Tim Sherwood is now in charge of former European Champions Aston Villa. Tim Sherwood. Let that sink in for a minute. Now look at these guys who aren’t working.
Honours: 2006 & 2007 UEFA Cups, 2007 Copa del Rey with Sevilla; 2007 League Cup with Tottenham Hotspur
If there is a manager who personifies the “What Have You Done For Me Lately” epithet, it’s Juande Ramos. Any other manager would have been lauded for his accomplishments. But unfortunately, the Spaniard made his mistakes under two of the footballing world’s most intense spotlights.
Ramos’ career started well. After almost a decade of managing lower-level clubs, he took over a second division Rayo Vallecano in 1998 and led them straight into promotion… and kept them there. He did even better with a newly-promoted Real Betis, steering them to a decent sixth place. But a switch to Espanyol the next season ended badly; Ramos was fired after only six matches with the club sitting in 19th. He then did a season at Málaga, before joining the club that would make his reputation.
Sevilla was a consistent mid-table side when Ramos arrived in 2005; he took the Andalusians and made them winners. They only improved by a single place in their first season, but with eight more points, they only barely missed out on a Champions League spot due to their inferior head-to-head record against Osasuna. More importantly, they won the UEFA Cup, beating teams like Lille, Zenit St. Petersburg (who were semi-finalists the year before), and Schalke before demolishing Steve MacLaren’s Middlesbrough 4-0. After beating Barcelona in the UEFA Super Cup, they finished the next season on a mega-high, retaining the UEFA Cup by beating Ramos’ old side, Espanyol. Los Rojiblancos then ended at a very strong third place, falling only two points short of giants Barcelona and Real Madrid (Barça won the title on GD), and challenging the Big Two’s league hegemony. The annus mirabilis ended by beating surprise finalists Getafe to win the Copa del Rey, Sevilla’s first in almost 60 years.
After Tottenham sacked Martin Jol in October 2007, Juande Ramos slipped into place in North London, having faced Spurs in the UEFA Cup semi-final just five months before. The club fell to 11th, after finishing fifth the previous season: not a great return. But Spurs took two significant scalps, beating the hated Arsenal and then Chelsea in their march to win the League Cup. The semi-final was their first derby win in nine years; as was the trophy that followed. But after making a hash of the summer transfer market, two points in their first eight games left Spurs in dead last… and that was it for Ramos.
Not that it mattered. Six weeks later, Ramos was the head coach of the world’s biggest club. Real Madrid went on an incredible run, winning all but one of 18 games (the single stumble was a draw) and pulling themselves back into the title race. But then Madrid lost 2-6 against Barcelona and proceeded to lose their last four after that. The Catalans had the title and Ramos’ contract was not renewed. After that, he pulled a Brian Clough in Moscow, lasting only six weeks at CSKA, before spending four years at Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk. He left in the spring after eastern Ukraine blew up.
Ramos is a winner… you can’t say otherwise. But his rough ride by the English media may have tarnished his reputation, despite a trophy.
Perhaps the opposite of Juande Ramos is The Tinkerman, Claudio Ranieri. After 11 top-flight clubs, and one disasterous stint on a national team, Ranieri is an example of someone who’s acquired new positions on his past successes, but has never been able to replicate them.
Like so many young managers, Ranieri first garnered attention by leading a club through to promotion. He did it in successive seasons with Cagliari, taking them from Serie C1 to the top flight. But when they finished just above the drop zone in 1991, he jumped ship to Napoli. Here again was the same pattern: a great initial season followed by decline. The southerners finished in fourth in 1992, and then 11th the next season; so back down to the lower leagues he went, taking over at Fiorentina and getting them promoted. He secured their place in Serie A, and then brought them to fourth the next year. More importantly, he won the 1996 Coppa Italia… their first trophy in 21 years. But even that has a mental asterisk after it: La Viola didn’t face top-flight opposition until the semi-final against Inter, and both they and finalists Atalanta struggled in the league that season. Still… silver is silver.
Fiorentina declined the next season, finishing ninth and Ranieri left for Sunny Spain, albeit still a hero in Tuscan eyes. The Tinkerman landed in Valencia, where he reversed his pattern. His first season was middling, but the next season, Los Che jumped into fourth spot and into a Champions League place. However, it was the Copa del Rey campaign where Valencia really shone. Jumping in at the Round of 16, Ranieri’s side pumped their derby rivals, Levante, 4-0. Then they overcame Barcelona in a goal-scoring slugfest, beating the Catalan side 7-5 on aggregate. In the semi-finals, they embarrassed Real Madrid at The Mestalla, 6-0; a 2-1 loss back at the Bernabeu became meaningless. A 3-0 win over Atlético Madrid in the final was almost anti-climatic. Claudio Ranieri’s Valencia scored 21 goals over five games… and he now had more silver and more accolades.
That was 16 years ago, and after nine more jobs over 15 seasons, the Italian has yet to win anything else. Atlético Madrid were relegated in his sole season in the Spanish capital. He then took over from Gianluigi Vialli at Chelsea, slipping backwards in the league, but taking them to an FA Cup final and a Champions League semi-final. A stint back in Valencia ended badly, after he took over the Spanish champions from Rafael Benítez… and finished in seventh. He moved to Italy, taking over at Parma and then a newly-promoted Juventus (after their relegation for the Calciopoli scandal), followed by stints at Roma and Inter Milan. He helped AS Monaco win promotion back to Ligue 1, before a disastrous stint as Greece national manager, with the side losing to the Faroe Islands in Athens.
At 63, the Tinkerman may not be able to tinker with the machinations of Time.
