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5 worst managerial downgrades of the past decade

Martino struggled at Barcelona
Martino struggled at Barcelona

Gambling of managerial positions is an essential practice that top-flight clubs need to employ to maintain their status at the summit. Board officials have the impossible task of installing an adept candidate to take the reins of their clubs and backing him to succeed during tough times. However, some hirings can turn out to be so catastrophic that a total overhaul of the system is required to set things straight, once again.

Disappointing managers, still at their clubs

Even though they are still employed by their clubs, certain managers are standing on very thin ice, with constant sub-par performances plaguing their respective terms. Mikel Arteta was supposed to steady things at Arsenal after an underwhelming 2018-19 season with Unai Emery at the helm. Nevertheless, things haven't gone according to plan and the former assistant coach of Manchester City has overseen Arsenal's worst end to a Premier League campaign since 1995.

Ronald Koeman guided Barcelona to an embarrassing exit from the Champions League and ensured that the Catalan giants finished outside the top two in La Liga for the first time since 2008. In an official statement, the club's president, Joan Laporta, confirmed that Koeman would be continuing with Barcelona for at least the next year.

Here, we take a look at five similar managerial appointments that proved to be significant downgrades on their predecessors and were eventually sacked.


#5 Zinedine Zidane to Julen Lopetegui (Real Madrid)

Lopetegui endured a rough start at Madrid
Lopetegui endured a rough start at Madrid

Succeeding a three-time Champions League winner was never going to be easy. But Julen Lopetegui's tenure as Real Madrid boss had the potential to end his managerial career in top-flight football. The former Spain goalkeeper was dismissed just four months after his installation at the job.

Lopetegui's appointment at the club began with controversy. He was Spain's head coach in their bid to reclaim glory at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. However, before the commencement of the tournament, Los Blancos announced that Lopetegui would be Zidane's successor in the Madrid dugout as soon as the World Cup ended. He was subsequently fired from the national job, with the Spanish FA stating Lopetegui's backdoor dealings were the reason for their sacking of the 54-year-old.

After taking the reins at the Bernabeu, Lopetegui oversaw one of the club's worst-ever starts to a season. His side slumped to ninth position after accumulating just 14 points from the initial 10 games, which included a 5-1 humbling at the hands of their arch-rivals Barcelona. Lopetegui, in an interview with the BBC, stated:

"I didn't sleep; I didn't know where I was. One day I was in Russia training for the World Cup, the next I was in the Santiago Bernabeu with a new team"

The Spanish coach is now at Sevilla, working to restore his reputation with the Andalusian side.


#4 Tito Vilanova to Gerardo "Tata" Martino (FC Barcelona)

Tata Martino failed comprehensively at Barcelona
Tata Martino failed comprehensively at Barcelona

A good case can be made for Quique Setien's inclusion as Barcelona's worst manager of the past decade. However, blame for his short but disastrous spell at the Camp Nou can also be credited to the Josep Bartomeu-led board. The same cannot be said for the failure of Tata Martino, who left the club in disgrace after a solitary year in charge.

Barcelona were fresh off a historic title-winning season, where they triumphed in the league with a record-equalling 100 points under the stewardship of Tito Vilanova. Due to his deteriorating health concerns, the late Catalan manager was relieved of his duties and Tata Martino was brought in as a replacement. Expectations from the manager were high considering the immense talent the squad possessed. With the acquisition of Neymar that season, Barcelona seemed destined to replicate at least a fraction of Guardiola's success at the club.

However, Martino's time at the club was miserable, to say the least. He failed to capitalize on a flying start that saw Barcelona go on a 16 game win streak. The Argentine manager's inability to connect with the squad and his high pressing style of football meant that Martino's tactics soon fell flat, which was reflected in his results.

Barcelona experienced their first season without major silverware since 2007-08 under the current Mexico manager. This debacle was especially concerning since the Catalan giants played some very poor football towards the end of Martino's tenure, something that is considered to be inexplicable at the Camp Nou.

