A new managerial appointment can bring changes in fortune for a club. Richard Pike examines whether it will be for good or for bad for the following five European clubs.
The conclusion of the European football season, a time for fans to sit back and reflect on the season just passed for their club. To assess and debate whether or not it was a good, bad or merely average season. The owners and board members of clubs will also spend the summer months doing exactly the same thing, however, the one crucial difference is they must make a decision whether to continue with the incumbent manager or whether to make a change. For those that choose the latter option and make a change, there is no such thing as a summer break, negotiations and interviews remain ongoing until a suitable replacement has been found. Criteria is weighed up such as past success at clubs, experience, past performances at clubs counter-balanced alongside the financial situation said individuals inherited and whether or not a new inexperienced manager could add a breath of fresh air to a football club.
Once that decision is made, all a club can do is sit tight, belt-up and see how the journey unfolds under their new leader, will it bring improvements and/or success? Will it bring underachievement and/or failure? Several of European football’s clubs across a variety of leagues changed their manager this summer for one reason or another and there will be several changes viewers are familiar with, however, there will also be several well-known managerial names that unbeknown to many have changed jobs this summer. This article explores five European football clubs who have all made a managerial change which could have been unheard of amongst many fans. I will explore the past predecessors’ work at each club in detail, assess the suitability of the new incumbent, assess the challenges they face at their new club and finally, outline what they must try to do to satisfy their new paymasters.
1 – Unai Emery (Spain)
Old Club – Sevilla CF (Spain)
New Club – Paris Saint Germain (France)
2015/16 was another fine season in the recent history of Paris Saint Germain. The Parisians completed their 2nd consecutive French domestic treble of Ligue 1 title, French Cup and French League Cup under the stewardship of former French international Laurent Blanc. In three seasons at PSG, Blanc amassed a total of three Ligue 1 titles, two French Cups and three French League Cups alongside three consecutive Quarter Final appearances in the UEFA Champions League. Sounds impressive, however, it was not enough to keep him at PSG beyond this summer and he was replaced as manager by Unai Emery on 28/06/16 who resigned from his position as manager at Spanish side Sevilla CF just over two weeks earlier on 12/06/16.
The decision to replace Blanc with Emery points to a desire to do better than the Quarter Finals of the Champions League by PSG’s owners Qatar Sports Investments who have invested heavily in the club since acquiring it in the summer of 2011. Dominating domestically is something that many French teams alongside this modern PSG team have never had a problem doing, examples include the famous Olympique Marseille team of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and the equally famous Olympique Lyonnais team who between 2002 and 2008 won 7 consecutive Ligue 1 titles. When it comes to the European Cup/Champions League however, it is a different story with French clubs, the only French club to win European football’s elite competition in either of its formats was the Marseille team of 1992-93. When Qatar Sports Investments purchased PSG, amongst their goals would have been to establish the club amongst the heavyweights of European club football like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester United by winning UEFA Champions League trophies. All the infrastructure is in place, a large stadium, being based in what is essentially a one-club city and one of the World’s largest and most famous cities in Paris.
Unai Emery would therefore seem like a natural fit to fulfil the ambitions of PSG’s owners. The young Basque manager might still only be 44 years old, but amongst his many achievements are winning a historic first promotion to La Liga for Andalucian side Almeria in the 2006-07 season, finishing an exceptional 8th place in their debut in La Liga the following season and steadying the ship at a debt-ridden Valencia between 2008 and 2012 with 3 consecutive 3rd placed finishes in La Liga. However, most impressive of all and what has led to his appointment by PSG is winning three consecutive UEFA Europa Leagues with Sevilla between 2014 and 2016. Having continually conquered the second tier of European football, but hamstrung at the Andalusian club due to an inability to challenge Barcelona, Real Madrid and now Atletico Madrid domestically, the opportunity to manage PSG when the position became available was too good to refuse. It gives him the chance to fit the final piece in the jigsaw for PSG by winning the Champions League and also to potentially put himself in the shop window for a future managerial role at either one of Spanish football’s two giants or possibly even another European heavyweight like Manchester United.
