight at goalkeeper Tom Heaton.

Immediately, Villa broke to spurn their own golden chance when Matt Targett crossed for Anwar El Ghazi to hit the bar from six yards. With the chance went Villa’s early hopes and they swiftly lost any grip of the game when Vardy continued his scoring streak in the 20th minute.

Wesley lost the ball and the lively Iheanacho slipped the striker in to race clear and round Heaton. Vardy miscued his kick when preparing to shoot but recovered to tap in, despite Konsa’s efforts on the line.

Vardy is now just three games away from equalling his own Premier League record of scoring in 11 consecutive games.

Villa’s problems were partly of their own making with center back Tyrone Mings unable to cover having already suffered a hamstring injury and the defender was immediately replaced by Bjorn Engels.

Villa could not handle Vardy’s pace and Iheanacho’s movement.

There was a touch of fortune but Leicester deserved to double its lead in the 41st when Maddison crossed and Iheanacho diverted in at the near post.

The Foxes were cruising but Grealish pulled a goal back in first-half injury time when he curled in from 16 yards after the visitors failed to clear a corner.

Leicester, though, wasted no time in restoring their two-goal lead four minutes after the break.