There's every reason to believe that this summer will see a fairly significant rotation of managers at some major soccer teams across Europe. Some changes we know about like Pep Guardiola taking over at Bayern Munich and David Moyes taking over Manchester United after Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Some changes haven't happened but feel inevitable, like Jose Mourinho returning to Chelsea.
Since all it will take is for one or two managers to move to knocking dominoes over and start a potential cascade of changes, let's explore the clubs we think will be hiring new head coaches this summer and who we think are the best bosses for the job. We'll also have some fun speculating about what could happen if some of the more stable dominoes start to fall.
Just a quick note before we begin: this is all theoretical. We have no proof of any of these moves, beyond what rumors we've seen in the media. We're just having some fun thinking about what could happen this summer.
Jose Mourinho is as good as gone from Los Merengues with all signs pointing to the Special One making a glorious return to Chelsea, the club he helped raise to new heights from 2004 to 2007. Even current interim manager Rafa Benitez hinted that there will be a new manager in charge of the Blues next year and that "I think everybody knows who will be here."
So if Mourinho leaves, who will take over at Madrid? The popular pick among the media and one that makes sense in a lot of ways is Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian coach is a proven commodity having won the European Cup twice along with having consistent success recently with Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea. Ancelotti could help solidify the Madrid defense and allow the team to succeed right away without having to undergo a major overhaul.
Alternates: Rafa Benitez. lol.
So if Ancelotti departs for Madrid, who takes over in the French capital and inherits the talent-rich roster with an equally rich transfer fund to match? Names like Arsene Wenger and Rafa Benitez have been floated in the press but I think PSG should go a different direction and look to another Italian, Luciano Spalletti.
For the last 18 seasons Spalletti has quietly climbed his way up the ladder through Italy ending with a stay at AS Roma, where he won the Coppa Italia twice and the Supercoppa Italiana. Since 2009 he's been at Zenit St. Petersburg, winning two league titles and two cups. What really makes sense for me about Spalletti moving to PSG is the fact that he's expertly dealt with near insanity surrounding Zenit this year with locker room strife over their highly paid signing this summer and ultras using highly racist tactics to protest several players. Despite all that, Zenit won the league and made it to the Champions League Round of 16.
Basically he can handle stress and pressure, something the PSG job is going to have plenty of. Admittedly Rafa Benitez or Laurent Blanc might be a more realistic option but Spalletti deserves a shot and it just sounds more fun.
Alternatives: Rafa Benitez, Laurent Blanc
Edit: Since this article was posted, Roberto Mancini has been fired.
Much like PSG, Manchester City's owners have spent a great deal of money to win now and win often. City's season has been a massive letdown considering their exit from the Champions League in the group stages and their rather easy capitulation to rivals Manchester United in the league. Roberto Mancini seems likely to be the fall guy and it really looks like City will go after Malaga's Manuel Pellegrini.
The Chilean coach came within minutes of taking Malaga to the Champions League semifinal and has held that team together with duct tape and chewing gum after their Qatari owner pulled the financial rug out from under them. There's no doubt that Malaga peaked and staying with the club would be a bad career move for Pellegrini. Instead, City would be a great job for him to take over where he could bring a fresh style and thinking to the club along with the proven ability to deal with distractions, pressure and all the other nonsense you'd expect to surround City at this point.
Alternatives: Michael Laudrup, panic.
Just for fun though, what happens if Chelsea can't work things out with Mourinho?
There's always a chance that Mourinho and Roman Abramovich can't get on the same page and things fall apart as the Russian oligarch attempts to bring the Special One back to Stamford Bridge. Rafa Benitez is not a long-term option so once again the Blues would be forced to look for a new leader.
Alternatives: Manuel Pellegrini, Guus Hiddink, panic.
Chelsea has burned a lot of bridges and nearly every other option is a bit of a panic buy. Let's assume Jürgen Klopp doesn't want the job; Chelsea might have to do the unthinkable and extend Rafa for one year and hope they can either convince Klopp or get Joachim Löw after the World Cup next summer. Another possibility is to give Guus Hiddink a call and see if he wouldn't mind coming back for a season.
One more thing to consider: Manuel Pellegrini reportedly would prefer coming to Chelsea over City. Could you imagine the potential bidding war?
Now that David Moyes is off to Manchester United, Everton need a new boss. Neil Lennon and Malky Mackay have been mentioned but the most likely choice is Wigan Athletic's Roberto Martinez. Fresh off a shocking victory in the FA Cup final over Manchester City, Martinez is still likely to see his side relegated unless they can defeat Arsenal on Tuesday. If Wigan loses (or draws) that will probably be the trigger for Martinez leaving. A Wigan victory might just delay the inevitable a week or two.
Alternatives: Gus Poyet, Vitor Pereira.
If they can't convince Martinez, Brighton & Hove Albion's Gus Poyet would be an excellent option and FC Porto's Vítor Pereira has expressed interest in coming to England. Everton is a big club, whether you want to admit it or not, and have history and prestige. Despite the financial concerns, it's still a legitimate job in England where a manager can make a name.
So what happens to Malaga if, and more likely when, Manuel Pellegrini leaves for Manchester City? With financial strife and hard times on the horizon, they'll need a manager used to dealing with both Spain and how to succeed with limited resources. My pick is Levante's Juan Ignacio Martínez, a young head coach who not only qualified Levante for the Europa League in 2011, he led them all the way to the Round of 16 this year.
Alternatives: Marcelo Bielsa, Laurent Blanc, Pepe Mel.
The Wild Card
Jürgen Klopp is not expected to leave Borussia Dortmund but if a big club with deep pockets got desperate and threw a ton of money his way, anything is possible. The most likely candidates would be Chelsea or Paris Saint-Germain, but if all hell breaks loose at Madrid, don't rule them out as a possible suitor.