How will Emery be judged? On results in Europe, winning the French Ligue 1 title should not be a problem for a side that despite losing Zlatan Ibrahimovic from its ranks still possesses Thiago Silva, Angel Di Maria, Lucas Moura, Blaise Matuidi and Edison Cavani. Furthermore, Emery has already began putting his stamp on the side by recruiting last season’s sensation in Ligue 1, former Newcastle attacking midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa from Nice and raiding his old club Sevilla for Polish midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak who was amongst the best midfielders at Euro 2016. Winning the Champions League is a hard thing to accomplish with the trio of Barca, Real and Bayern recently displaying a hegemonic grip on European football, however, PSG’s owners do understand this as emphasised by their decision to give Blanc three seasons to try and reach the very latter stages of the competition. Even if Emery was not to win the competition with PSG, if he could reach one final with the Parisian club whilst maintaining their domestic dominance, his time in Paris would be deemed a success. If the likes of Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund can reach a Champions League final with budgets inferior to PSG, there is no reason why PSG cannot achieve this objective under Emery.
2 – Jorge Sampaoli (Argentina)
Old Club – Unattached (Left Chile national team in January 2016)
New Club – Sevilla CF (Spain)
As mentioned above, Unai Emery’s last three seasons at the helm of Sevilla saw him establish the club in continental European football with three consecutive Europa League titles alongside maintaining the club’s reputation as one of the front-runners in La Liga with two 5th placed finishes alongside reaching last season’s Spanish Cup final.
However, as mentioned above, Emery could not challenge Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in La Liga and promptly left the club for PSG. To replace Emery, Sevilla have turned to 55 year-old Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli, whose last managerial stint was with the Chilean national team between 2012 and January 2016. Sampaoli in the last five seasons established himself as one of South American football’s best coaches. According to Richard Martin, writing on UEFA.com, Sampaoli’s work with Chilean side Universidad de Chile between 2011 and 2012 winning two Chilean league titles, a Copa Sudamericana (South America’s Europa League) in 2011 and reaching the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores (South America’s Champions League) in 2012, all whilst playing an attractive brand of football brought him to attention across the South American continent. Sampaoli then coached Chile’s national team, following on from the successful Marcelo Bielsa and arguably improving on Bielsa by defeating then World-Champions Spain convincingly in the 2014 World Cup, a very unlucky Second Round defeat to hosts Brazil on penalties and then earning Chile their first major international trophy by winning the 2015 Copa America on home soil beating arch rivals Argentina on penalties.
This is Sampaoli’s first job outside of South America and it is therefore a risk by Sevilla. That said, they took a chance in 2005 on the previously unheralded Juande Ramos and within two years Ramos had won them two Europa League titles and achieved a top 3 finish in La Liga in the 2006-07 season, only narrowly missing out on winning the title. One likely reason for hiring Sampaoli could be his knowledge of South American football having previously coached in Chile, Ecuador and Peru. Sevilla are renowned for being experts in buying South American players in the transfer market over the last decade, some of the club’s best players in that time have included Brazilian international trio Luis Fabiano, Dani Alves and Renato, Argentine defender Federico Fazio and Chilean central midfielder Gary Medel. Already Sampaoli is making his mark on the squad with regards to transfers and unsurprisingly, there is a South American element with Brazilian attacking playmaker Ganso and Argentine defensive midfielder Matias Kranevitter both acquired with Sampaoli likely having good knowledge of both having coached in the Copa Libertadores when both of them were playing in the competition.
Following Emery’s 3 Europa League titles is tough, however, one slight blot on Emery’s copybook was his failure to finish in the top 4 of La Liga with Sevilla and thus guarantee Champions League football via league position. Furthermore, another slight criticism was an inability to get near to Atletico Madrid in the standings as the 3rd best team in Spain. If Sampaoli can make Sevilla competitive in the Champions League by reaching a Quarter Final one season alongside finishing in the top 4 of La Liga and possibly winning a Spanish Cup, then his time at Sevilla will be seen as a success. Keeping up Emery’s tradition of winning a Europa League title would also be a neat cherry to put on top of the cake as well. The Chilean national team has been one of the best well-run international teams in the last 6 years, almost comparable to Southampton in club football as several managers have come into the job (Bielsa, Sampaoli and Pizzi) yet each time one has replaced the other, the results and performances have remained high in a similar way as to how Pochettino replacing Atkins and Koeman replacing Pochettino as Southampton manager has not had a negative effect on the club’s performances and results. Once Juande Ramos left Sevilla to go to Tottenham in 2007, Sevilla had to go through five managerial changes before they got a successful replacement for Ramos with Emery. Sevilla will be hoping that the transition from losing another successful manager to finding a good replacement is immediate this time round with Sampaoli and mirrors the Chilean national team’s record.