There might not be a more decorated unemployed manager in the world than Frank Rijkaard. As a player, the Dutch star was a member of some of the best squads that ever were, including the Ajax sides of the 80s and 90s, along with a stint at Arrigo Sacchi’s great Milan side that dominated the late 80s (speaking of unemployed managers, this might explain why Sacchi is no longer employed). He was also a member of that golden Dutch side that won the 1988 European Championship.
Rijkaard’s big management break came early, when at 36 years old, he took over the Netherlands national side. The Oranje only missed out on a trip to the Euro 2000 final after losing on penalties to Italy. He then moved into club management, suffering relegation with Sparta Rotterdam before moving to Barcelona. Like his famous compatriot, Johan Cruyff, he helped Barcelona develop its “Golden Generation” of young Masia graduates, including Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, Victor Valdes… and a certain Argentinian midfielder. By 2005, Barcelona had their first La Liga title in six years; the following season, they would repeat as champions. But more importantly, Rijkaard’s Barcelona would win the first of three Champions League titles in six seasons.
Then things started to go south. The Catalans missed out on the following season’s title due to its head-to-head record with arch-rivals Real. The following season, Barça finished third, and were knocked out of the semi-finals in both the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. Barcelona President Joan Laporta finally pulled the plug, removing Rijkaard and replacing him with Pep Guardiola. The Dutchman then spent a decent season at Galatasaray before taking over as manager for Saudi Arabia. But a poor showing in World Cup qualifying and then in the Gulf Cup of Nations meant another exit.
The same rumours of arrogance and prickliness that surround his former teammate, Ruud Gullit, also permeates Rijkaard’s reputation. But the man won the Champions League and now he’s working at a Florida prep school. Come on…
Honours: 1999 Coppa Italia with Lazio
Delio Rossi’s first taste of Serie A managerial life began when he gained promotion — and subsequent relegation — with Salernitana in the late 90s. However, that single solitary season was his only stint in the top-flight for the first 13 years of his head coaching career. It’s when he took over at Lecce that his career took off… sort of. After guiding them to a decent 10th place, he jumped ship to Atalanta in 2004, and was promptly relegated again. Undeterred, he joined Lazio, where his side played decently, but they were prevented from playing in the following season’s UEFA competition because of the club’s involvement in the Calciopoli scandal. But the following season, the Romans made good, finishing third… good enough for a qualifying spot in the Champions League.
After that, it was tough for Rossi. The club finished in a miserable 12th place and came dead last in their CL group. Their league form barely improved in 2008-2009… and there were rumblings that Rossi’s infamous temper did not sit well with Lazio chairman Claudio Letito. But their Coppa Italia run that season was inspiring. The Biancocelesti took out Rossi’s old club, Atalanta, before beating Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan side in extra time, then won against Turin’s big clubs in three straight games: a 3-1 victory over Torino, then subsequent 2-1 victories in the two legs of the semi-final against Juventus. In the final, it took six penalties to beat Sampdoria to take the cup.
But trophy or no trophy, Letito had enough of his manager by the end of the season. Rossi had to wait until November for another gig, this time in Sicily with Palermo. He guided them from 12th to fifth, only missing out on a Champions League spot by a point. The next season, they slumped in the league and dropped out of the Europa League in the group stage, leading to Rossi getting fired for two months before being rehired again. Then cup lightning almost struck twice, as he reached the 2011 Coppa Italia final, going through eventual champions Milan again to lose 3-1 to Inter.
But the moment that will define Rossi — and probably a big reason why he is out of work — is an incident in Fiorentina. He joined the Tuscan club in November 2011 but they struggled, sitting just six points above the drop zone at the beginning of May 2012. Fiorentina were losing to Novara 2-0, when Rossi substituted Adem Ljajić. The Serbian sarcastically applauded his own manager, which made Rossi lose. His. Mind. He attacked his own player on the bench… and was dismissed the next day.
Rossi’s last job was at Sampdoria in 2012-2013, where the Genoese side finished 14th and were humiliated in the Coppa by Serie B side, Juve Stabia. He was relieved of his position in December 2013, with Samps sitting in the drop zone. Rossi was replaced by the man he took over from at Fiorentina, Siniša Mihajlović, a man who is no stranger to fisticuffs himself.
Jacques Santini is considered the architect of the mighty Lyon team that dominated French football at the dawn of the millenium. As the club’s technical director, he built up the club and took over as manager in 2000. The next season, he led the club to what would be the first of its eight straight league titles. So it’s no surprise the French national team came calling, after the defending World, European and Confederations Cup champions failed to score a single goal in South Korea at the 2002 World Cup.
Under Santini, Les Bleus were an unqualified success, losing only single match — a friendly — to the Czech Republic in early 2003. The French team sailed through Euro 2004 qualifying, and won the Confederations Cup again along the way. In the actual tournament, there was the infamous opening win against England in Lisbon, when Zinedine Zidane scored a monster free kick in the 90th minute to tie the match, followed by a converted penalty three minutes later. The French would draw the Croatians and beat rivals Switzerland to earn a quarterfinal against unassuming Greece. The rest is history… and so was Santini as France’s manager.
Really though, the former St-Etienne star had already agreed to take over at Tottenham Hotspur from caretaker David Pleat. But 13 games into the season, Santini quit… apparently because the former football executive couldn’t agree with his higher-ups at the club. Of course, it didn’t help that Spurs were sitting in 14th spot at the time. He took over at Auxerre in 2005-2006, but was sacked after losing the last five games of the season and dropping out of a European spot.
Recently, Santini has been linked with jobs in Africa, including the top spot at 2015 African Cup of Nations semi-finalist Equitorial Guinea. But he is 62, he hasn’t managed a team in almost a decade and he has a reputation for conflict with his bosses.
Still… if Tim Sherwood can get a job…