Carlo Ancelotti popped up in a couple of different capacities on Twitter this week. The recently deposed Bayern Munich manager posted a picture of himself enjoying Chelsea’s 3-3 draw with Roma at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, suggesting that the life of a handsomely compensated former manager isn’t so bad really. That’s the benefit of being a nice guy and having worked for the biggest clubs in Europe: just because they binned you off, doesn’t mean a nice seat at pretty much any game you fancy isn’t waiting for you. Touring the continent, catching up with old pals and watching some football doesn’t seem like the worst way of spending some time.
Meanwhile, Ancelotti’s name also appeared in connection with the Leicester job. He was among the favourites to replace Craig Shakespeare, sacked this week after a poor but not calamitous start to the season. However hasty that decision may seem, from a certain point of view it was prudent, because there was sense it was always coming, and the sooner the cord was pulled the less disruption for everyone.
In fact, you always got the feeling that Leicester didn’t really want Shakespeare in the first place, and were simply looking for an excuse to get rid of him. Given the job on a caretaker basis after Claudio Ranieri was dispensed with, the rather unglamourous Shakespeare was then too successful and had the backing of too many players not to appoint on a permanent basis.
He won his first six games in charge, perfectly riding the new manager bounce to give the impression that he would be the man to lead Leicester in the long-term. The story after that was less pretty. Leicester won five of the next 20 games, two in the league, and that was enough for him to be dispensed with. A bigger name can now be sought.
But they can seek all they like: will one of those bigger names actually want the job? The initial three front-runners were Ancelotti, Sam Allardyce and Sean Dyche. Ancelotti has already seemingly ruled himself out of the running, and why wouldn’t he? As established, he has a life to enjoy before the next big crisis club sacks their manager and he can stroll in and do what he always does: calm things down, enjoy some initial success then leave when the players stop paying attention to his laissez faire methods.
Allardyce is in a similar situation: five months ago he left a safe, established job at Crystal Palace to live an easier life, an easier life he has certainly earned. He will probably be back at some point, but for something better than Leicester.
Dyche is surely even more silly. He has a job for life (or as close to it as one can get these days) at Burnley, and if he decides to leave that job it will almost certainly be for an upwards move, rather than at best a sideways one. He might be in the frame for the Everton job in the next few months, after all.
You have to ask: why would anyone already in a job risk leaving it for Leicester at the moment? This is a club with a confused line of thinking who, even by the standards of football today, make ruthless decisions when it comes to their managerial situation. The more realistic candidates are the out of work or the questionably ambitious: Alan Pardew has reportedly applied, and Chris Coleman is in the running too.
Leicester might think that their title win in 2016 will allow them to attract a higher calibre of manager. But it won’t: that season was such an anomaly that is has absolutely no bearing on anything to do with Leicester’s future. You can’t call it a miracle and then expect the after-effects to last. After that one magnificent season, Leicester have essentially reverted to type, a club whose best realistic hope is to establish themselves as a lower-mid table Premier League side.
The problem is if that season has given Leicester’s owners delusions of grandeur. If they have allowed themselves to think that success is now the norm, then no manager will ever be given the chance to do a realistic job. As Gary Lineker said this week, it increasingly looks like Ranieri won the league that season in spite of the owners, not because of them. And it is perfectly possible that the owners will believe this too: remember, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was the man who on the day Leicester were presented with the Premier League trophy, put himself on the cover of the programme, literally before the manager or any players. They are not short of ego.
This is not to say clubs like Leicester shouldn’t still be ambitious. Sure, go for the best manager you think you can attract. But firstly don’t be surprised if they don’t fancy coming, and also don’t let the success of 2016 recalibrate the boundaries of what is realistic.