Monday, April 21, 2008

Managerial Shuffle

With the summer approaching, the speculation as to which top managerial positions will become available is in full swing. While much will be decided between now and the Champions League Final in Moscow, there are no shortage of rumors and possibilities.

Barcelona's Frank Rijkaard appears to be a prime candidate to depart after the season. The Catalans La Liga season never really got off the ground and with a great deal of unrest on the Barcelona roster, the Dutchman's days seem to be numbered. It's hard to imagine Rijkaard being fired if Barcelona win the Champions League for the second time in three seasons, but anything less likely means he'll be ousted.

Barcelona may not be the only elite La Liga job opening at the end of the season. Another disappointing European campaign may cost Real Madrid boss Bernd Schuster his job. While Real are all but assured of a second-straight league title, that wasn't enough to keep Fabio Capello around last year, and Madrid fans expect the team to make a bigger splash on Europe's biggest stage.

An elite opening in Spain could be very enticing to Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez. Although he has repeatedly expressed his desire to remain at Anfield, there's no telling what will come of chaos with Liverpool's ownership group. Benitez's stock will be extremely high if he leads Liverpool to another European crown and a top spot back in his home land may be tough to pass up.

It's tough to tell if Chelsea's Avram Grant will be back in charge at Stamford Bridge next season; the next eight days will go a long way in deciding his fate. Chelsea remain alive for a Champions League-Premier League double, but could also end the season empty handed. Grant has had a tough act to follow on the heels of the extremely popular Jose Mourinhio, but deserves a full season in charge to prove his abilities.

And then there's the matter of Alex Ferguson. Obviously the Old Trafford legend will be heading out on his own terms, but the team is already dealing with rumors about his possible retirement. If ManU were to capture a second Champions League title under Ferguson, he may find it's the perfect time to call it a career. If he does, former Ferguson charges Steve Bruce and Roy Keane, currently at Wigan and Sunderland respectively, may be among the candidates.

Finally there's Milan where rumors have surrounded both AC Milan and Inter Milan all season. On Monday, Inter decided they had had enough of the talk of Mourinhio replacing Roberto Mancini next season. If Mancini does return (he quit following Inter's Champions League loss to Liverpool, only to be talked back into his job later that week), he'll be under extreme pressure to improve upon Inter's recent run of poor showings in Europe.

Carlo Ancelotti has also been fighting the shadow of Mourinhio much of the season. The 2007-08 campaign has been a disaster for the Rossoneri, crashing out of the Champions League early and never contending in Serie A. Currently in fifth, Milan are in serious danger of missing out on Champions League football in 2009. But despite the downturn, Ancelotti remains poplar with Milan brass, and his departure seems unlikely.

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