With the 3-man shortlist reportedly settled on, and Shin Tae-yong reportedly receiving “low marks” from the hiring committee, let’s take a look at a few of the names who could be Korea’s next national team manager.
Series Index (this is a sad series index…)
The order in which the candidates are presented in no way reflects my estimated likelihood. It’s actually a product of Random List Generator.
Profile: The 60 year-old Italian has seen better days in management than his most recent stints. After proving he was worth in salt at Verona and Parma, Prandelli joined Fiorentina in 2005, where he qualified La Viola 3 times for the Champions League and led them to the Round of 16 for the first time in 2010. His exploits earned him the prestigious job of the Italian national team, taking over from Marcello Lippi after the Azzurri‘s World Cup triumph. His results there were mixed – Italy performed well at Euro 2012, making it to the final, but a spiritless 2014 World Cup campaign saw the World Champions curse knocked out at the group stage after a draw with New Zealand and loss to Uruguay. Since then, he was sacked after 16 games at Galatasaray, 10 games at Valencia and 19 games at Al-Nassr in the UAE. Oops.
Style/Compatibility: It’s hard to get a proper read on Prandelli. Up until his departure from the Italian national team, his reputation was through the roof. The reputed Michael Cox said this about Prandelli in 2012: “Great man-manager, great coach, sometimes a good tactician”. The Guardian wrote this headline about him prior to the 2014 World Cup: “Cesare Prandelli: The man who made Italy fall in love with the Azzurri again”. Indeed, Prandelli showed great judgement about taking over the World Champions in 2010, deciding to renew the side with fresh faces (like Balotelli) and implementing a strict code of ethics on his players, holding them to account for any shenanigans or unsportsmanlike behavior in their own clubs. Tactically, he’s extremely flexible, famously trying 16 different line-ups at Galatasaray in his 16 games. An actual quote from him back in 2014: “I have a dream of winning the World Cup by using seven different formations in seven matches.”
His last three stints have failed to inspire confidence, however – he was angry at Valencia’s hierarchy, and fell out with Galatasaray’s players. The KFA is hardly the most liberal of federations, and his endless tinkering with Italy went bust on the biggest stage. His attack-minded instincts may make the football more entertaining, but is it not time for the national team to stop playing with formations and build a program? That seemed, at least, to be Kim Pan-gon’s message in previous weeks. Still, swooping up the “former Italian national team manager” is a mouthwatering prospect purely in terms of a PR exercise.
Likelihood: There were reports earlier this week that Prandelli rejected an offer by the KFA; that isn’t to say there won’t be others, but things may have broken down. He was very much in the news in the past couple weeks, however, so you never know if his name will resurface. We’ll call it unlikely for now.
Profile: Wait, wait, wait. Hold up. Conte? Well, the Korean media has fed us this rumor, so we’ll bite, if only to speculate. Much like Prandelli, he cut his teeth in the Italian leagues, promoting Bari and Siena to Serie A, before taking over at Juventus, where he won Italian top coach honors for three consecutive seasons. Conte took over from Prandelli at the helm of the Italian national team, implementing his preferred tactical systems but to mixed success – Italy exited Euro 2016 in the quarter-final stage on penalties to Germany. Conte wanted a return to “cut-throat club football”, and Chelsea came calling. The rest is well documented. A stellar first season at Stamford Bridge, with 30 wins in 38 games, but a less inspiring second one saw him get the sack.
Style/Compatibility: Again, this is well documented. Conte is animated on the touchline, blunt with the press and bearer of a formidable temper. Before Juventus’ final game of the 2013-14 Serie A season, with the title on the line, he reportedly chased all the players, led by Gianluigi Buffon, out of the dressing room for asking about bonuses, hurling insults and running his bad mouth.
His obsession with tactics, however, is what has earned him widespread respect and international acclaim. He’s shown a desire to experiment, but never unreasonably so, and the 3-4-3 system he implemented off-the-bat at Chelsea, deploying David Luiz as a libero, was almost unbeatable and emulated throughout the K League.
The same questions about whether Vahid Halilhodzic would be a good pick can be repeated about Conte. His inflammable personality and cut-throat mentality are things the KFA should be prepared to deal with if they go down this road. Conte is also an extremely expensive manager, but if the KFA is prepared to fork out the cash, they will be getting a highly skilled tactician with a proven record of success – something Korea hasn’t seen in decades.
Likelihood: I wouldn’t have bothered with this profile if Korean media hadn’t been floating it so adamantly earlier in the week. But even if interest exists on Korea’s end (I suspect it was just an inquiry) Conte has previously expressed doubt about his compatibility with international management and probably could get far more lucrative and exciting jobs than the one of the South Korean national team. He’s too good for us. Highly unlikely.
Profile: Dilly ding, dilly dong. Claudio Ranieri is best known in recent times for that one exceptional season at Leicester City, where he took a team seeking to avoid relegation to the top of the Premier League in one of modern football’s greatest stories. Obviously, his career resume is more than just that. It’s actually quite head-spinning: Fiorentina, Valencia, Atletico, Chelsea, Juventus, Roma, Internazionale and Monaco among some of the many teams Ranieri has led. There have been some disappointments, too, including at Greece, his only international stint, where 4 games in charge were enough to see him go, including a humiliating defeat to the Faroe Islands.
