The clubs around the globe have often surprised us with their decisions to put someone in charge of their teams.
It is that time of the year again when clubs put themselves in a position of doubt as they try to make up their minds on key signings and staff appointments in a bid to improve upon their performances from the last season. Most teams end up making decisions that look fine at the outset, and only time would tell if they were right or wrong. However, quite occasionally, we also hear about clubs who end up taking the strangest managerial appointments in contention – so much that it would have been the last thing that fans were expecting.
For instance, Juventus appointed Andrea Pirlo to replace the outgoing manager Maurizio Sarri on Saturday – and needless to say, most fans were astonished as they were generally counting on someone else like Antonio Conte or Fabio Cannavaro to assume charge at the club.
That said, we take a look at five of the strangest managerial appointments in football history. Read on!
5. Santiago Solari – Real Madrid
When Zinedine Zidane initially left Real Madrid following the conclusion of the 2017-18 season, the club were under a lot of pressure to find a replacement that would match the stature of the departing Frenchman. As they found out soon enough, replacing someone who won them three back-to-back Champions League titles was by no means an easy task.
Soon after, Julen Lopetegui was surprisingly appointed the new manager of Los Blancos but his term ended in less than three months – before the club took another shocking decision by appointing Santiago Solari as his replacement. Solari’s resume featured no prior experience at the top-level, which is why his selection was surprising. However, he did manage to win all four matches that Real Madrid played under him as caretaker-manager, prompting the club to make him the permanent choice.
The Santiago Bernabeu outfit soon understood that they made a mistake, as they got eliminated from the Copa del Rey by arch-rivals FC Barcelona and from the Champions League by AFC Ajax. But it was too late so they decided to let him go, as they also slipped up in the race for the La Liga title, which they eventually surrendered once again to Barca.
4. Marcelo Bielsa – Lazio
To be honest, Lazio did not seem to be a bad destination for the legendary Marcelo Bielsa when the move was announced in 2016. In fact, most fans thought that this was a real coup for I Biancocelesti, given just how many teams were in need of a proven manager at the time – however, they were proved wrong, within 48 hours.
Bielsa, who has been a mentor to the likes of Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino among others, completed little more than one day at his new job, before tendering his resignation at the club. The former Argentina, Athletic Bilbao and Marseille coach had not even made it to Rome before he called it quits – citing the club’s failure to bring in new players despite originally agreeing to do so by a certain date.
It was also rumoured that he left Lazio to be reconsidered for the then-vacant role of Argentina national coach. However, that failed to happen as well, and Bielsa later joined Leeds where he created history by winning them a promotion to the Premier League after 16 years.
3. Gary Neville – Valencia
Rumour has it that even Gary Neville himself has not been able to find an explanation for his managerial appointment at Valencia in 2015. The former Manchester United right-back had zero experience if you do not count his football punditry gigs with Sky Sports and other broadcasters. The club’s fans knew it very well too, and many of them predicted that this would be a disaster before a ball was even kicked.
For starters, Neville did not speak or understand Spanish. To add fuel to the fire, he also appeared woefully underprepared for the task in front of him, in his very first game itself. Eventually – just four months into the job – he was sacked after suffering a humiliating 7-0 defeat to domestic rivals Barcelona, thereby crashing out of the Copa del Rey. He had managed just three wins in 16 La Liga matches and also saw his team exit the Champions League in the group stage and from the Europa League in the Round of 16.
Although his appointment shocked many, the end result and his sacking did not.
2. Edgar Davids – Barnet
Ajax, AC Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Tottenham Hotspur – former Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids had an impressive CV as far as his playing career was concerned. And then came Barnet.
That’s right – after hanging up his boots following a lengthy and effective career as a footballer, Davids joined Barnet of all teams, in a joint- managerial role with Mark Robson. With the team continuing to perform dismally despite his super-star appointment, Davids was later forced to return to the pitch in a bid to change their fortunes – and eventually, when Robson was sacked, he assumed full control of The Bees.
The north London-based side were relegated to the Conference shortly after – however, despite so, Davids kept his job somehow, even after reportedly refusing to travel to away games that required an overnight stay. Eventually realizing that he cannot manage everything on his own, he finally resigned in January 2014, almost two years after joining them.
1. Andrea Pirlo – Juventus
The Bianconeri’s appointment of Andrea Pirlo as the outgoing Maurizio Sarri’s replacement takes the cake for one of the strangest managerial appointments in the history of the sport. No offence to the footballing legend that Pirlo is – the Italian midfielder has won the FIFA World Cup (2006), two Champions Leagues, six Serie A titles, two Italian Cups, three Italian Super Cups, one FIFA Club World Cup and two UEFA Super Cups among other honours, and it goes without saying that he was a vital part of each of these teams – however, all this rarely matters as far as a manager is concerned.
The 41-year-old began his managerial career on 30th July 2020, having gotten appointed as the boss of Juventus’ Under-23 team. Little did any of us know that he would be promoted to the role in the senior team just ten days later, despite having not proved his abilities till date.
It remains to be seen as to how effective Pirlo’s appointment at Turin will be. They will definitely challenge for the Serie A title as usual – hence, it is the Champions League that he should focus more for the next season.