Carlo Ancelotti has become the first coaching casualty of the season among Europe’s heavyweights, with Bayern Munich sacking him on Thursday and placing assistant Willy Sagnol in interim charge.
The 58-year-old’s time at the Allianz Arena has been brought to an end less than 15 months after he was appointed as Pep Guardiola’s replacement, making it his shortest spell as head coach of a club since he spent a year at Reggiana in 1995-96.
Ancelotti won the Bundesliga in his only full season in charge, and claimed the DFL-Supercup in August, but reports of dissent within the dressing room have grown in recent weeks and came to a head when Arjen Robben refused to back him publicly in the wake of the 3-0 Champions League loss to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.
It is rare to see the Italian lose the faith of his players – he was widely popular at AC Milan, PSG and Real Madrid – but his successor is facing some damage control when he starts life at Saberne Strasse, even if Sagnol can smooth over some of the immediate concerns.
And that’s before you consider the challenge that awaits the long-term successor when it comes to trophies, with Bayern threatened by Borussia Dortmund again in the Bundesliga and facing a major battle to regain supremacy in Europe.
So who would be the right man for the job? We assess some of the leading candidates…
Although he would be something of a surprise choice, Blanc showed at PSG that he can handle both a squad full of egos and the demands of a trophy-hungry president.
The World Cup-winning former France centre-back won four trophies with Bordeaux, including the Ligue 1 and Coupe de France double in 2008-09, before replacing Ancelotti at PSG in 2013.
The 51-year-old took their domestic dominance to unprecedented levels, winning back-to-back quadruples in 2014-15 and 2015-16, but his failure to offer a serious challenge for the Champions League ultimately proved his undoing.
He has not taken another role since leaving Parc des Princes last July, removing the need for Bayern to pay any compensation packages, and his record at the top level means he at least deserves consideration.
Another free agent in coaching circles, Luis Enrique has also spent the last few years showing he can deliver success at one of the world’s biggest clubs.
The former Spain midfielder survived huge pressure on his position during the early months of his first season at Barcelona and guided them to the treble, having found a way to get the best out of the fearsome attacking trident of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
The silverware steadily dropped off from then on, with Barca winning the domestic double in 2015-16 and just the Copa del Rey last season, while Luis Enrique’s more pragmatic tactical approach and frosty relationship with the media made his exit at the end of last term come as something of a relief.
The 47-year-old has enjoyed his sabbatical but an offer from Bayern would be tough to turn down.
Visca el Barça y visca Catalunya! pic.twitter.com/9BwBiH2sAK
— LUISENRIQUE (@LUISENRIQUE21) May 27, 2017
PHILIPP LAHM AND XABI ALONSO
This one might seem a bit of a stretch but if there is one thing Bayern like to do, it’s build a club management structure out of their former stars.
Former captain Lahm reportedly turned down the sporting director job this year, meaning the role went to ex-team-mate Hasan Salihamidzic, but he has made it clear he would love to take up another senior role at the club and has even been touted as a replacement for president Uli Hoeness.
Should Lahm be given one of the top jobs at the Allianz Arena, do not be surprised if he turns to Alonso. The 35-year-old retired alongside Lahm at the end of last season and this week confirmed his plan to go into the dugout.
Handing the Bayern job to an ex-player with zero experience, even one as good as Alonso was, would be a risk indeed but it’s one that would be welcomed by fans and players alike – especially if Lahm is in the office upstairs.
And now, the end is near… pic.twitter.com/XDCMztfQqu
— Xabi Alonso (@XabiAlonso) May 19, 2017
He was something of a scourge on Bayern’s dreams of dominance while at Borussia Dortmund, but Jurgen Klopp has often been linked with a return to Germany to take charge in Munich.
The 50-year-old was tipped to take over before joining Liverpool in 2015 and former Bayern and Dortmund boss Ottmar Hitzfeld said this year he expects Klopp to go at some stage.
The former Mainz boss has insisted he does not want to be a “club-hopper” and is eager to build a legacy at Liverpool, but a run of unsatisfactory results has led to speculation that he will not survive the season.
Even if his Anfield tenure proves a failure, few would doubt Klopp’s credentials as Bayern coach, given he won back-to-back Bundesliga titles with Dortmund and reached the Champions League final in 2013.
Now we come to a more realistic option. Nagelsmann has long been tipped as a future Bayern boss and even admitted in a recent interview that he would love a crack at German club football’s top job.
The 30-year-old has been a revelation at Hoffenheim since becoming the youngest head coach in Bundesliga history in October 2015, and his side are one of only two to have beaten Bayern this season.
He is undoubtedly one of the rising talents in Europe but his age and relative inexperience have raised some doubts as to whether he could win over a dressing room even Ancelotti could not tame.
If Bayern do take the plunge, though, it seems unlikely either Nagelsmann or Hoffenheim would resist.
1 – Today is the last day of J. Nagelsmann’s first year as Hoffenheim coach, in which only Bayern and Dortmund gained more points. Complete. pic.twitter.com/jr6gMPlwR6
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) February 10, 2017
Will take over in the short term for the weekend clash with Hertha Berlin but he may be the long-term solution.
The 40-year-old won every trophy going in his nine years at the club as a player, including the Champions League in 2001, and was a popular figure among the fans especially.
Sagnol has not enjoyed much success as a head coach, lasting only one season at both Bordeaux and Nice, but he returned to Bayern in June as Ancelotti’s assistant after Paul Clement and Hermann Gerland moved on.
Ancelotti said Sagnol “ticked all the boxes” but it’s hard to say whether he has retained the support of the players during a difficult last few weeks. Handing him the top job, even just on an interim basis, is a definite gamble.
Tuchel remains a free agent since leaving Dortmund at the end of last season, where he won widespread acclaim for his brand of football and lifted the DFB-Pokal in May this year.
However, the 44-year-old’s final few months in charge were tarnished by a simmering row with the board, with CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke claiming they became “worn out” by dealing with Tuchel and his staff.
The ex-Mainz boss has been linked with the West Ham job in recent weeks but would surely jump at the chance to take over at Bayern if the opportunity arose, and there are few more promising-looking candidates for the position.
Having said that, Bayern might well decide that putting such an opinionated figure in charge of a disgruntled dressing room – with sporting director Salihamidzic just two months into his role – is not worth the risk.
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