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5 shocking managerial appointments in the footballing world

The football touchline has seen many a surprise manager
The football touchline has seen many a surprise manager
Modified 19 Feb 2021
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Football can be described in countless words, but unpredictable would surely be the one leading the pack.

A manager knows this all too well. More on that in a bit.

One simply has to remember that 1966 World Cup final. Or THAT 1999 Champions League final. Or T.H.A.T. 2015-2016 Premier League season, the title race last season, the nail-biting one underway this season and the ones of the seasons gone by to gauge just how wildly amazing the game can be.

Oh, and how can one forget VAR!?

Behind the scenes, it’s no different. Transfer records are now shattered in a heartbeat, including – in some cases – by the same club, in the same season.

New and unexpected stars rising, old allegiances being swapped, and so on. In fact, one can safely say that football’s behind the scenes is a game within itself.

However, by far the most unpredictable, and some would say dicey, role in modern football is that of the manager.

With clubs (and their owners) possessing a large appetite for success and a low tolerance for failure, a manager - more often than not - finds himself being shuffled around like cards in a deck.

A manager who led his team to multiple honors last season could be leading a bookmaker’s odds for the sack race in the next one.

A manager’s job security is virtually non-existent today, which has led to some major sackings over the years.


Equally shocking have been a few appointments. With that in mind, let’s take a look at 5 managerial appointments that shocked the footballing world.

#5 Fernando Hierro as manager of the Spanish National Team

Hierro didn
Hierro didn't expect to be his country's manager during the 2018 World Cup

In Hierro’s case, it was the circumstances surrounding his appointment as manager of the Spanish national team during the 2018 World Cup rather than the appointment itself that shocked the footballing world.

After 14 glittering seasons with Real Madrid, which resulted in five La Liga titles, three Champions Leagues and scores of other honours, followed by brief spells at Al Rayyan and Bolton Wanderers, the ridiculously high-scoring defender moved into coaching.

After a four-year stint with the Royal Spanish Football Federation and a short stint as director of football for boyhood club Malaga, Hierro returned to Madrid as then-manager Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant. It was followed by his first managerial role with Real Oviedo before returning to his position as sporting director with the Royal Spanish Football Federation in 2017.


The legendary defender was comfortably serving in that role before events during the 2018 World Cup changed the course of his career forever.

Two days before Spain were due to take on Portugal in their first match of the 2018 World Cup, then-manager Julen Lopetegui, who announced that he would be replacing Zinedine Zidane as manager of Real Madrid following the conclusion of the tournament, was unceremoniously sacked.

Hierro was named as his successor, and his first match – a 3-3 thriller against Portugal – proved to be as dramatic as the circumstances he was appointed in.

Following a slim victory over Iran and a tight draw against Morocco, Spain were shockingly eliminated by hosts Russia via a penalty shootout in the Round of 16.

Hierro stepped down as manager following the early exit while also departing his role at the Federation, which were his last roles in football as of this writing.

#4 Gary Neville to Valencia

Neville's spell as manager of Valencia proved to be disasterous

If there’s one name that’s synonymous with success it has got to be Gary Neville’s.


He was a part of the fabled Class of ’92 at Manchester United, where he won an astonishing eight Premier League titles, three FA Cups, and two Champions Leagues.

Neville then emerged as one of football’s most influential and respected pundits post his retirement. He has now successfully branched out into business with investments that include the popular Hotel Football and League Two side Salford City – both of which are co-owned by his former Class of ’92 teammates.

The former England international, who holds UEFA Pro Coaching Licences, even got a good break into the managerial side of things in 2012. He was made a part of the England senior coaching staff by then manager Roy Hodgson.

And then, much to everyone’s shock, Valencia appointed the former right-back as their manager back in December 2015.

The surprise soon melted into criticism from Valencia fans, who didn’t fancy his lack of experience or negligible fluency in Spanish one bit.

That he lost his first game, a 2-0 Champions League defeat against Lyon which relegated Valencia to the Europa League, didn’t help things.

An eight-game winless streak in the league soon followed, making Neville’s time in Spain a complete nightmare.

Valencia’s first win under Neville came a little over two months after his appointment in the form of a 2-1 Europa League victory over Espanyol. However, elimination from the competition followed in the second leg, after which Valencia pulled the plug on his tenure.


Neville’s win rate at the time of his Valencia departure was a meagre 35.71%. The team was 14th in the league, six points clear of the relegation zone and had won just three out a 16 possible league games while failing to keep a clean sheet.

All in all, his time as manager wasn’t just a surprise but also a complete shocker.

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Published 19 Feb 2021, 11:04 IST
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