From Martino to the aforementioned Setien, Barcelona have had some of the most deplorable managerial appointments since Pep Guardiola's departure in 2013.

#3 Nuno Espírito Santo to Gary Neville (Valencia)

Neville as Valencia boss
Neville as Valencia boss

Valencia's bizarre decision to appoint Gary Neville as their head coach, with no prior experience as manager, was met with widespread disbelief. This speculation proved to be spot-on after the novice Englishman was sacked just 28 games into his job.

Having been a member of Roy Hodgson's backroom staff during the latter's reign as England boss, Neville was involved in the analytical aspect of the game, rather than a managerial role. Despite his lack of qualifications, the former United right-back accepted Valencia's offer to lead the team as their manager as a courtesy to his associate Peter Lim, a major shareholder at the Mestalla.

During his 28 games in charge across all competitions, Neville suffered 11 defeats including a 7-0 drubbing by Barcelona. Los Murciélagos were holding their heads in ninth place when the 46-year-old former defender was hired. In the three months under Neville's tutelage, Valencia managed to slump to 14th, just six points clear of the relegation zone and crash out of every other major tournament the team was involved in, comprising the Copa Del Rey, the Champions League, and subsequently the Europa League.

The Valencia job was the first and last managerial stint taken up by Neville, who can now be seen as an analyst and pundit for Sky Sports.


#2 Sir Alex Ferguson to David Moyes (Manchester United)

Moyes was awful at Manchester United
Moyes was awful at Manchester United

Sir Alex Ferguson is widely regarded as the best manager of all time, winning a mind-boggling 38 trophies, including an elusive treble, during his 27-year-long stay with Manchester United. However, when Ferguson himself appointed David Moyes as his successor after closely monitoring his inspiring stint with Everton, the Red Devils quickly tied the Scotland international to a six-year contract.

However, owing to some delirious performances, Moyes was sacked just one year after his nomination. His lack of initiative was as clear as day, with the Scottish manager soon proving that he was way out of his depth. Moyes' failure to employ a particular style of play meant that United's main plan of attack was reduced to just flooding crosses into the box, hoping for something to happen.

After winning the league under Ferguson in his last season, United tumbled to seventh under the 58-year-old manager. Moyes managed to gather a paltry five points from a possible 24 against the top four sides at the time of his sacking. United's seventh-place finish ensured that the English giants would miss European football for the first time since 1995. The former Toffees boss was fired just 10 months into his six-year contract, enabling him to a €5.8m compensation.

Moyes has taken a sweet time to recover from his nightmares in Manchester, fumbling through failures at Sunderland, Real Sociedad and West Ham United. However, he finally seems to have found his footing with a second spell at the London Stadium, helping them qualify for the 2021-22 Europa League season.


#1 Leonardo to Gian Piero Gasperini (Inter)

Gasperini at a UCL game for Inter
Gasperini at a UCL game for Inter

Finishing just above Moyes, Gian Piero Gasperini's arduous stint as Inter's manager was highly unexpected as the Italian veteran had an impressive spell with minnows Genoa, taking them from the depths of the second tier to their highest finish at fifth since 1990.

Under Jose Mourinho, Inter had managed to acquire the fabled continental treble in the Portuguese's last season in 2010. After a tumultuous four months under Rafa Benitez and a somewhat decent second-half under Brazilian legend Leonardo, Gasperini was given the nod by the Inter hierarchy.

However, the 63-year-old manager could only muster five games at the San Siro, losing four of them, including a loss to the newly-promoted Novara. His high-risk formation consisting of a three-man defence was easily exploited by the Nerazzurri's opposition thereby resulting in such appalling form.

Gasperini has more than redeemed himself as a high-profile manager by working wonders with Atalanta, putting his failure with Inter comfortably in the rearview mirror.

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Edited by Arnav Kholkar
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