A ton of names have been linked to the still not open Athletic Club manager position, some of them are simply and clearly better than Javi Calleja- Marcelino and Pochettino both come to mind. However, if these big name targets don’t pan out for Athletic they could do far worse than Javi Calleja.
According to a report from Mundo Deportivo this week, Gaizka Garitano will not be fired during this international break, however, with Betis and Getafe as his next two league matches, as well as Villarreal to face before the new year, I would not be surprised if they are eventually replacing him anyway. (And let me be clear that it’s the official position of this writer that if they replace Garitano with a former Villarreal manager, their best available option is Marcelino.)
As our regular readers are well aware, the sacking of Javi Calleja was a rather controversial decision at the time among Villarreal fans (though I think it’s worth noting that Unai Emery’s loudest critics have been much quieter of late in our comment sections). What looked like a difficult path back to Europe when the league took a break for COVID was quickly and emphatically turned around with great performances after the restart. Unfortunately for Calleja, the club had arranged for Emery to take over prior to this run happening and the manager change happened anyway.
Calleja at his best plays a brand of mid pressing football that creates counter attacks where forwards find themselves with plenty of space in behind the back line. Such a style I think would fit very well with the pieces Athletic Club has available. In fact, I think such a tactic could bring the best out of Inaki Williams, who for most of his career has been large amounts of industry on the pitch without very much end product.
Athletic Club has five league matches before they face Villarreal on December 23rd. If they don’t have about ten more points and are not sitting significantly higher up the table than their current 14th by that time, if could be a fitting twist of fate where it is Villarreal who creates a job opening for Javi Calleja to return to La Liga.