Style/Compatibility: In contrast to other high-profile names like Halilhodzic and Conte, Ranieri is a “nice guy” manager. English media were endeared by his light-hearted press conferences and goofy expressions, and Ranieri earned plaudits for treating the players like friends and using humourous motivational tactics such as buying them pizza after wins. Tactically, he doesn’t shy away from experimenting but is most comfortable coaching a rigid 4-4-2 shape, with emphasis on remaining organised and defensively solid, all while pressing high and counter-attacking with pace.
If Korea were a club team, and played week-in, week-out, Ranieri is to me the obvious pick. Sure, many of his jovial experiments have ended his failure, and being a friend to the players can also mean losing touch of when you need to put your foot down (something that seems to have happened in his sad ending at Leicester in his second season). But his tactics, though simple, can be effective with the core group Korea has, especially in light of the KNT’s recent successes playing this kind of rigid 4-4-2. And in such a high-pressure environment such as Korea’s, Ranieri’s joviality could help alleviate pressure on the players if he’s able to communicate effectively with them. That said, Ranieri said this about international management: “I had four matches and for each game I trained the players for just three days. That is 12 days of training. What can I do in just 12 days? I had to rebuild a national team in just 12 days. (…) I am not a magician.”
Likelihood: This one actually seems plausible and possible. Though Ranieri has expressed an aversion to having such little time on the national team scene, Korea’s national team today isn’t Greece, and he has tools that suit his old-fashioned but effective tactical systems. He’ll surely draw support from fans, media and hopefully the players, and if he’s up for the challenge and not demanding too much cash, he seems a very compatible and positive option.
Profile: “(gasp) But I thought he said no to the job? But I thought he wanted to go to Japan?” I know, I know, I’m as horrified as you are, and confused as you are, but a couple articles have said that Jurgen Klinsmann may be on the secretive 3-man shortlist, so we’ll oblige.
In contrast to the other men on this list, Klinsmann’s managerial career is less storied and shorter in length. He’s only had three top team jobs – the German national team, Bayern Munich, and the United States national team. The first job saw his odd line-up selections draw the ire of many, though his critics were silenced after Germany finished a valiant third place on their home World Cup, though not really facing strong opposition until the quarter-finals, where they beat Argentina on penalties. His eventual understudy Joachim Low would go on to take the job after he left in 2006. At Bayern Munich, his short tenure there was characterized as an abject “failure” by Philipp Lahm, while in the United States it was a tale of two cycles. In the 2014 World Cup cycle, Klinsmann did enough to keep the job and justify controversial decisions like excluding Landon Donovan from the final roster, helping the USA get to the Round of 16 out of a difficult group. But his second cycle was a failure – an embarrassing loss to Guatemala, a 4th place finish at the Gold Cup (which the US regularly plays the final) and a 4-0 loss to Costa Rica were the low lights. He left the team in a poor qualifying position that Bruce Arena could not rescue, leading to the US’ shocking failure to qualify out of CONCACAF.
Style/Compatibility: Klinsmann seems to be much more of a hands-off kind of manager. Lahm recalls in his autobiography how the players had to meet hours before a match to discuss tactics and strategy because Klinsmann didn’t give specifics, saying this: “We practiced little more than fitness. Tactical things were neglected. After six or eight weeks, all players knew it wouldn’t work with Klinsmann. The rest of the season was damage limitation.” Indeed, Klinsmann’s tactical decisions have regularly been met with derision throughout the years and many pundits have called him “a manager without an identity”.
A player with a big reputation, with some national team experience but not a proven story of success, derided for line-up selection, stubbornness and lack of identity, and with an emphasis on fitness over tactics and coaching over managing. No, I’m not talking about Stielike, still Klinsmann. Perhaps we shouldn’t underestimate the fact that he’s the only national team-oriented manager on this list (as opposed to club management), but given his scant record of success except a penalty shootout at a home World Cup, this would be a horrific pick. He’s compatible in the sense that he’s probably affordable, but fails to bring any compelling qualities or ability to implement a successful identity. Plus ça change…
Likelihood: Possible and plausible, despite all of our objections. Hopefully the reports of him saying no to Korea are true.
Note: I’ve chosen not to write about certain managers – two in particular – who are being named in Korean press: Zlatko Dalic and Luis Felipe Scolari. Dalic to me seems like an insane proposition – he just led Croatia to the World Cup finals, that isn’t happening – while Scolari rumours have died down pretty heavily over the past couple of weeks, though it appears through reputable sources that there was communication between the parties. I’m holding out on any vaguely mentioned but not-far-fetched names, such as Juan Carlos Osorio, for the time being. However, if we get some surprises in the next few days, a Part III to this series may well be needed. Stay tuned.
Let us know who you’d like to see managing the Korean national team! And leave us a comment below.