3 – Gustavo Poyet (Uruguay)
Old Club – Unattached (Resigned at AEK Athens in April 2016)
New Club – Real Betis (Spain)
Another summer, another new man at the helm of underachieving Real Betis, following the decision by the Andalucian club’s board to not renew the contract of their former player Juan Merino over the summer. When Merino took over mid-way through last season after Pepe Mel’s second spell in charge ended, Betis were languishing in 15th place in La Liga and the former Betis player guided the club to 10th place in the final standings. The new man chosen to guide Betis into another campaign is a face familiar to English fans, former Chelsea and Tottenham midfielder and Brighton and Sunderland manager Gustavo Poyet.
The 48 year-old joins the Andalucians after he resigned as manager of Greek club AEK Athens following differences in opinion with AEK’s president Dimitris Melissanidis. One look at AEK’s 2015-16 season saw them finish 3rd place in the Greek Super League which qualified them for the Champions League play-offs for sides that finish between 2nd and 5th place in the league. Subsequently, AEK failed to secure the second Champions League spot available for Greek sides in European competition, however, missing out was not Poyet’s fault as he had resigned after the last league game of the season before the play-offs began.
Taking into account, AEK’s standing in Greek football as the third largest club in terms of success, league position and prestige, one could look at the job Poyet did at AEK and think along the lines of “Nothing special”, but a more detailed analysis of Poyet’s brief time in Greece leads me to think that he is an asset that AEK and Greek football has lost and Real Betis and Spanish football has gained. Firstly, Poyet did not start last season at the Athenian club, he was appointed manager there on 29/10/15 after the club sacked their former manager, ex-Greek international defender Traianos Dellas. At the time of Dellas’ sacking, AEK were 3rd place in the league after 7 games with 13 points, had scored 10 goals and conceded 8 goals. At the time of Poyet’s departure, his 22 game stint in Athens saw AEK finsh in 3rd place winning 41 points in his 22 games, scoring 28 goals in 22 matches, and conceding only 12 goals. Whilst the points-per game ratio may not be an improvement on his predecessor, when you have a longer managerial stint at a club, this statistic does tend to be lower than someone who has a shorter stint. Furthermore, one look at AEK’s defensive record under Poyet is evidence that things were improving. Finally, current Greek Champions Olympiakos lost only one league match last season and that loss was to Poyet’s AEK, which for AEK’s fans could have given them hope going into this season that had Poyet still been in charge, narrowing the gap on Olympiakos was achievable.
Betis’ 10th last season in La Liga in their first season back in the top flight after winning promotion from the second tier would be viewed as an outstanding achievement at many newly promoted clubs. However, the fact Betis were a second division club is proof that the club is underachieving on a level similar to that of Hamburg in Germany or Newcastle in England. Betis are based in Seville, which with a population of around 1.5 million for the city and metropolitan area make it the 4th largest city in Spain. Betis’ stadium, the Estadio Benito Villamarin has a capacity of 52,000 spectators, larger than that of their fierce city neighbours Sevilla, whose stadium holds 42,500 spectators. In fact, the population of the town of Villarreal (51,367 inhabitants) could fit into Betis’ stadium yet their football team finished in 4th place last season in La Liga, qualifying for the Champions League alongside reaching the semi-finals of the Europa League. Take Villarreal and Sevilla’s recent achievements into context and there is no reason why Betis cannot achieve similar results.
