When Unai Emery was released from his duties by Arsenal earlier this season, the two names best touted to replace him were Patrick Vieira and Mikel Arteta. Both candidates held more in common than one might think. Firstly, both were novice coaches, with Vieira in his second year with OGC Nice while Arteta assisting Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. Secondly, both had once donned the red and whites of Arsenal and were considered club greats.
The trend of hiring club legends to act as managers is nothing new, although the success of Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid is what truly gave the idea some legs. It seemed great in theory. After all, who might know more about the identity of a football club than a former great?
Both Chelsea and Manchester United have since followed suit, with the former appointing Frank Lampard while the latter handing the reigns to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Arsenal joined in midway through the 2019/20 season, when they decided to bring in Arteta to replace Emery.
However, the trend is far from over, with several more such club greats next in line for big jobs. We take a look at three such 'legends' who could be seen on the sidelines leading a top-level club very soon.
#1 John Terry
While Lampard took the express route to Stamford Bridge, taking the reigns of the first team just one year into his coaching career, his former teammate John Terry is taking things relatively slow. The ex-club captain is currently working as the assistant manager at Aston Villa and is perfectly positioned to take up a big managerial job in the future.
The former England captain, known for his leadership qualities during his playing days, was recently endorsed by Chelsea's Champions League-winning manager, Roberto di Matteo, who himself is considered among the greats at Stamford Bridge. Di Matteo told The Athletic in an interview:
"He, too, will be there as a manager in the future. As a player he was writing down some of the sessions and he’s now gained so much experience from the managers he’s worked under."
Villa seems the most likely destination for Terry at the moment, with the Chelsea legend currently acting as a deputy to Dean Smith. There has been no talk of removing Smith from his position just yet. However, should the board decide to change their stance in the future, Terry's name is bound to come up in the search for replacements.
#2 Raul Gonzalez
The pathway from Castilla to the first team at Real Madrid have become clearer following Zinedine Zidane's stint at the club. The Frenchman was appointed as the head coach by Los Blancos back in 2016, following a two-year stint as the coach of the second team. He proved to be an instant success on the touchline as well, leading his former club to three back-to-back UEFA Champions League titles.
Los Blancos followed the same strategy while appointing Santiago Solari as the manager months into the 2018/19 season. While Solari did not last long in the job, the club could still take the same approach in the future with Raul Gonzalez.
Raul coached two youth sides during the 2018/19 season - the Under-15s and the Under 18s. The former striker managed the U-15s for twenty-four matches, eventually winning twenty-two and leaving them in pole position to be crowned champions of their division. He then repeated the same with the U-18s, winning twenty-three of his twenty-six matches and eventually lifting the title.
Following his exploits during the previous season, Real Madrid handed Raul the managerial job for the B-team (Castilla) ahead of the 2019/20 season. While he hasn't been able to hit the same heights during this campaign as he did the year before, the club great is still having a decent season. His side are currently sat in the seventh position in Segunda Division B Group 1, having won nine of their twenty-six matches.
#3 Xabi Alonso
Xabi Alonso formed a part of an impressive list of club legends who completed their UEFA coaching licences in 2018. The former Liverpool, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich star joined compatriots Raul Gonzalez, Xavi, Victor Valdes, and Joan Capdevilla for the programme, before returning to Madrid for a coaching job.
Alonso left Los Blancos to return to boyhood club Real Sociedad in 2019, taking up the role of the B team manager. The Spaniard has had a decent spell in charge of the team so far, winning twelve of the twenty-six matches in Segunda Division B this season. Under him, Real Sociedad B have collected just over 1.5 points per match and are currently fifth in Group 2 of the table.
Given his current job, Sociedad seems like the perfect opportunity for Alonso to take the step up to a senior managerial job. However, the club legend might have to wait a bit longer for that particular post, with La Real enjoying a solid season under Imanol Alguacil so far.
Real Madrid could come calling in the future too, with Alonso having ties at the club following his stint as the manager of the Under-14s.
Also Read: 5 greatest football managers of all time