Serie A shake-up: three top coaching posts up for grabs
The managerial merry-go-round continues, and Italy has not been left untouched in this summer of coaching casualties, meaning Serie A could be in for a serious shake-up.
Ambitious Italian big-guns Napoli, Sampdoria and Udinese all have vacancies after Sinisa Mihajlovic, Rafa Benitez and Andrea Stramaccioni departed their respective clubs.
Here, Coral experts weigh-up the three top coaching positions and contemplate who could step in as the rudderless Little Donkeys, Blucerchiati and Little Zebras look for new leaders.
The Neapolitan outfit (outsiders at 33/1 with Coral to be Robin van Persie’s next club) boast one of the strongest squads not to have snatched a Champions League spot, narrowly finishing behind third place Lazio, and will need to snare a big-name boss to keep hold of star players.
Following Benitez will be a mixed bag, as his successor will inherit a raft of talented players that have reached the heights of a Europa League semi-final and also lifted a Coppa Italia over the past two terms.
However, most critics would agree the team has not progressed as expected, succumbing to Athletic Bilbao in the Champions League qualifying rounds, and conceding a whopping 54 goals in Serie A this campaign.
Controversial and mercurial coach Mihajlovic, who recently resigned from his plum post at Samp, is widely tipped to take over at the Stadio San Paolo, and could be just the tonic the Little Donkeys require.
Mihajlovic did endure a stuttering finish to the season just like Benitez, but arguably squeezed the most out of his more limited resources. Samp were undeniably strong in defence and well-organised, with a lack of firepower the Blucerchiati’s main stumbling block, though that would not be a problem in Campania.
With a stronger roster available, hopefully for Napoli still including the likes of Argentine goal machine Gonzalo Higuain and Slovenia skipper Marek Hamsik, big things will be expected of the Serbian, whose relationship with chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis will certainly be intriguing, if he takes over.
Should Italian football royalty AC Milan part ways with Filippo Inzaghi, however, and fail in their rumoured pursuit of former boss Carlo Ancelotti, Napoli may find themselves having to compete for the top coaches on offer.
The Genoese giants are still awaiting to hear whether they can sneak into cross-town rivals Genoa’s Europa League spot and, if so, will hope to attract a high-calibre coach to replace Mihajlovic.
Samp are certainly a work in progress, but an appealing project with a fervent fanbase and a clutch of promising players.
“Who are the favourites? One from [Roberto] Donadoni, [Maurizio] Sarri and [Paulo] Sousa will be our next coach,” was the bold claim from Blucerchiati president Massimo Ferrero.
“I would like to meet Donadoni because I have been very impressed by the spirit he has shown and because he is a great man for all that he has done for Parma,” continued the film producer, though he could face stiff competition for the ex-Italy tactician’s services, with the Rossoneri also rumoured to be circling.
This may be no great loss, however admirable Donadoni’s work with relegated Parma may have been as, after Azzurri and Napoli failures, the Italian represents somewhat of a risk on bigger stages. From the projected names, Sarri, who impressively steered minnows Empoli to Serie A, subsequently keeping them up, perhaps deserves his shot at the top table.
The Udine outfit recently decided not to take up their option of a further year with ex-Inter Milan boss Stramaccioni, who oversaw the Little Zebra’s worst finish for nine seasons, as they ended in 16th spot.
A refreshing of the ranks is certainly in order for Udinese, who have often jostled the bigger clubs over recent campaigns and nurtured the likes of Alexis Sanchez.
The Stadio Friuli side require an experienced leader to revive their fortunes, as they could also lose iconic captain Antonio Di Natale this summer, so owner Giampaolo Pozzo must think big, with the likes of Michael Laudrup, Roberto Di Matteo and Gianfranco Zola all available.