Chelsea fire Tuchel and hire Potter

In English football this week, the big news last week, surrounded Premiere League sides, Chelsea, and Brighton.

While Chelsea weren’t having a a terrible season start, it wasn’t good enough for the new owners. Their One Nill Champions League loss against Croatian side Dynamo Zagreb, sealed it. Thomas Tuchel had managed Chelsea for a year and a half: in his debut season with Chelsea, they won the Champions League. Tuchel had been under immense pressure - the former Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovic, had been forced to sell the club. The club itself had, for a period of time, had a range of financial restrictions imposed upon it. Morale was shaky. Tuchel can be abrasive, confrontational, and emotional - as he’s shown on the touchline. Perhaps there was more to this sacking, than we know. Perhaps the Dynamo Zagreb result was just the final straw.

But what happened next, was even more astonishing: Chelsea’s owners went straight to the coach they wanted. Brighton and Hove Albion’s manager, Graham Potter. Brighton’s manager, Graham Potter. Chelsea wasted no time in getting the Brighton man, to London, for talks.

Brighton had been doing well - very well - this season. Right now, as of the time I’m writing this, Brighton are 4th. In 6 games, they’ve won 4, drawn 0 and lost 1. They’re ahead of Chelsea, of Manchester United, of Liverpool, and a host of other big clubs.

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Brighton’s daring and unique recruitment policies

Potter came to Brighton on the 20th of May, 2019. That was his debut season in the Premiere League, and Brighton’s best since they first entered the League. Each season subsequently, Potter brought Brighton more points. Last season for instance, Brighton had their highest top-flight result with a 4 nil victory over Manchester United - and they achieved their highest ever top-flight finish, coming 9th in the Premiere League, with 51 points.

Brighton’s recruitment policies under Potter have been especially interesting - and indeed unique for a Premiere League club.

Forbes Magazine, in an article last year (Brighton Redefining Success Through Style And Signings) talked about how Brighton’s Head of Player Recruitment and Analysis, Paul Winstanley, has prioritised finding young, exciting, high potential talents in leagues across the world.

Brighton signed Ecuadorian midfielder, Moisés Caicedo, in February of last year. At the time, Caicedo was 19 years old, a product of the youth academy of Independiente del Valle. Independiente del Valle are the current Ecuadorian domestic league champions.

In 2020, Caicedo played in the Copa Libertadores, and was instrumental in Independiente’s excellent group stage performances, which saw them through to the Round of 16. His performances in that tournament were key in bringing him to Brighton’s attention.

In fact, Brighton’s links to the Independiente del Valle academy are also key - and for any European club, especially English clubs, it is a good idea for recruitment staff to link with the staff in South American football academies. Direct and formal affiliate connections aren’t really even necessary. It can be enough for an English club to participate in a youth academy player exchange, or to have one or two recruiting staff go to a South American club’s academy, just to see how they operate. Back to top

South American football academies

Because, and a deeper dive on this is a topic for another time and another article, video or podcast episode, South American football academies are some of the greatest in the world. Smaller South American sides are constantly under pressure - financial pressure, resource pressure, time pressure, recruitment pressure. They are in a perennial battle, to provide good football, to stay competitive and to deploy good players. Yet they do not have the cash to buy huge stars in the transfer markets. What they often do instead, is focus on building and maintaining excellent youth academies.

Even bigger South American sides, like Santos FC of Brazil, have extraordinary youth academies. A huge number of past, and current, South American football stars - Pele and Neymar among them - have emerged from that academy.

South American clubs even look to their academy staff, to find future scouts, coaches, and managers. Brighton should continue to look for links to South American academies.

Brighton’s recruitment has been daring. They are, unlike many other Premiere League sides, willing to take risks. Using the methods we’ve talked about here at Golimetry, they’ve been able to make transfers work, to buy young, hot prospect footballers, and deploy them to good effect. They understand immersive scouting. Of using cultural, historical, and narrative perspectives. To see players in the Copa Libertadores and other South American tournaments - players like Caicedo - and to integrate them into the team. This is not easy. But Brighton have made it work.

This is a big part of why players who start at Brighton are being poached, more and more frequently, by other Premiere League teams. Cucurella, for instance. And, Caicedo looks to be on the list of a number of other English sides, if rumours are to be believed.

