Football; it’s a beautiful game and a bloody cruel one too. Less than a year after lifting the Premier League trophy in one of the most historic moments in world football, Leicester City boss Claudio Ranieri has been shown the exit door in a move that has been described in terms as eclectic as ‘necessary’ and ‘diabolical’.
Everyone has an opinion, and while from a humanitarian standpoint it is an awful decision to sack a man that can only be described as one of the nicest in this often immoral sport, you would have to agree that from a business perspective his removal from the hotseat was just. Leicester were sleepwalking towards relegation; a catastrophic happening given that they were the best team in the land less than 12 months ago.
So where do Leicester’s owners turn now? The next managerial appointment at the club could be one of the most important in their history….good luck with that lads!
The bold move would be to get in a high profile name in a bid to keep the Foxes in the Premier League; the more pragmatic approach would be to keep things low key with a former favourite in recognition of the fact that relegation is a possibility.
But then, there is a third option….
Return of the King
Martin O’Neill, who is a best price of 33/1 to be the club’s next manager, was the most successful manager in Leicester’s history prior to Ranieri. He led the Foxes to two League Cup wins and a pair of European sojourns, and delivered four top-10 finishes in the Premier League – and this was prior to foreign investment.
He has since performed excellent work at Celtic, Aston Villa and Sunderland, and has turned the Republic of Ireland – his present employer – into a solid proposition. He could take the Leicester job until the end of the season without hindering Ireland’s World Cup qualifying campaign – they only have one game between now and the end of the season – and along with Roy Keane as his enforcer they could turn the Foxes around.
So yes, anything approaching 33/1 is excellent value, but make sure you check the terms of the market: Next Leicester Manager and Next Permanent Leicester Manager are two very different beasts.
Return of the Manc
Roberto Mancini was a cult hero in his (very) brief playing days at Leicester, and so his return as manager would prove popular amongst the fans. He is the current 5/1 favourite with the bookies.
The thing with the Italian is nobody is quite sure if he is any good as a manager or not. He has two spells at Inter Milan and never really done anything, led Galatasaray nobly but with merely expected success and spent the annual GDP of a small African country in handing Manchester City their first Premier League title.
But is he the man for a relegation scrap? The jury is out on that one.
Another former Foxes favourite who has nudged his way towards the head of the market is Gary Rowett (12/1), who was bizarrely sacked as Birmingham manager in January.
Rowett did nothing wrong at the Blues, in fact he pushed them forwards, and he did a similarly good job at Burton Albion, so there is clearly a talent there. But as a Premier League manager? Maybe he hasn’t quite proven himself enough yet.
A smart direction for the owners to take would be to appoint O’Neill and Keane until the summer, and then follow up with Mancini if they stay up for next season and Rowett if they can go down. If only football was that simple though!