June 19, 2024

Which player/manager combinations could have changed everything?


Some players and managers simply feel like they were made for each other; Their styles, personalities or attitudes fit like a glove and often lead to great success on the pitch. Do you think Xavi dictates that? Barcelona Midfield for Pep Guardiola, Ricardo Carvalho orders José Mourinho’s defensive line Chelseaor Thomas Müller enchants his opponents Bayern Munich while the legendary Jupp Heynckes looks on with a smile.

We cherish these great combinations as they are some of our most important memories in football. But what about the ones we’ve never seen? Players and managers who never joined forces despite feeling like they were destined to for one reason or another?

We picked out five perfect pairings that unfortunately never existed…

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Nobody likes a hard worker more than Atlético Madrid coach Simeone; He has assembled more elite teams based on sheer grit than anyone else in the last decade, at times favoring attitude and tenacity over natural ability.

The ideal scenario is, of course, to mix them together, and if you can combine magical talent levels with an underlying push-through-the-walls mentality then Simeone is the perfect manager for you.

Over the years we have seen some of the best examples of this style of play either originating at Atleti or eventually gravitating towards them: Antoine GriezmannDiego Costa, Koke, Saúl Ñiguez, Rodrigo De Paul … the list is long – but somehow Uruguay Striker Cavani never joined.

This is almost incomprehensible, because the two fit together perfectly: Simeone’s Atleti represent the same thing Garra Charrua [a term used to describe Uruguayan football’s never-say-die attitude] Mentality that Cavani displays. He also scored a lot of goals in his prime, and few can match him when it comes to his runs without the ball, his movement and his sheer work rate.

It would have been next to impossible for Simeone to sign Cavani while he was making his way to the top Paris St Germain‘s all-time top scorer list (he has now been surpassed by Kylian Mbappe), but in the summer of 2020, when the Uruguayan joined Manchester United Free transfer was a real opportunity. Atleti spent €56 million on the signing Alvaro Morata instead.



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Allegri’s tactical style has a reputation for being a bit brutal to watch at times, but there is no doubt that it has proven effective over the years – six Series A Titles, four Coppa Italias and two UEFA Champions League Runner-up medals quickly end this debate.

He achieved this success by bucking modern stylistic trends and prioritizing more traditional, direct football Tiki Taka so many fans long for it. However, at least he has put his own twist on the classic: he loves using a big and powerful striker up front, but doesn’t necessarily play him through the middle.

The figurehead for this was Mario Mandzukic, a 1.90 meter tall striker who Allegri regularly used on the wing. The idea was to a) send long balls diagonally instead of straight and the Croatia If the national player dominates a smaller full-back in duels, b) he lets him reach the back post for crosses, again taking advantage of a smaller defender.

Despite all the talent Juventus obsessed with 2015-2019 – we talk Paulo Dybala, Paul Pogba and more – Mandžukić proved crucial for the club in this role. In front of him were players like Fernando Llorente, Alessandro Matri and Álvaro Morata, all of whom were very capable of winning a header themselves.

Given this preference for profile, it is notable that Lukaku and Allegri’s paths have never crossed. Amid a fairly dry transfer market for wide targets, the Belgium International is a perfect fit for the role as he has great size, speed and finishing ability.

Perhaps there was a recruitment window between 2015 and 2017 before Lukaku’s £75m move Everton to Manchester United or later in 2022 or 2023 when he left Chelsea to join Inter Milan and Roma on loan. Some say You can’t play for Juventus once you’ve played for Interbut Antonio Conte crossed that divide not long ago…



Has Marco Verratti fulfilled his potential?

Stewart Robson and Alejandro Moreno discuss Marco Verratti’s career after joining Qatar’s Al Arabi.

If you’ve ever watched Verratti pirouette across midfield, escaping pressure like it was the easiest thing in the world, and thought, “He belongs in Barcelona,” then you’re not the only one.

These feelings were particularly evident when Paris Saint-Germain – the club where he spent 11 incredible years – faced Barcelona in the Champions League several times. We associate Tiki Taka Possession football with Barca; We saw Verratti play Tiki Taka; We put two and two together.

Verratti is only 31 years old, but after his move to Qatari club Al-Arabi, it’s fair to say he’s in the twilight phase of his career. This means he will probably never play for his spiritual soulmate club, nor will he play with his spiritual soulmate, manager Guardiola, who is the godfather of modern possession football.

It’s a shame because there’s a lot of verve in the way Verratti moves the ball so effortlessly and he would have been the perfect signal controller for his midfield as the stats show. From 2013 to 2022, Verratti was the front runner Ligue 1 He topped the passing charts in six different seasons and ranked second in the other four seasons, ranging from 77.7 passes per game (at worst) to a ridiculous 92.7 (in the 2017-18 season) .

This is the kind of player Guardiola would trust with his life on the pitch, but this Italy While Pep was there, the international arrived a little late to apply for a move to Barca: he resigned in 2012, the same summer that Verratti was snapped up by PSG from Serie B club Pescara.

However, there were other opportunities; He signed two contract extensions in Paris (2018 and 2022), each time considering his options and rejecting possible exit routes. It wouldn’t even have been surprising if instead of moving Qatar Last summer, Man City signed him for a paltry £25m as an experienced central midfielder in the role that Mateo Kovacic eventually took over.

Speaking of Kovacic, there is one particular manager who could have achieved truly spectacular things with him if only they had teamed up at some point in their careers.

What Klopp asks – and above all doesn’t ask – of his central midfielders would have suited the Croatian international to a tee: work hard, carry the ball into space, feed the strikers. Essentially, be an all-action transition midfielder who can quickly and easily lead the team from the defensive phase to the attacking phase. In return for all this vital work, there is almost no expectation of scoring goals. Doesn’t that sound like a perfect solution for Kovacic?

The 29-year-old has been playing at elite level for a decade, including at Inter, real MadridChelsea and Manchester City. That’s quite a bit of back and forth for someone so talented, so it’s hard to believe he hasn’t fallen into Klopp’s clutches either Borussia Dortmund in 2013 or around Liverpool in each of the summers of 2018, 2019 and 2023.

It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that Kovacic may have played a key role in some of the teams Klopp built – and Sources told ESPN There was interest in making this happen in 2015 (just before Klopp’s arrival) for around £10 million while he was at Inter.



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Emre Can & Jose Mourinho

There is a particular profile of player that Mourinho loves more than most: the extremely hard-working, set-piece anchor midfielder; Someone he can explicitly trust to do the dirty work when it’s needed. You know, Nemanja Matic.

Perhaps the fact that Mourinho signed Matic almost everywhere – Chelsea, Man United, Roma – is the reason Can never got the chance to play under him, despite being a perfect match in many ways.

Can has always been a vocal and leading force in midfield. He is someone you can rely on for staying in position and anchoring the formation, ensuring the defense never explodes, and the tenacity in his game – from tough tackles to determined blocking of shots and passes – is what makes Mourinho always find a place in his squads. In each season between 2013-14 and 2019-20, Can averaged three total tackles and interceptions per game or more.

This connection was reportedly not far away on a few occasions: there was interest when Mourinho was at Manchester United (2016-18). Mirrorand again when he was at Tottenham (2019-21), per TuttoJuve.

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