I feared we’d have to do a third part to this series, but recent rumours have made it so. With all indications that Korea’s manager hunt may be soon coming to a close, we’d be remiss not to profile three Spanish-speaking managers who have varying degrees about becoming Korea’s next senior boss.
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 and the timeline of Korean media rumours.
Enrique “Quique” Sanchez Flores
Profile: The 53 year-old Spaniard’s playing career is noted for his decade long-stint as Valencia’s starting right-back in the late 80s and early 90s. Flores later joined Real Madrid to essentially finish his playing career, and it’s also where he started his managerial career in 2001 as the youth boss. He ascended quickly through the ranks of La Liga, going from Getafe, to Valencia and eventually to Atletico Madrid in 2009, where he won the Europa League in 2010. His Asian experience consists of 3 seasons in the UAE with Al-Ahli Dubai and Al-Ain, while EPL fans know him best from his highly successful season at Watford in 2015-16, where the newly promoted Hornets finished a comfortable 13th and made the FA Cup semi-final. Flores won the EPL December Manager of the Month award in 2015, while his two main strikers – Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney – both finished in the top 10 of scoring, the only players to do so outside of the top half of the table. His most recent managerial experience was at Espanyol, where he only managed a 33% win rate in two seasons.
Style/Compatibility: Flores is described everywhere he goes as a pragmatist. He’s no apostle of tiki-taka. He prefers a 4-4-2 system (sometimes playing more of a 4-2-3-1, but with the traditional 4-4-2 defensive shape) where the two furthest forward players are, according to WhoScored, both “pressing tools and a focal point in transitions”. His sides concede possession, are organised but not necessarily passive defensively (like Quieroz) and look to hit opponents directly on the counter-attack. He’s not averse to giving youth players a run-out and in both of his recent stints (at Watford and Espanyol) he had to transform a blizzard of transfer activity into a cohesive unit. Again, all of this sounds exactly like what Korea could do well in – simple but effective tactics and countering quickly.
“It’s very important to play with a good distance between the defensive line and the strikers and, for me, a good distance is 35 metres, maximum 40 metres. (…) If we can do more, we can do more, but the plan I try to give to the players is always very simple.” via The Guardian
Still, he hasn’t left everyone impressed. He’s comfortable experimenting and tweaking, but remains a devotee to his system. Could this defensive-minded system be a problem in Asia, where Korea (I hate to keep on repeating it) will encounter a lot of low blocks? And much like we’ve said about other managers, he’s not a manager with much of a track record of being in it for the long haul, and has only club experience and a few international call-ups in his playing career. Does it take a Flores to teach 4-4-2 and smile for the cameras?
Likelihood: Depends on who you believe. It’s not a rumour plastered on the front page of Naver, with some journalists going as far as calling it “fake news”. A lot of seems to have just originated from Korean forums. Wishful thinking, or actually serious? Regardless, Flores is fairly high-profile, and he certainly won’t come cheap (compared to Vahid or Osorio). However, I’ll say this – the recent cash infusion by Chung Mong-gyu into the KFA leaves nothing out of the realm of possibility. In fact, this may well be another possible and plausible rumour.
Profile: Albert who? Yours truly is among one of the many to never have heard of this man. Celades’ playing career actually might jog the memory of those who followed Spanish football in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. The defensive midfielder played 5 years in Barcelona and then subsequently 4 years at Real Madrid in that timeframe, also earning a few Spanish national team call-ups along the way, featuring at the 1998 World Cup. The 42 year-old’s managerial profile is very small, however, with only Spain U16 and Spain U21 responsibilities to his name.
Style/Compatibility: It’s hard to find much reliable info on Celades given his relative low profile. When purely looking at results, however, it’s hard to get overly excited. He failed to qualify the Spanish U21 team for the 2015 European Championship and the 2016 Olympics, and though he took Spain to the 2017 U21 Euro final, where they lost 1-0 to Germany, few were impressed in the media, blaming an absence of tactics or style and an over-reliance on Spain’s relative individual starpower. Though he remains U21 manager, he was an assistant to Fernando Hierro on the senior team for the recent World Cup.