Poyet could prove to be a good fit for Betis, after a promising start to his managerial career at Brighton where he took the club from League 1 to the brink of promotion to the Premier League within 2 seasons and then subsequently saving Sunderland from relegation from the Premier League when they looked doomed, things have stalled. The team at Sunderland failed to really kick on and progress the season after the great escape and it resulted in him being dismissed and then his adventure in Greece was unfortunately cut short when it was showing signs of promise. Nonetheless at Sunderland, he has not been the only manager who has failed to kick the team on after guiding them to safety, the likes of Martin O’Neill, Paolo di Canio and Dick Advocaat can also all testify to having witnessed this happen. Finally, all managers are going to have periods in the game and consecutive jobs where things do not work out for a variety of reasons, but you should not write their careers off. I believe the Betis job gives Poyet a chance to revitalise his reputation. Whilst it may not happen straight away, the possibility of qualifying Betis for the Europa League via a top 7 finish in La Liga and being competitive in said competition over the next two seasons is not beyond the realms of possibility and should Poyet achieve this, his time could be judged as a success. Longer-term, should Poyet achieve the above, other possibilities could include trying to win or reach the final of the Spanish Cup or possibly pushing for 4th place in La Liga in order to get a Champions League spot.
4 – Markus Weinzierl (Germany)
Old Club – FC Augsburg (Germany)
New Club – FC Schalke 04 (Germany)
2015-16 represented another frustrating season for FC Schalke 04 which culminated in an ultimately disappointing 5th place finish and a failure to qualify for the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League. At the start of the season a talented, new, young manager was appointed in 42 year old Andre Breitenreiter, who had previously led SC Paderborn to the 1 Bundesliga for the first time in their history. After a bright start which saw the club in 3rd place in the standings after Matchday 10, Schalke never strung a consistent set of results together to stay in touch with both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. To finish outside of the Champions League places was disappointing and unsurprisingly Breitenreiter was not kept on for a second season, understandable, given Schalke use their status as the world’s 13th richest football club according to Forbes to back their managers with transfers and every manager that takes the helm of this famous club has access to one of the world’s best youth academies, which I will reference in a little more detail later on.
2016-17 sees another new managerial era at Schalke, and whilst it is naïve to make brash presumptions, this appointment has a more likely chance of seeing success and possibly even silverware at the end of it. The next man to take the job is 41 year-old Markus Weinzierl who left fellow Bundesliga club FC Augsburg after 4 successful seasons at the Bavarian club. Weinzierl took over at Augsburg in the summer of 2012 after the culmination of their first ever season in the Bundesliga when the club managed to stave off relegation. Often, for promoted clubs, the second season in a higher league is more difficult than the first due to the surprise factor of a team wearing off and Augsburg’s first season under Weinzierl in 2012-13 did see another battle against relegation like in 2011-12, they even dropped one place in the standings from 14th to 15th, but crucially, they survived relegation. Upon averting the dreaded second-season syndrome which sometimes ends in relegation, it was onwards and upwards for Augsburg under Weinzierl. 2013-14 saw an impressive 8th place finish and then the following season in 2014-15, Augsburg finished 5th place in the Bundesliga, their highest-ever finish and a first ever appearance in European football for the 2015-16 season in the Europa League, where they reached the last 32 before succumbing to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. The 2015-16 domestic league campaign was not as successful for Augsburg, finishing in 12th place, only 2 points off the 16th place Promotion/Relegation play-off position, nonetheless, Weinzierl’s credentials and promise remains firmly intact and it is understandable having maximised the potential of a small club like Augsburg to now move on and try his hand at a larger club.
Fellow Outside of the Boot writer Andrew Thompson wrote a piece on Weinzierl before the start of the 2015-16 season. It describes Weinzierl as primarily a disciplined manager who is good at getting a team defensively organised, however, they are also capable of attacking and scoring decent amounts of goals via counter attacking and possession-based methods. This approach could be ideal for Schalke and could be a perfect antidote to a problem which has plagued them for years, conceding too many goals to sustain a title challenge. In the last 4 Bundesliga seasons, Schalke have conceded in 34 games each season, 50, 43, 40 and 49 goals respectively, considerably above a 1 goal per game average each season, which could be seen as the benchmark of a title-challenging team. Compare and contrast these figures to the 35 goals, 32 goals and 31 goals conceded by the club in the 2000-01, 2006-07 and 2009-10 seasons respectively, in each of these three seasons, Schalke finished 2nd place and were between 1-4 points off the title winners each season. If Weinzierl can tighten Schalke up at the back, challenging Bayern and Dortmund at the top of the table may not be beyond them in future seasons.
