When things go well in football the winning players are immediately elevated to hero status, and when they lose we are usually happy to forgive them.
But what of the manager; the head coach who picks the team, moulds the strategy and motivates his stars to be the best they can? Well, when the team starts to lose he gets the bullet. The buck definitely stops in the gaffer’s office. So let’s give the man with his job on the line some credit.
Here at SBOTOP we’ve recently taken a look at the La Liga strugglers, but there are five big characters who have led their teams to great things this season, at least two of them catching us by surprise.
Quique Setien – Barcelona
When Ernesto Valverde exited the Camp Nou in January, the appointment of Quique Setien raised a few eyebrows. Barca were at the top of the league and in the last 16 of the Champions League but still the owners wanted more. It shows how brutal the sport can be, but nobody expected Setien to walk through the door at the Camp Nou.
Former Spurs head coach Mauricio Pochettino was linked to the vacancy, and the Catalans were reportedly rejected by Xavi before plumping for the former Real Betis chief. Setien had very recently been linked with Premier League strugglers Watford before landing at the door of the La Liga top dogs.
But he’s done just fine. Obviously it helps when you have a certain Lionel Messi in your squad, but Setien has taken 18 points from eight league games and guided Barca to a 1-1 away draw at Napoli in the Champions League.
So all seems well and the La Liga 2020 are backing the Blaugrana to make it a third successive title.
Jose Bordalas – Getafe
If anyone had told me Getafe would be sitting level on points with fourth placed Real Sociedad two thirds of the way through the season I would have doubted their sanity, well their judgement at least. 46 points in the bank means they are ahead of Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid, and they have a real chance of making Champions League football. Jose Bordalas has done an immense job at the helm.
After a season managing Alaves Bordalas headed to Segunda Division Getafe in 2016 and immediately won promotion. After a season of comfortable consolidation back in the top flight his side had a best ever finish last season in fifth.
They have played in the Europa League this campaign and so, arguably, Getafe’s feat in matching last season’s success is even more impressive. They have been one of the big La Liga 2020 news stories and long may it continue.
Diego Martinez – Granada
In Granada’s first season back in the top flight they stunned the Spanish football world by leading the division in October. While their form has dropped away to some degree the newcomers still sit comfortably in ninth and have a realistic chance of Europa League football.
At 39 years of age Diego Martinez is La Liga’s youngest head coach and his appointment in 2018, at 37, was quite a surprise to many. He had worked his way up the coaching ladder with Sevilla’s youth and reserve teams before taking control for a season at Osasuna in the second tier. At Granada he instilled a strong teamwork ethic with no high praise for individuals; and it worked wonders as they relentlessly powered on to promotion, conceding just 28 goals in 42 games.
And this season he has exceeded expectations again.
Jagoba Arrasate – Osasuna
After winning the Segunda Division last season with three games to spare Osasuna have done a fine job again in more exalted company, sitting comfortably in 11th position on 34 points. Los Rojillos play at the 18,000 capacity El Sadar Stadium and the tight ground can be intimidating for visitors when their fans raise the volume.
Jagoba Arrasate took over in 2018 and achieved promotion at the first attempt, and so extended his contract to the end of 2020. I can’t see the Osasuna owners wanting to lose their manager at the end of this season either and he might be rewarded with a longer contract.
Zinedine Zidane – Real Madrid
Finally, I think ZZ deserves an honourable mention in his first full season back in charge of Los Blancos. He had a torrid close season with an unsettled squad, Gareth Bale in particular continuing to make himself unpopular in Madrid by his attempts to get a big money move to China.
With no replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo and beset by injury to his new signing Eden Hazard, Zidane has managed to keep his side in step with Barca, and they sit just two points behind the leaders.
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