West Bromwich Albion have yet to name a new manager, but if Skybet’s odds are anything to go by, the next boss is could well be of Spanish nationality.
Sacking Steve Clarke came as a bit of a shock, but it goes to show the ruthlessness shown by Premier League owners these days.
He can count himself unlucky, a refereeing mistake at Chelsea and unlikely Aston Villa comeback was followed by four straight defeats – three by the odd goal, and then he was shown the door.
Two points from six games could quite easily have been eight or nine, and Steve Clarke’s WBA would have been comfortably in the top 10, ahead of the likes of Steve Bruce and Michael Laudrup who have both received their fair amount of praise over the last few months.
Yet, it wasn’t to be, and Clarke’s sacking goes to show how fine lines in the Premier League can make such a difference.
WBA, on the look-out for a new boss, have obviously looked at the Southampton and Swansea City model and decided to take a similar route. Appointing a manager with vast experience of a foreign league, especially one with financial difficulties, could be a goldmine for owners – little investment could provide huge returns – an example being Swansea City’s £15m-plus rated Spanish striker Michu.
The three names on WBA’s wish-list are all current unemployed Spanish coaches with experience in Spain’s top flight. But who are they?
The 50-year-old coach was the recent manager of Sevilla-based side Real Betis. Joining the Verdiblancos in 2010 whilst in the Second Division, Pepe Mel guided his side into the top flight at the first time of asking.
During the 2012/13 season, Betis finished 7th and secured a place in this year’s Europa league. Like many sides before them, juggling European football with domestic football with a small squad seemed to be their downfall, and Betis found themselves down near the bottom of La Liga.
A heavy 4-0 loss to rivals Sevilla seemed to be the final straw and Mel was rather harshly dismissed. The Madrid-born manager had been made the early favourite for the Baggies’ managerial vacancy, however English press have since reported that Mel is no longer a candidate.
Jose Luis Mendilibar
The former Athletic Bilbao player has become the new favourite to be Steve Clarke’s predecessor. Mendilibar started his coaching career as a youth coach at Athletic Bilbao in the mid-to-late nineties and had a short but rather disastrous spell as manager in 2005 - only lasting a few months.
After a decent spell at Valladolid, the 52-year-old was appointed Osasuna boss in 2011. Despite being one of La Liga’s smallest clubs, Mendilibar took on an attacking approach and tried to outscore his opponents. The tactic worked, with Osasuna registering two successive top half finishes an impressive 3-2 home victory over Barcelona to boot.
However, the attacking displays sometimes were too bold, and 8-0 and 7-1 defeats to Barcelona and Real Madrid perhaps showed a lack of defensive and tactical discipline. A tame 2012/13 season and three straight defeats at the start of this campaign and Jose Luis Mendilibar was shown his marching orders.
The third Spaniard to be linked with the WBA managerial post is Quinque Flores. Arguably the Spaniard with the most impressive CV out of the trio, Flores is a Europa League winner with Atletico Madrid as well as managing Champions League sides Valencia and Benfica.
Quinque Flores has since gone off the chart regarding European management, with the 48-year-old former Real Madrid player spending time managing in the United Arab Emirates. According to Spanish press, Flores has already held talks with WBA and with Skybet offering odds of 7/1 on his appointment, he remains one of the favourites to land the post.
Will WBA appoint one of the three Spaniards over the next couple of weeks?
image: © hisgett