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Three years ago, Leicester City hired Claudio Ranieri to lead their 2015/16 Premier League campaign. The Italian’s appointment was questioned by most, and even led some to predict the club would soon find itself in the Championship. But one year after his arrival, Leicester won the title.
A lot has changed since then. Ranieri was dismissed during his second term in charge. He was replaced by Craig Shakespeare, who in turn was succeeded by Claude Puel. The Frenchman has come under pressure of late, however, mainly due to a five-match winless run.
Leicester are unlikely to win the title again any time soon, but they have a squad of players capable of more than mid-table.
With England internationals in Jamie Vardy and Harry Maguire, a solid goalkeeper in Kasper Schmeichel, the wonderfully talented Riyad Mahrez and ball-winning extraordinaire Wilfred Ndidi, they can quite reasonably dream bigger.
If Puel does move on come the end of this season, the club may need to think outside the box – just as they did when hiring Ranieri – in order to find a quality replacement. Here, we at Football Whispers consider three possible options to consider.
Bielsa is an experienced, internationally renowned coach who may be running out of chances to work at the top level of the game. Sound familiar?
It should do, because that’s essentially the same situation Ranieri found himself in when he was appointed by Leicester in 2015. Indeed, pre-Ranieri the club were linked with a move for Bielsa, who was at the time managing Marseille.
The Argentine’s last two projects didn’t work out. At all. He spent no more than two days with Lazio before quitting in protest at a lack of transfer activity.
Then, last May, he was hired by Lille with the expectation that he would implement football as attractive as the overarching project. However, he was gone by December after a poor run of form.
Many of the world’s top managers, including Pep Guardiola, cite Bielsa as a key influence on their philosophy. He’s highly respected by those in the trade, but a lack of consistent results lately could count against him, particularly in the media.
If Leicester can look past recent performance, they could make one of the most exciting hires in recent Premier League history. And given his preference for intense pressing, Bielsa’s tactics could suit the likes of Ndidi and Vardy down to the ground.
Gian Piero Gasperini
While Leicester were dealing with their post-title hangover last season, Atalanta were making waves in Italy.
Traditionally used to bottom-half finishes and occasionally yo-yoing between the top two tiers, La Dea rose to a club-record Serie A finish of fourth place. They lost several important players on the back of that finish, but, thanks to Gasperini, they have continued to progress on the pitch.
Leicester have a positive recent history with Italian coaches, and few are as clear on their principles, or as consistently successful, as Gasperini. He revived Genoa twice before joining Atalanta, who he led to two victories over Everton in Europa League action this season. As it stands, it is possible that he could lead the Bergamo club to a second consecutive year of continental football.
His tactics are built upon a simple yet ruggedly efficient – and aesthetically appealing – combination of aggressive man-oriented pressing and flexible man-marking. It’s the sort of stuff several of Leicester’s players would enjoy playing, the fans would love watching, and the opposition would hate to face.
If Leicester are unsure, why not listen to what Thiago Motta, who played for Gasperini at Genoa, had to say about the 60-year-old back in 2016. “I worked with coaches like [José] Mourinho, [Carlo] Ancelotti and Rafa Benítez, but nobody like Gasperini,” Motta said. “He taught me so much on a human, technical and tactical level.”
Red Bull Salzburg were the surprise team in this season’s Europa League, knocking out Lazio, Borussia Dortmund and Real Sociedad on their way to the semi-finals, where they were unfortunate to lose to Marseille. Rose, appointed last year after leading the club’s under-19s to UEFA Youth League glory, is the manager responsible for the team’s continental success.
In his first top managerial role, the 41-year-old, who once played under Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp while at Mainz, has done an impeccable job. Not only did he lead Salzburg to the cusp of a major European final, but he won them a fifth consecutive Austrian Bundesliga title and took them to the Austrian Cup final.
With his name already cropping up among the possible contenders to take over at Dortmund in future, Rose has quickly established himself as one of Europe’s up-and-coming young managers. And, with his high pressing and varied possession game, he would be a tactical fit for a Leicester side hoping to move away from the deep defence and direct countering they have become associated with in recent years.