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Recruiting managers from the Copa Libertadores

Still, right now, Brighton need a manager for the future. And even beyond Brighton, there are English clubs who’ll need managers. Who might be looking to shortlist some worthwhile targets, for the immediate or distant future. Clubs who would do well, to look to South America. To the Copa Libertadores.

Because, the Copa Libertadores, as the exemplar and pinnacle of South American club football tournaments, is worth following, not just for the players but the managers too. And, there are many great managers in South America right now. Whether they can be enticed to come to English football is a different matter. There is, of course, an ethical question too. Would an English side, recruiting a South American coach from a smaller side on that continent, be doing the same as Chelsea did to Brighton ? The answer, would be in the details of the deal, and how such recruitment is actually managed.

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Who are some managers with CONMEBOL club tournament experience, worth looking at ?

Marcelo Gallardo

Firstly, Marcelo Gallardo, currently managing River Plate, one of the big clubs in South America, and in the world. Three years ago, I made a video about Gallardo, which goes into more detail about his style, his tactics, and his attributes as a coach. Here, though, I’ll point out that Gallardo is a true original, and a coach at the cutting edge. He’s proven himself capable of building competitive squads, even in difficult economic circumstances. Because, just like there’s a financial gap between the top English sides like Chelsea, and mid-tier clubs like Brighton, there is disparity between Argentine and Brazilian sides. Brazilian clubs have emerged in the last several years as more dominant in South American tournaments. The Brazilian domestic championship is one of the most competitive domestic football leagues in the world. Some Brazilian sides are even bringing in European players, or players who’ve done well in Europe, whether they’re Brazilian or not.

Gallardo is continually at the technological forefront of football management. He employs neuroscientists, for instance, to help develop players’ spatial awareness. Gallardo, at River Plate, has faced similar demands that clubs like Brighton have encountered – and probably will continue to encounter. Often, when Gallardo and his team have found, developed and improved youngsters with great talent, they’ve been scooped up by European sides. A perfect example, is the young forward Julian Alvarez, who stood out at River Plate, but then went to Manchester City, where he now plays first team football.

Still, Marcelo Gallardo is a top-tier manager. He’s won the Copa Libertadores twice - and this is an incredibly difficult task. He’s won the Argentine domestic cup three times in a row. Last year, he led River to win the domestic league. Gallardo has won the personal accolade of Best South American Coach of the Year, three times consecutively, from 2018 to 2020. In 2019, the International Federation of Football History and Statistics ranked Gallardo as the 5th-best Club Coach in the World - and while he was behind managers like Klopp and Guardiola, he was ahead of other renowned figures like Diego Simeone, Allegri, and, indeed, Thomas Tuchel, who was then at PSG.

Gallardo is the most accomplished coach in the history of River Plate, by the number of successes he’s achieved with the club. In a continent, and a nation, where interim coaches seem the norm, and where normal managerial stints do not typically last long, Gallardo has been a survivor, and an overachiever.

But the “Era of Gallardo” may be coming to an end. Last year, Gallardo signed a one year contract extension, amid speculation that he is looking for a new challenge. If that’s the case, he’d be an excellent manager for any English club - and he’d be a perfect fit for Brighton.

He would bring fierce competitiveness, originality and experience to the club. Gallardo’s record in the Copa Libertadores, a demanding and high-pressure contest, would be translatable to European football. Gallardo is the sort of coach who could help bring Brighton to win a place in UEFA competitions, and he’s the sort of manager who could steer them to success in knockout football.

Gallardo would also bring with him, a series of hugely valueable assets – that is, his connections with a host of other South American teams, his connections to academies across that continent, and his knowledge of hot prospects on that continent.

Which other managers, from South America, with Copa Libertadors or other CONMEBOL tournament experience, could do well at Brighton, or any other, comparable English side ?

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Abel Ferreira

Another worth mentioning is Abel Ferreira. He is the current manager of Palmeiras, a big Brazilian club, who have just been knocked out of the Copa Libertadores, but were the defending champions for two years running. I’ve also done a video on Ferreira, so check that out, for a more detailed insight. But he is essentially, a very talented, demanding, and proficient manager. He uses youth, and indeed emphasises the recruitment of excellent, formidable young footballers. He is a tactician. He is passionate, and determined.

