Real Madrid’s three-year reign as kings of European football is over. Take the goals of Cristiano Ronaldo out permanently and the defensive dark arts of Sergio Ramos temporarily through suspension, and Los Blancos were humbled at home by Ajax.
This battering at the Bernabeu looks very much like leading to the inevitable sacking of head coach Santiago Solari. He may have got the role permanently after the failed appointment of Julen Lopetegui last summer, but a Champions League embarrassment of this nature can only end one way.
And so we come once again to the question of who will be next Real Madrid manager? The market proved very lively as Ajax routed their hosts 4-1 and in the immediate aftermath.
Mourinho goes odds-on, but Pochettino drifts
Jose Mourinho was made favourite for a return to the Bernabeu as soon as Manchester United axed him in December. The Special One managed Los Blancos before for three years (2010-13) that seemed to change him.
Going back to Madrid where he arguably has unfinished business – despite lifting La Liga and the Copa del Rey – is a gamble even if Mourinho is now odds-on at 8/11 for the job.
That Special One status is certainly tarnished in the Premier League after an acrimonious departure from Old Trafford. United players have responded to warmer treatment from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The next Real Madrid manager needs to pick these high-profile players up and address worrying home form. Defeat to Ajax was a fourth consecutive loss at the Bernabeu in all competitions.
Mourinho may have the stature for a second crack at the job, but has as much if not more to prove than the players in the Spanish capital.
While bookmakers slashed Mourinho’s price, other rumoured long-term target Mauricio Pochettino has actually drifted slightly from 11/4 out to 7/2 with Paddy Power to be next Real Madrid manager.
Los Blancos’ apparent interest in the Tottenham boss has always had a ring of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” about it. Pochettino both played for and managed Barcelona’s less illustrious local rivals Espanyol.
Spells with Southampton and Spurs since leaving Spain have earned Pochettino critical acclaim if not trophies. He has promoted and developed youth in building a team at Tottenham which seems at odds with Real Madrid’s long-standing business model.
Even if the Galacticos have been brought low by Ajax, they are still a global brand. The lengthening of Pochettino’s odds to take on the rebuilding job may reflect how the two parties’ aims and approaches differ.
Conte and Low nibbled at
Mourinho isn’t the only ex-Chelsea boss in the next Real Madrid manager betting. Antonio Conte was axed from Stamford Bridge over the summer and, while top jobs in his native Italy are mentioned in dispatches, this would surely be of interest.
Conte plays with three central defenders and wing backs. This would make for an interesting tactical switch for Los Blancos but, although briefly cut into 7/1, he is now back at 9/1 with Betfair.
Whole compatriot Max Allegri remains unchanged at the same price, there was also interest in Germany manager Joachim Low. His lengthy tenure in the national job has included triumphs like the 2014 World Cup and more recent tribulations.
Low, who presided over a group stage exit from last summer’s World Cup in Russia and relegation from Germany’s UEFA Nations League pool, is no afraid of taking tough decisions.
His recent revelation that senior internationals Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng would no longer be considered for selection highlights this.
A similar changing of the guard is clearly needed from the next Real Madrid manager and Low’s choice to ditch some of Die Mannschaft’s big names was unintentionally timely.
After being cut into 6/1 from 9/1, he’s now 15/2 with Paddy Power for the Bernabeu hotseat. If there is one negative surrounding Low, it’s his club coaching career which is far from spectacular.
It would also be naive to think he would get anything like the 13-year tenure he’s enjoyed with his native national team at Real Madrid. This job is not for the long haul.
Wenger and Raul come in from big prices
Arsene Wenger is thought to have interested Los Blancos throughout his lengthy managerial career and is out of work after leaving Arsenal at the end of last season.
As big as 33/1 before the abject display at Ajax, the odds for the ex-Gunners gaffer tumbled to 10/1 with Betfair for the ex-Gunners gaffer to take up the reins.
It’s a significant gamble, but does a stint at Real Madrid, who are now out of Europe and 12 points behind Barcelona in La Liga, appeal to Wenger?
The jury could be forgiven for being out on whether the time for the Frenchman to be at the Bernabeu has passed. If not Wenger, then Los Blancos legend Raul would be a popular appointment with fans.
Eclipsed only by Ronaldo for goals, coaching novice Raul is now into 12/1 to be next Real Madrid manager. He obviously lacks managerial experience, but is an icon at the club.
Bigger prices are available with bookmakers bar these names and, while Solari has vowed to fight on, it’s always taken a leap of faith to see him in the hotseat long-term.