Nigeria chooses between cost and calibre
After making a U-turn and cancelling former Sporting CP manager Jose Peseiro’s appointment as the Super Eagles manager, the NFF may return to their original candidate. Although names like former France manager Laurent Blanc and previous Barca gaffer Ernesto Valverde floated around, Nigeria may need to return to a cheaper option.
Yet Peseiro is not a second-tier manager. He is nowhere near the calibre of Blanc or Valverde, but he has some significant experience at the world’s highest level. After assisting Carlos Quieroz at Real Madrid, he took a job at Sporting CP and helped bring them to the brink of a UEFA Cup. Unfortunately, they stopped just short of an unprecedented continental championship, losing to CSKA Moscow. After some fruitless stints throughout Eastern Europe and Saudi Arabia, he returned to Portugal to claim the Taca de Liga with SC Braga.
Peseiro’s managerial career has stalled after that. After some tough times in the Middle East, he took up a job with African giants Al Ahly. He won the Egyptian Premier League but left after fans protested about his sparse coaching resume. Another unsuccessful time in Portugal led him to take a job in Venezuela.
Most recently, he took up a relatively safe job in Caracas. His stint with Venezuela includes a group stage exit in the 2021 Copa America marred by COVID infections and travel restrictions. After the economic decline in the South American country, he resigned, bringing him here.
Peseiro needs to fight with other options as well. Although Valverde and Blanc seem out of reach, former PSV and Derby manager Phillip Cocu is still available. Cocu won the Eredivisie thrice with PSV and even secured the KNVB Cup. Although he may be somewhat expensive, he is still a better fit for Nigeria’s squad.
My opinion is that Peseiro is an OK manager who had unprecedented success right off his managerial career. Yet his meteoric rise has turned into a swift fall. His unfortunate stints with Portuguese clubs and the Venezuela national team may mean Peseiro is not ready for another national team job. It is also understandable if the NFF turns their back on Valverde or Blanc. Sometimes the price of a manager is too staggering, and less successful nations like Nigeria may lose out to Europe’s best. It means that former PSV and Derby manager Phillip Cocu may be the best fit.
Cocu’s Dutch origins and knowledge of Total Football will help Nigeria greatly, and he knows how to develop attackers. His knowledge of strikers, as seen with his handling of Memphis Depay and Hirving Lozano, will help Nigeria’s attackers greatly. He has experience at the national team level, working with Frank de Boer for the Oranje and advancing to the 2010 FIFA World Cup final. Peseiro may be cheap, and Valverde and Blanc may be expensive, but Cocu is the right price and fit for the Super Eagles.
Mali mulling options
After falling flat in an ambitious attempt to fly towards Qatar, Les Aigles are looking for a team that can take Mali to the next edition of the World Cup. Mali’s Mohamed Magassouba may not keep his job, so many opportunistic managers flock towards Bamako to secure a highly-coveted job.
One is Gernot Rohr, a former Super Eagles manager who led Nigeria to a World Cup berth and third place in 2019’s Africa Cup of Nations. Experienced and vetted, the German is the favourite to land the job. Rohr bounced around with numerous good European clubs like Bordeaux and Nice and decent African national teams like Gabon and Burkina Faso before landing the Super Eagles job.
Yet homegrown options also await Mali. Having played five times for Mali, virtually unknown manager Eric Chelle is also clamouring for a job in Bamako. He has almost no experience at the highest level. The highest level he has managed is at the third-tier of French football, and it is unlikely that Chelle will be prowling the touchline for the Eagles.
AS Otoho, a Congolese club that recently played in the CAF Confederation Cup may see its manager leave for Malian football if the odds go his way. Alou Badra Diallo has had success working with Malian clubs and Burkinabe clubs and won several championships. Diallo won three in his native Mali and an additional one with Burkina Faso. Diallo’s recent success with Otoho may give him a leg-up over the competition, yet his resume may be too sparse for his potential employers.
Lastly, the most realistic option is former Mali manager Djibril Drame. Drame served extremely short stints for Mali as a caretaker manager, so the only thing he can truly show is his time at Stade Malien. Drame helped guide Stade Malien to their only CAF Confederation Cup and won Mali’s Super Cup in just eight months. Drame’s trophy-winning season was somewhat brief but is something good that Drame can show off. Drame and Rohr’s fight to become Mali’s manager will be lengthy and entertaining as Chelle and Diallo will be underdogs in an unforgiving battle.
