ONCE one of the most box office names in the game, Jose Mourinho’s sacking as Tottenham Hotspur manager on 19 April was in danger of going largely unnoticed by the wider football public amid the breaking-news maelstrom that was the brief life of The Super League.
After 17 months in charge in north London, Mourinho was relieved of his duties with Spurs seventh in the table and on a dismal streak which had seen them win just twice in eight matches. Dispatched a week before the Carabao Cup final, Mourinho’s Tottenham tenure marked his first trophyless stint at a club in two decades.
Former Spurs midfielder Ryan Mason has since taken temporary charge, overseeing last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to Manchester City at Wembley. But the 29-year-old is not believed to be among the frontrunners for the full-time job, while Julian Nagelsmann of RB Leipzig, chairman Daniel Levy’s reported first choice, has instead elected to join Bayern Munich next season.
Here, we take a look at the remaining top contenders to be named the next Tottenham manager.
Maurizio Sarri’s has fallen somewhat in the seasons since he transformed Napoli into the most entertaining side in Europe and genuine Serie A contenders, but the Italian tactician’s value at his most recent posts can be perhaps gauged by the void he left behind.
At Chelsea, despite never truly seeming to win the full support of the club’s fan base, the 62-year-old secured a respectable third-place Premier League finish and a Europa League triumph in his only season at the Stamford Bridge helm. By contrast, his successor, Frank Lampard, was adored by the Chelsea faithful for his glittering playing career, but the former England midfielder was unable to replicate Sarri’s on-field success and was sacked halfway into his second season in charge.
Sarri left Chelsea for Juventus, whom he led to the Serie A title. This wasn’t enough to preserve his job, with a last-16 Champions League exit in August leading to his sacking. Sarri was again replaced by a club legend, this time Andrea Pirlo, and Juventus are almost certain to miss out on the Serie A crown for the first time since 2010-11.
Although he is yet to reproduce the thrilling brilliance of his Napoli side anywhere else, Sarri’s brand of fast-passing, attack-minded football would be a soothing antidote to Mourinho’s turgid pragmatism.
— The Spurs Express (@TheSpursExpress) April 23, 2021
The architect of Ajax’s remarkable run to the Champions League semi-finals two years ago – where they were ultimately halted by Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs – Erik ten Hag would arguably be the most ambitious and forward-thinking appointment Spurs could make.
The 51-year-old has restored Ajax to the pinnacle of the Dutch game, winning the Eredivisie title in 2018-19 and, after last season’s championship race was declared null and void amid the Covid pandemic, on course to retain that crown this term, a comfortable 12 points clear of second-placed PSV.
And Ten Hag has achieved this success while staying faithful to Ajax’s long-held and widely revered principles of being the best talent developers in Europe. The likes of Frenkie De Jong, Matthijs De Ligt and Donnie van de Beek thrived under his stewardship before they were sold for a combined total close to £200m. And this season Ten Hag has seamlessly integrated 18-year-old midfielder Ryan Gravenberch into a key role.
With his combination of being able to get career-high performances from established veterans – Dusan Tadic, Daley Blind, Davy Klaassen – and track record of developing young players into elite stars, Ten Hag would be a hugely exciting option for Tottenham.
Erik Ten Hag is probably ideal for Spurs ! Just look how they ripped through us in the first leg of the CL playing wonderful football !
— ALL THINGS TOTTENHAM ➐ (@All_ThingsTHFC) April 27, 2021
It has been reported that Brendan Rodgers has no interest in the vacant Spurs job, preferring instead to continue his excellent work with Leicester City, who currently sit third in the Premier League and will contest the FA Cup final in May.
But if the former Liverpool and Swansea City boss can be persuaded to consider a move to north London, there is no better candidate for the job from a Spurs point of view.
Rodgers has proven himself to be an astute tactician who espouses an entertaining style of play. Moreover, he is a sympathetic man-manager and one of the finest developers of players in the Premier League.
There are few realistic options for Tottenham whose skillsets align as perfectly as Rodgers’ to get the best out of the talented but underperforming crop of stars on Spurs’ payroll.
Had the Tottenham job been available three years ago, Eddie Howe’s name would likely have been top of Levy’s list of candidates.
The 43-year-old became one of the most revered young coaches in English football for the way he masterminded Bournemouth’s rise from the third tier all the way to the Premier League – with a brief, unsuccessful stint at Burnley along the way – before then cementing the Cherries in the top flight.
By coaxing an unexpected level of performance from unheralded players and producing a pleasing-on-the-eye style of play, Howe’s Bournemouth were a rare success story.
However, the persistent defensive frailty of his Bournemouth side, contributing to their relegation last year, and an underwhelming success rate with his bigger-money signings remain black marks against Howe’s suitability for a job the size of the Tottenham hot seat.
One manager in contention for the Spurs job who would not be overwhelmed by the size of the task at hand is Rafa Benitez.
The former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Chelsea boss has a pedigree than no other realistic rival for the role can match, having won the Champions League, Europa League and La Liga. Widely regarded as one of the sharpest tactical minds in world football, the Spaniard’s most recent English post saw him restore Newcastle United to the top flight, re-establishing the Magpies in the Premier League despite owner Mike Ashley’s stark underinvestment in the squad.
The major misgiving Spurs fans will have regarding Benitez, though, is his conservative approach. Like Mourinho, he prioritizes defensive organisation, often at the expense of flair and invention further forward. After 17 months of Mourinho-ball, another defence-first pragmatist might not make for a popular appointment.