If you were going to compare Schalke with an English club, Tottenham would be a good choice, a title drought that stretches back to the 1950’s, many new eras which started positively but reverted back to the same old disappointment within a few months or years, whilst constantly being in the shadows of their fierce rivals, in Tottenham’s case, Arsenal and in Schalke’s case Dortmund. Now though under Argentine Mauricio Pochettino, optimism has never been higher at Spurs and there is a genuine belief after an exceptional 2015-16 season that Pochettino can deliver a future league title to White Hart Lane. Schalke will be hoping that Weinzierl’s appointment can deliver similar results. Bayern and Dortmund are firmly entrenched as German football’s number 1 and 2 powerhouses respectively, however, there is no reason why Schalke cannot become powerhouse number 3. Everything is in place, like all Bundesliga clubs, Schalke are in a healthy financial situation, they are the 13th richest football club in the world boasting a stadium with a larger capacity than Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool. Finally, the jewel in the crown is the club’s world-renowned youth sector which has produced talents such as Mesut Ozil, Julian Draxler, Joel Matip, Max Meyer, Manuel Neuer and Leroy Sane in recent years.
What would constitute success at Schalke? Establishing them over a period of 2/3 seasons as a third force in the Bundesliga alongside Bayern and Dortmund with consistent third place finishes which qualifies the club for the Champions League season after season. Finishing ahead of Dortmund at least for one season would also go down a treat with Schalke’s support. Passing other objectives like winning a German Cup and/or reaching the knockout rounds of the Champions League consistently would also classify Weinzierl’s time in Gelsenkirchen a success. The ultimate icing on the cake would be ending Schalke’s championship drought which stretches back to 1958. It could be argued that both Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen are the cursed twins of German football, Leverkusen are often mocked as “Neverkusen”, one could also say that “Schalkant” is an appropriate way of terming Schalke misfortunes. Should Weinzierl deliver a championship, expect the call from Bayern to come calling in the future with a job offer, after all Weinzierl is Bavarian and after raiding Dortmund in the last years for their assets, don’t write off a future raid on the blue side of the Rhur by Bayern.
5 – Mircea Lucescu (Romania)
Old Club – FC Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine)
New Club – Zenit Saint Petersburg (Russia)
After bursting to the attention of the world when they emerged triumphant in the 2008 UEFA Cup Final, the last 5 seasons have seen a slowing in the once gathering momentum of Zenit Saint Petersburg. After their UEFA Cup triumph and subsequent large spending sprees on the likes of Hulk and Axel Witsel in the summer of 2012, many believed it was only a matter of time before Zenit emerged as a major player in the Champions League by starting to reach the latter rounds of the competition challenging the dominance of Western Europe’s elite. So far, however, this has not emerged, since that triumph in 2008, Zenit have failed to enforce a PSG/Juventus/Bayern-esque dominance of winning league titles in their domestic competition despite having by far the largest budget in their league and have also failed to make it past the last 16 of the Champions League and the Quarter Finals of the Europa League. The man responsible for that famous night in Manchester when the club won the UEFA Cup, Dutchman Dick Advocaat, Italian Luciano Spaletti and Portuguese Andre Villas-Boas have all tried to establish Zenit as a force in Europe and all have been unable to do so. In short, the club has hit a glass ceiling which is proving very difficult to break.
Therefore, for 2016-2017, after Villas-Boas decided to take a sabbatical from management, Zenit have put out a call which has been answered by veteran Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu who left Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk after 12 seasons at the club. Should there be any readers of a certain age out there, you might well remember Lucescu participating at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico when he captained his country against the might of Brazil and then World Champions England in group matches. Now 70 years-old, there is not many things Lucescu has not seen or done in a 37-year managerial career which started in 1979 at Romanian club Corvinul Hunedoara and has since taken in stints at the Romanian national team, Dinamo Bucharest, Pisa, Brescia, Reggina, Rapid Bucharest, Inter Milan, Galatasaray, Besiktas, Shakhtar and his latest project, Zenit. One could argue that it is sad that Lucescu’s career only began to really take off in 2000 at the age of 54 when he was appointed Galatasaray manager and led the club to an impressive Quarter Final appearance alongside winning a Turkish league title with the Istanbul giants. Lucescu’s stint in charge of Gala’s rivals Besiktas saw the Romanian add another impressive feather to his cap by winning the Turkish title once again, losing just 1 game all season and accumulating a record 85 points from 34 games, a record that still stands.