Indeed, that might be the role that suits Celades the most in the national team set-up. Going for a name with no senior team managerial experience, no proven track record of success and no ability to implement his own tactics would make him a highly speculative (and very KFA-backseat-able) pick for the top job. But the fact that he’s also been considered by Manchester City as a potential assistant manager means he has some potential and credibility to his name that merits exploration. Though I can’t imagine how he’d possibly take up an assistant’s job in Korea and not at Manchester City, he could probably do a reasonable job in filling that vacancy (Toni Grande is, of course, on his way out).
Likelihood: Eh? I can’t tell if this is the latest fad/rumour thrown out by Korean media, or anything credible. We’ll have to see, but for now I’d call this unlikely (in terms of the senior job).
Juan Carlos Osorio
Profile: The 57 year-old Colombian just resigned from his job in charge of Mexico. That 3 year-stint was a mixed bag; Osorio presided over a dominant Mexican side that avoided the nightmare of the 2014 World Cup cycle (where they had to go to a playoff) and cruised to 1st first in CONCACAF qualifying. And of course, that famous win over Germany will forever remain in World Cup lore as the beginning of the end of what we thought to be a German dynasty in international football. He’s loved and hated for his passion and fire (which can sometime flare into chaos), but Osorio was also hated by fans, with chants of Fuera Osorio (fire Osorio!) ringing out at the Azteca on their World Cup send-off match. The 7-0 loss to Chile in the quarter-finals of the 2016 Copa America was never really forgiven. Previous jobs include other top clubs in the Americas; Atletico Nacional (in Colombia), Sao Paulo and New York Red Bulls.
Style/Compatibility: Do you want a better Shin Tae-yong, but also on steroids? That’s Juan Carlos Osorio. Well, not exactly, but if you thought Shin Tae-yong was a “tinkerman”, there’s no word in the English dictionary that does Osorio justice. In his first 48 games, he played 48 different line-ups; he very seldom repeated his tactical selections in any game. In that respect, he’s remarkably reactive, though not necessarily during a match, but usually before. He’s known for watching hours and hours of footage and tape to exploit any opposition weakness, and is also a fairly cerebral manager unafraid to innovate and do things differently. He hired a sleep coach and a therapist to his coaching staff in Mexico, and is also famous (or infamous) for going on about tangents about the anatomy and functioning of the human brain. Chicharito has recently called him the “greatest Mexican manager I’ve ever played for”.
In terms of player personnel, the Korean national team set-up again isn’t too dissimilar from what Mexico have at their disposal, and Osorio checks off many of the boxes Kim Pan-gon laid out including prior national team experience, navigating World Cup qualification successfully and more than a few years’ of skin in the game. Compared to the other managers in this series, he doesn’t necessarily have an illustrious playing or management career, but El Profesor‘s charm lies in that he is and forever will be a student and a maniac of the game, who goes all in and leaves nothing for granted. It will, however, be difficult for him to implement a football philosophy if he sticks to his tradition of constant rotation, and perhaps that’s one major point of divergence with what Kim Pan-gon has outlined. And truthfully, apart from comfortable qualification and a win over Germany, he didn’t reach the forbidden quinto partido for Mexico (5th game) at the World Cup, so it is true to say that his stint ended without achieving Mexico’s prized objective of the quarter-finals.
Likelihood: Probable to remain in the discussion in the next few days, and possible but plausible as well. Some people say it’s untrue, but it’s near impossible to detect the sound from the noise in the past couple of weeks of manager-search media frenzy. Instead, the sheer frequency of his name being repeated in Korean media can only suggest he is a very viable candidate for the job.
Do any of these names excite you? Who would you want to lead the Korean national team? Answer in this poll and let us know what you think in the comments below!