Ferreira is actually Portuguese. Like Gallardo, he’s a fairly young manager, and hasn’t managed a huge number of sides. Those he has managed, though, have been successful. Last year, he beat out Marcelo Gallardo to earn the title of South American Coach of the Year. He was declared, in 2020, the best Coach in Brazil. In 2020, CONMEBOL labelled him as the Copa Libertadores’ Best Coach of the Year. He won that title again in 2020. He’s won the Copa Libertadores twice, he’s won the Brazilian Domestic Cup, he’s won the Sao Paulo state league, he’s won the Recopa Sudamericana (the South American equivalent of the UEFA Super Club, and he’s been the Club World Cup runner up.

Certainly, Ferreira is a coach worth looking at, for an English team interested in a manager. Especially considering his European coaching roots - he may be interested in a move back there.

Who else ? There are several Argentine managers, with Copa Libertadores experience, and indeed, national team experience. Like Gallardo, or Mauricio Pochettino, these managers share similar styles and influences.

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Jorge Sampaoli

The first worth mentioning, is Jorge Sampaoli. Right now, the Argentinian is a free agent. He started out managing Peruvian sides. Eventually he came to Ecuadorians, CS Emelec – guiding them to Copa Libertadores qualification. Next, he coached Universidad de Chile, and won a sequence of consecutive domestic titles from 2011 to 2012. Most importantly, he brought them the 2011 Copa Sudamericana (the South American equivalent of the Europa League; while the Copa Sudamericana sits a tier below the Copa Libertadores, it is a uniquely strenuous, difficult tournament, wonderful but challenging in its own right).

Sampaoli has since coached the Chilean and Argentine national sides, as well as Brazilian clubs Santos FC and Atlético Mineiro. He did well as the Chilean coach, and, by winning the 2015 Copa America, was listed that year’s FIFA World Coach of the Year (awarded jointly to Sampaoli, Pep Guardiola, and Luis Enrique, that year). He did not see as much success as Argentina’s national coach. But wherever he goes, he employs an energetic, high-paced, attacking style of football. This is inspired by Sampoali’s mentor, fellow countryman Marcelo Bielsa.

Sampaoli was most recently, the manager at French side, Olympique de Marseille. Just as his mentor, Marcelo Bielsa had been. Under Sampaoli’s tenure, Marseille came 2nd in the domestic league, and so, won Champions League qualification. Sampaoli did well, and was the second Argentinian to coach the club. The first, was Sampaoli’s mentor, Marcelo Bielsa.

Like Bielsa, Sampaoli only led Marseille for a short period. Both of the managers resigned despite success, because of disagreements with the club’s owners. Sampaoli has never managed an English side. Yet he is a manager on the rise, and perhaps now is the time for his move to English football.

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Gerardo Martino

Sampaoli is just one of a huge number of Argentinian managers who’ve been influenced by Marcelo Bielsa: Pochetino, Gallardo and Simeone, are three others among a very long list.

Another name that would be on such a list, is Gerardo Martino. The 59-year old’s managerial career began at Paraguayan clubs like Libertad and Cerro Porteno. He really began to shine when he moved to Newell’s Old Boys, in Argentina. When he arrived, Newell’s were in serious danger of relegation. Martino won immense plaudits there, by turning the team’s fortunes around. In his first season at Newell’s, he secured top-flight status for the club.In his second season, he helped them win the domestic league – and indeed, he helped them through to the semifinals of the 2013 Copa Libertadores.

Such a transformation, in just two seasons, was an astounding managerial feat. Martino’s stock as a coach rose significantly. Since that time, he has managed Barcelona, the Argentina national team, Atlanta United in the MLS, and, right now, he’s at the head of the Mexican national team.

While he was arguably the most successful at Newell’s Old Boys, Martino showed there what he can do for teams under distinct pressure. Newell’s was not, and still is not, a team with the economic clout or power of say, Boca Juniors or River Plate. They’re much more similar to Brighton than they are to Manchester City. And Martino is one of the foremost Argentine managerial minds of the modern era. He plays attack-minded football, with creativity, rapid passing, and pressing high up the pitch. He relies heavily on his youth squads and on young players – and has a record for developing youngsters, into top level players.

Martino could be another worthwhile target for an English side in need of a manager.

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Wild cards: lesser known managers who could pay off for English clubs

Then, there are wild cards. Managers upon whom a club might take a gamble. Who might be a bit of a risk – but who might pay off, as well. Interesting managers who might have gone under the radar of most.

