Michael Laudrup was the first, and this week Héctor Cúper was the second man in the Spanish Primera División to vacate his position as coach this past week, and the signs are he certainly won’t be the last to do so.
Cúper left of his own accord, thus easing the decision Racing Santander might have to make on the economic factor of his contract. It is up for debate though whether Racing would’ve even considered replacing the Argentinean coach such is the torrid financial state at the club and of course. At the moment Juanjo González is in charge, accompanied closely by the duo of Fede Castaños and Pablo Pinillos, taking over day to day duties in training and also responsible for selecting the squad. Two names mentioned so far for the job have been former Real Madrid Castilla coach Alejandro Menéndez, and former Real Sociedad coach Martin Lasarte. The latter has already said he’d consider the offer, albeit with great scrutiny, but again the financial issue remains. When taking on the role as coach of the Cantabrian side, Cúper of course knew the situation he was getting himself into. Racing, stripped down to their bare bones, would have to rely on veterans, and at the opposite end of the scale, Cantera promoted players. Then there is the issue of ‘owner’ Syed Ali – owner of course being a term used in this context very loosely. The Indian businessman came, promised investment into the playing squad, and proceeded to turn out week after week to watch Racing. Now, no one really knows where he is. Even Interpol, who have recently got involved with matters regarding his alleged fraud, couldn’t pin him down. At a playing level, it took 13 games and a parting win ratio of 7.69% for the man who led Valencia to consecutive Champions league finals, to realise the true size of the job. Relationships deteriorated with players, with one saying he would quit the club if he didn’t play in the next game, and communications with hierarchy were non-existent. The football too of course, especially in an attacking sense, was turgid. There are few positives, but with several players to return from injury, and numerous promising players from the Cantera, slight consolation remains.
Racing though, aren’t the only side in a managerial predicament, there are others.
With a two year spell away from the stage many feel they belong, Real Betis made up for lost time by springing into life with four wins from their first four games. Competent in possession, a classy midfield trio, blistering pace on the wings and options in attack – it was all going so well. However, something changed for Pepe Mel, and his side have suddenly looked to be running on empty despite not even reaching the winter break. To many it comes as no surprise, given that Mel, although a well liked character, has received criticism in the past for his lack of focus on the physical aspects of the game. His teams have, in the past, tired quickly and flagged at key points in the season. Real Betis are in the midst of their worst run ever, going down to nine consecutive defeats, and although they are by no means being decimated in games there are several problems in key areas. The defence has pushed on and been positionally unaware, creating significant gaps for the opposition to prosper in. The trio of Iriney, Salva-Sevilla and Beñat has been broken up too, with none of the players showing the cutting edge they had earlier in the season. The team is retaining possession well, it’s just their use of the ball that is causing so much concern. In attack numerous solutions have been tested, specifically in wide areas, but again, the supply line has been severed. Ex-Getafe man Míchel has been the name constantly linked should Mel depart, but in the meantime the coach has both the support of the players and board. Like Racing, the latter have little money to work with in terms of releasing a coach and inputting a new one. The previously mentioned Lasarte is also linked with this job, given his recent declaration to remain in Spain while Miguel Ángel Lotina’s name will hardly set Betico’s hearts alight.
Real Sociedad thought that given time, Coach Philippe Montanier would prove to be a revolutionary at the club. Some even stated, he was the ‘French Guardiola’. Unfortunately for the proud Basque outfit, this hasn’t turned out to be the case. Injuries have befallen La Real at the worst time possible and to key members of the squad too. Xabi Prieto is the latest to be admitted to the treatment room, but his absence won’t be as significant as it was last season given the creative midfielder has largely been on the periphery this season. More troubling, is the loss of industrious midfielder Asier Illarmendi for the next few months. Illarmendi brought tenacity to the midfield and without him it looks without a soul. Antoine Griezmann too, has failed to find consistency and has looked a shadow of the player who terrorized defences last season. If Montanier or whomever the future lies with can get Griezmann and Prieto back on form, then things could change quickly. A positive, is the presence of Iñigo Martinez in defence, and besides his long range shooting grabbing the headlines defensively he’s progressing quickly. Carlos Vela is looking more comfortable too. The same however, can’t be said for McDonald Mariga who has been a disaster since coming in. It has been suggested former Sevilla coach Manolo Jiménez has already agreed a deal to coach the San Sebastián based side. Those thinking last weekend’s result at Villamarín ending an eight game winless run would put doubts over Montanier’s future to bed, would be wrong.
Elsewhere, problems are less considerable and unless there is a significant drop in form by a team most coaches will remain. Luis García’s Getafe are finally showing signs of life, while the same can be said for Manolo Preciado’s Sporting Gijón despite the possibly Sociedad-bound Jiménez being strongly linked and a heavy defeat to Levante. Javier Aguirre at Real Zaragoza could be a situation to watch, and you wouldn’t bet against Jorge Mendes having a stab at management. Fabri at Granada has bought himself more time following an upturn in results, but it’s worth keeping in mind Quique Piña’s numerous contacts around the globe. Moving slightly further up the table, Gregorio Manzano’s future at Atlético Madrid hangs in the balance and another performance similar to the one against Getafe could see him leave the Vicente Calderón quicker than you can say ‘Vete Ya!’.