The strategic decision-making in a high-stakes game of musical chairs is crucial during a period of intense competition among top clubs.

Estimated read time 6 min read


During the summer, Liverpool, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Napoli will all be without managers. Additionally, after the European Championship, it is expected that many national teams will also be without managers. For example, Julian Nagelsmann’s contract with Germany ends after the tournament and Gareth Southgate’s contract with England expires in December. This summer will be a time of significant change for managers.

In the upcoming months, Liverpool may experience a victorious farewell journey for Jürgen Klopp, starting with the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea on Sunday. The struggles of last season appear to have been overcome and a strong new team is emerging, which is fortunate considering the current injury situation.

The current champions of Germany, Spain, and Italy are facing challenges despite their reigning title. Bayern’s issues may be the least concerning, but even with three different managers, they have not been resolved. While players like Jamal Musiala, Alphonso Davies, and Mathys Tel show potential, the team as a whole seems stagnant and at risk of aging together.

They still seem remarkably reliant on the ageing Manuel Neuer and Thomas Müller and the fading Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka, while Leroy Sané and Kingsley Coman, aged 28 and 27 respectively, are beginning to run out of time to be the players it looked as though they might be. Harry Kane is 30 and scoring goals freely, but his ankles won’t last for ever.

This poses a bit of a dilemma for a new manager. On one hand, Bayern’s team requires significant changes, but on the other hand, given their financial capabilities, they are expected to win the league and advance far in the Champions League while playing attractive football.

It was not unexpected when it was revealed this week that Xabi Alonso is the top choice to assume control. Perhaps, in addition to his fondness for a team where he achieved three league championships as a player, he views Bayern as a chance to learn at a level he has not yet encountered as a coach due to their virtually guaranteed spot in the Champions League round of 16.

If he does end up winning the league with Bayer Leverkusen this season, is there really much to be gained by essentially playing in the Bundesliga on an easier level next season?

The problems faced by Napoli are quite expected. They are a team that is constantly surrounded by disorder and the job of taking over for Luciano Spalletti, who departed after leading them to a Scudetto victory last season and is now the coach for the Italy national team, was always going to be a huge undertaking.

The decision to hire Rudi Garcia was baffling, and bringing back Walter Mazzarri in November seemed like a desperate move. The unexpected choice to replace him with Francesco Calzona, currently the manager of the Slovakia national team, is unconventional. More adjustments are expected in the summer, with the departure of Victor Osimhen being the most significant.

Napoli's head coach Francesco Calzona (right) during a training session in Castel Volturno in February 2024.View image in fullscreen

However, Barcelona’s debt situation is particularly difficult to resolve. While President Joan Laporta is not personally responsible for the €1.2 billion debt, he must now face the consequences of his actions in trying to address it. In the past, Laporta successfully navigated a similar crisis by creating a positive cycle where on-field success led to increased revenues and decreased financial strain, allowing for further investments that ultimately led to more success. It was during this time that he also appointed Pep Guardiola as coach.

The effort to recreate that spark of creativity with another esteemed midfielder, deeply ingrained in the values of the team but lacking coaching experience, has been unsuccessful. Despite Xavi leading his team to a league victory last season, he has grown more easily provoked and angered, often frustrated by opposing teams not allowing his side to play. He continues to preach the principles of “juego de posición” but appears unable to adjust them to varying situations or instill them in his players.

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Robert Lewandowski, who is currently 35 years old, has two more years remaining on his contract which was signed in the summer of 2022. While it may be unfair to label him as a burden, given that he is the top scorer for the club this season, it must be acknowledged that resources are limited. This is especially true since the club’s president Laporta has sold off portions of income in an attempt to revamp the team. Having an aging player in his mid-30s who is consuming a significant portion of income is not ideal in this situation.

Robert Lewandowski scored and was man of the match at Napoli on Wednesday – but is he a drain on Barcelona’s dwindling resources?View image in fullscreen

This suggests a larger concern. The dominance of superclubs that has remained unchallenged for the past twelve years may now be facing a threat. One of the reasons why this season’s Champions League has lacked excitement is because as the usual top teams struggle, there are no strong contenders to take their place. To be honest, at least half of the teams in the last 16 do not appear to be very strong.

Size almost certainly still provides a safety net but those weary giants no longer seem as indomitable as once they did – although if they are out of range, even in this state, that is bleak for any suggestion of competitivity in elite football. All of which makes the game of musical chairs in the summer critical. In a time of potential disruption, the right appointment could stabilise or regenerate a club; the wrong one could have severe consequences.

Before we can fully focus on the future, we still have three more months of this season to complete. The tendency, based on previous experiences like when Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2001, is to assume that the possibility of a job opening will lead to a lack of motivation. After all, why put in extra effort to impress the boss if you know they’re leaving? This may also be the case for Bayern and Barcelona. The situation at Napoli is too complex to draw conclusions from past events. However, at Liverpool, there is a sense of unity and determination as the end of the season approaches. While Klopp leads the team towards potential success, the ongoing negotiations for the next manager of the club remain in the background.


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