However, the best was yet to come, Lucescu’s real reputation enhancer began in 2004 when he took the reigns at Shakhtar. At the time of Lucescu’s appointment at the Eastern Ukrainian club, the club had only won one Ukrainian championship in 2001-02 and were very much in the shadows of their big rivals, Dynamo Kiev who had dominated Ukrainian football since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Lucescu’s impact was immediate, in his first two seasons at Shakhtar, the club won two consecutive titles in 2004-05 and 2005-06 and Lucescu has since added another 7 titles in the 10 seasons since 2005-06 to firmly put a stop to Dynamo’s once vice-like monopoly on the championship. Even more impressively, Lucescu’s Shakhtar did not just emerge as a force domestically, they also made waves on the continent as well. Under Lucescu, Shakhtar won the 2008-09 UEFA Cup, the first continental competition won by a Ukrainian club and at the same time eclipsing the performance of their rivals Dynamo who reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in 1998-99. It was not just in the UEFA Cup/Europa League that Shakhtar emerged as a credible force, in 2010-11 Shakhtar reached the Quarter Finals of the Champions League before being knocked out by eventual winners Barcelona. Two more credible Champions League performances came in both 2012-13 and 2014-15 when the club reached the Last 16 of the competition, in the former of which they knocked out then defending Champions Chelsea in the group stage. For their rise and achievements, Shakhtar were awarded the Most Progressed Club of the Decade for the period 2000-2009 by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS). To summarise Lucescu’s achievements in Donetsk in one sentence, the Romanian took a provincial power and turned it into a national giant and a respected continental force.
Whilst Lucescu’s age could make some question this appointment, I think it could be a masterstroke by Zenit for three reasons. Firstly, with 12 years experience working at a Ukrainian club with many Ukrainian and Eastern European players, Lucescu understands what is needed to make a spell successful at Eastern European clubs. The mentality of Eastern European footballers and leagues are different to those in Western Europe and many foreign players and coaches who have signed in the past for Russian or Ukrainian clubs have found it difficult to adapt to their new surroundings (like learning the language etc) on top of this different mentality. Perfect examples include former Italian international Cristiano Lucarelli who had a very brief 6 month spell under Lucescu at Shakhtar in 2007 before returning to Italy. Secondly, Lucescu is fluent in Russian, therefore, dialogue with the players and getting your message across to them is going to be much easier than his last 3 predecessors. Whilst the likes of Villas-Boas had interpreters to translate his instructions, face-to-face communication is always more preferable with players over speaking through a middle-man interpreter. Finally and the most important reason is Lucescu’s genius in buying and selling in the transfer market. Here is a list of players who played under Lucescu at Shakhtar during his stint there and after each name, there is a list of the clubs they have played for after being transferred from the club. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Zenit, Bayern Munich), Dmytro Chygrynskiy (Barcelona), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Willian (Chelsea), Luiz Adriano (AC Milan), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United) and Douglas Costa (Bayern Munich). The aforementioned players and their destinations post-Shakhtar demonstrate how good Lucescu is at spotting and nurturing talent. With UEFA’s Financial Fair Play now operating across European football essentially stopping Zenit going on a mass spending spree without having to recoup any money outlaid on transfers like Advocaat and Spaletti did, Lucescu is the man best equipped for such a situation given his record at Shakhtar.
Lucescu’s age means that a 12 year stint in Saint Petersburg is unlikely for the veteran Romanian and his appointment is likely a 2/3 season one for Zenit. Nonetheless, Lucescu can add to his already exceptional CV by establishing Zenit as the top club in Russia once again by winning two or three consecutive titles. This upcoming season, Zenit might not be in the Champions League, however, they are in the Europa League and this represents a chance for Lucescu to have a long run in European competition this season. Reaching at least the Quarter Finals and possibly even the Semi-Finals would represent a success. Finally, there is that breaking of the glass ceiling in the Champions League with Zenit and qualifying them for the Quarter Finals for the first time ever. Should he do all of the above, it would be a fine way to end a fine managerial career. Zenit are very lucky Lucescu is 70 and not 50 as had he been 15-20 years younger, his work in both Turkey and at Shakhtar could have won him managerial job offers from Western Europe’s top clubs. They are very lucky therefore to have him and will be hoping he can repeat his heroics at Shakhtar.
Written by Richard Pike.
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