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Rafael Dudamel

For example, Rafael Dudamel. Dudamel, 49, is Venezuelan, and a celebrated former goalkeeper for the Venezuelan national team. After retiring as a player, he began as a coach, doing well as he gained experience. He coached Venezulauan national youth sides, and helped the U20s achieve silver medals in the 2017 FIFA Under 20 World Cup – one of the nation’s best ever results at an international football tournament. As the manager of the senior national side, Venezula reached the quarterfinals of the Copa America twice in a row. Tactically, Dudamel has focused on building sides with strong defences, who retain possession, and use build-up play to patiently find scoring opportunities.

As the national team coach, he used a 3-5-2 system, with a potent midfield core, and fast wingbacks, allowing rapid transition from absorbing in defense, to attack through the midfield and forwards, or attack via the wingbacks.

Dudamel has also managed Brazilian club Atlético Mineiro, Chilean club Universidad de Chile, and Colombians Deportivo Cali. At the Universidad de Chile, Dudamel helped the team finish near the top of the table, allowing them qualification to the Copa Libertadores. Last year, he won the Colombian domestic league with Deportivo Cali. Right now, Dudamel is a free agent. He’s a manager who can do a lot, with a little, and while he has never managed a club outside South America, he could bring a fascinating and unique approach to English football.

There are other wild cards, too.

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Ecuadorian connections: Independiente del Valle and CS Emelec

Brighton have Ecuadorian connections, manifest by their recruitment and development of players like Caicedo, Estupiñán and Sarmiento. But Ecuadorian football is a great place to look for any English team, who are in need of a manger. It might be worth looking at Independiente del Valle, and some of the recent managers there.

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Miguel Ángel Ramírez

Independiente del Valle are one of the best sides in Ecuador, and are routine participants, in both the Copa Libertadores, and its second-tier contest, the Copa Sudamericana.

In 2019, a young Spanish manager, Miguel Ángel Ramírez, who had previously been in charge of youth sides in Spain, Greece, and then Ecuador, was appointed as first-team coach. Ramírez has not played professional football, but studied physical education, and was passionate about training. Ramírez used new coaching methods, developed in international academies, where he had worked. He surrounded himself with staff he trusted, and they worked together, and with the players, to focus on one goal: winning the first international title for Independiente del Valle.

At the end of the year, Independiente del Valle won the 2019 Copa Sudamericana. This was the first time Independiente had won the tournament, or, in fact, any international cup. Winning the Copa Sudamericana, can be as hard as winning the Copa Libertadores. Often, in the Sudamericana, teams travel even further than in any other world tournament. This adds up to tens of thousands of miles in a single campaign, equivalent to travelling around the world. Keeping up training, fitness and morale are huge challenges.

Ramírez, now 37, last managed a US team, Charlotte FC. Despite getting fairly good results for the side, there were reports of fractures between Ramírez and his players. In any case, Ramírez would be a gamble - but one which could pay off huge dividends, just as he paid off for Independiente del Valle in 2019. Ramírez is a free agent right now, although that won’t last long.

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Ismael Rescalvo

There are actually a number of other staff associated with Ramírez, who coached Ecuadorian sides in the same time period, or have managed them subsequently: Ismael Rescalvo, another Spaniard, for example, is the current manager of another top Ecuadorian club, CS Emelec, has worked with Ramírez, and has Copa Libertadores experience.

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Why scout the Copa Libertadores ?

For any English club that’s looking for a manger with new ideas, with experience in high-level, high-intensity football tournaments, and a manager with valueable connections and recruitment knowledge, South America is the place to look – and to begin with, specifically, managers who have experience with the Copa Libertadores, the Copa Sudamericana, or both.

Because the Copa Libertadores - and indeed its tier two contest, the Copa Sudamericana - are excellent highlights, and exemplars, of South American football. Recruitment need not be exclusive to these competitions, but they’re very useful places to begin.

While it’s not necessary to look exclusively at managerial recruitment targets who have Copa Libertadores, or Copa Sudamericana experience, they are useful tournaments to begin with.

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The Golimetry mission: telling the stories of the Libertadores

Golimetry, was formed as a chronicle of the Copa Libertadores, and that’s our goal today. To help provide a window into the Copa Libertadores, and CONMEBOL competitions more broadly. To explain what makes the Copa Libertadores unique and wonderful. To highlight the paramount position the Libertadores occupies, in terms of South American club football. To record and to convey the stories, the teams, the legends and icons, the wonderkids, the managers, and, in broad terms, everything about the Copa Libertadores, and the Copa Sudamericana, the top club football contests in South America.

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