My opinion is that Rohr has the most experience with national teams, has seen the highest levels, and manages the best players. Rohr’s time with Super Eagles saw him make the most out of attackers Victor Osimhen and Kelechi Iheanacho and guided Nigeria to impressive finishes in numerous tournaments. Stints at the club level with wildly-successful Bordeaux and a remarkable period as coach of Nice also makes a good case, and his experience with African national teams is unparalleled.
If Rohr proves not to be an easy catch, Drame, although somewhat out of Rohr’s league, can suit Mali with his experience at the helm. Yet those should be the only two Mali should consider out of the current managerial race, and more options are in the market.
Morocco shops for a new manager
Despite qualifying for the World Cup, Morocco gaffer and storied manager Vahid Halilhodzic could leave. The former PSG manager, who also prowled the touchline for the Ivory Coast and Algeria is finding himself in hot water.
Fouzi Lekjaa, the President of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF), said that while Halilhodzic still has the support of the FRMF leadership, the Franco-Bosnian coach “is not untouchable.”
“What do I have to talk about? About qualifying for the World Cup and winning, right? I talk in the field. My results speak on my behalf, they are winning and they are the best conversations. I have nothing else to talk about,” Halilhodzic told the Croatian outlet.
The excerpt, provided by Moroccan World News contributor Elmahdi Echabouch, means that Halilhodzic could stay in Rabat for more time. Yet multiple renowned media sources reported that the Moroccan FA is inquiring about the services of Blanc. As the World Cup winner fields offers from both Morocco and Nigeria, Blanc could prove difficult to sway.
Yet the managerial dilemma is continuing to get stickier and stickier. Chelsea star Riyad Mahrez and Ajax prodigy Noussair Mazraoui were banned for disciplinary issues, and Morocco is now firmly against Halilhodzic. As his popularity dwindles, successors are becoming a Plan B.
One of those is elite manager Claude Puel. Most of Puel’s success came in the 2000s, much like Nigeria’s target Jose Peseiro. Puel won the Ligue 1 title with Monaco in 2000 and followed it up with an Intertoto Cup in 2004. He exclusively managed top-tier European clubs. Most recently, he took charge of Southampton, Leicester, and Saint-Etienne.
Another is Rudi Garcia, another manager much like Puel. Like Puel, he manages elite European clubs, and his great success came over a decade ago. He was well known for his time with Lille, where he helped Lille earn the nickname “Barca of the North“. He even led Lille to a double(Ligue 1 and Coupe de France) in 2010. He has seen plenty of accolades for his managerial work, but some worry about his lack of national team experience, unfamiliarity with African teams, and the decade without any titles. Yet Puel could also be a good hire. With an abundance of managers to pick from, Morocco must choose carefully. Should Morocco stay with the man who led them to a World Cup berth or pick from a new batch and avoid any controversy?
My opinion is unless Blanc shows up at Rabat begging for a job with the Atlas Lions, the best way to go is Halilhodzic’s. The Bosnian led the Maghreb to a dominant victory over DR Congo en route to a World Cup bid while advancing to the quarter-finals of 2021’s Africa Cup of Nations. Yet I may be seeing things through rose-coloured glasses. The situation in Morocco’s locker rooms may be unbearable, and Halilhodzic’s rigid discipline may rob Morocco of results that its talent. The Morocco FA may be correct to eye the manager market, but firing Halilhodzic just weeks after a ticket to Qatar is crazy. The rift between the players and management grows more as Halilhodzic upholds his strict discipline. As ownership, players, and management engage in a tense standoff, someone needs to yield for the good of the Atlas Lions.
Elsewhere, Hector Cuper left DR Congo following their failure to qualify for the World Cup. Not much is known about his potential replacement. After a close loss to Senegal, Carlos Queiroz left Egypt. His successor is former Zamalek and Pyramids coach Ehab Galal. Legendary coach Djamel Belmadi also left his national team, Algeria, after losing their crucial World Cup qualification playoff. Not much is known about who will step in to fill his boots.