The last time Villarreal sacked a manager, it was July 2020. If that seems like a long time ago, it is because A. in football terms it kind of is and B. we were still in all manner of pandemic restrictions at the time all around the world.
The sacking seemed harsh. While there were plenty calling for Calleja’s sacking before the league restart (me included) he had put together an incredible run of form in the conclusion to the 2019-2020 season that got Villarreal back into the Europa League.
Nevertheless, he was fired because Unai Emery was available, and Unai Emery was the right man for the job in that moment, as the 2021 Europa Leauge Trophy shows.
The sacking of Quique Setien at the first international break of the season also seems harsh, but like the Calleja situation it seems like this is something the club has had on their mind for a while.
Why else would you sell off game changers like Pau Torres, Samu Chukwueze, and even Nicolas Jackson, while doing so very little to replace them? It appears as though the club knew Setien did not have the belief of the locker room and saved their money for whoever is in place when the winter transfer window arrives.
Getting that person right can make all the difference, so today we’ll talk about some of the club’s best options.
Every single manager in Villarreal history was a native Spanish speaker, so if I leave your favorite German or English coach off the list, understand that it’s because I just do not think that is going to happen. The club also wants someone with experience in La Liga, so you can see how this list narrows in a hurry.
I know there are going to be some people who are somehow still salty about the end of his time with the Spanish national team, and he is one of those managers whose personality can grate after a while which usually gives him an expiration date with clubs, but the former Sevilla and Real Madrid manager is the best person available for the job.
He has won the Europa League before, understand the kind of positional and possession based football that our current side seems to be built for, and I think Alfonzo Pedraza could be utilized something like Jesus Navas under this care. He may only last a couple of seasons but I think he gives us a legitimate chance for silverware in the process.
If this seems like a big drop off and you are going ‘no, no, no!’ I completely understand, but look, I dug into the list of available managers. If the club is going to hire someone who is a natural Spanish speaker like they have for every other hire in their history, this is probably the second best guy available right now.
I think part of why we all so badly do not want this to happen is that we all know it’s well within the realm of possibility. All that said, Gracia is an experienced manager who understands La Liga. His last three jobs in Europe were Leeds, Valencia, and Watford, and I would argue that all three of those clubs are so dysfunctional that he did not really get a fair opportunity at any of them. I consider this a low ceiling, high floor option.
Another victim of the endless cycle of dysfunction at Valencia, and another manager who probably does not inspire huge excitement. Nonetheless, his 52.4% win rate during his time in Serie A was extremely impressive, and he won the Coppa Italia with Napoli.
He is probably one of the more accomplished managers we would be likely to get. He is not the natural Spanish speaker that the club is most likely to go for, but the fit there would be much easier than hiring a German or English coach and he has managed in La Liga before.
The right answer, here, is Julen Lopetegui. Whether the club want him or can convince him if they do, I have no idea, but otherwise we are probably looking at another Javi Calleja level appointment, a manager who will keep us in Primera and not do too many exciting things along the way. Unai Emery and Quique Setien were appointments of an ambitious club, and I would be very disappointed to see Villarreal take backward steps from that point.