FIFA announced this year’s eleven-man shortlist for the Best FIFA Football Coach award on Tuesday.
Here’s a closer look at the eleven nominees, in the order we think they will land on.
1. DIDIER DESCHAMPS
So what will it be with Deschamps? Molding France’s talented side into World Cup winners was a career-defining feat.
It should be enough to win the award – though he’s got some tough competition from a fellow Frenchman.
2. ZINEDINE ZIDANE
Which third matters more – Real Madrid’s disappointing and unexpected third-place finish in La Liga, or their third straight Champions League triumph, extending a run that was already record-setting when they made it two in a row a year ago?
It’s an easy answer. Winning in Europe and creating history in the process overshadowed everything else – and the way Zidane helped his side navigate a path to the trophy which saw Madrid overcome PSG, Juventus, Bayern Munich, and Liverpool means he deserves the plaudits.
He’s the reigning award-holder, and it’ll be a tight race between him and his former national team captain Deschamps.
3. PEP GUARDIOLA
Pep Guardiola promises domestic domination. He’s done it with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, and now with Manchester City.
The way his side utterly decimated just about everyone else in the Premier League was fearsome. Critics who were unsure if his signature style could work in England were left eating their words as City became the first side to record 100 points in a Premier League season, winning the title by a record 19 points.
It’s in Europe where Guardiola’s impressive resume falls short, and a quarter-final exit last season will hurt his chances of winning this award.
4. ERNESTO VALVERDE
Valverde would be at least one place further up had Barcelona not lost their penultimate league game. Guiding them to an unbeaten season, never before done in the 38-game La Liga era, would have vaulted Valverde into Barcelona’s pantheon of great managers.
Just a bog-standard, one-loss La Liga title then, coupled with a Champions League exit which came after leading the first leg of their quarter-final 4-1. That means he won’t earn any official accolades.
But he deserves credit for the way he turned the club around after it looked like they would be chasing Real Madrid’s shadow for years.
5. MAX ALLEGRI
A record-stretching seventh Serie A title is enough of an achievement in itself, but where Allegri earned his salt was the way he led his side to that triumph despite weathering losses in form to some of his key players. Not many teams can afford to drop Paulo Dybala and Alex Sandro and look as effective as before.
And Juve’s continued defensive brilliance, after losing Leonardo Bonucci in the transfer window, was commendable as well. All of this while holding off the best title challengers Juve have faced during their record run.
Juve’s rough luck in Europe, however, will go against Allegri.
6. ZLATKO DALIC
Dalic was parachuted into the Croatia manager position before their last World Cup qualifier. From there, he’s become an instant hero after masterminding Croatia’s improbable run to the final.
His acumen was on display in the side’s stunning 3-0 win over Argentina in the group stages, ditching Croatia’s possession-heavy football and getting his players to soak up the pressure before picking Argentina off on the counter. Sustaining that momentum all the way through to the final was even more impressive.
Ultimately, because he was the losing finalist, he’ll end up being beaten to this award, but he deserves to be on the shortlist.
7. DIEGO SIMEONE
In a season which began with Atletico Madrid unsure whether Diego Simeone would even be at the club after it ended, winning the Europa League and briefly challenging a historically good Barcelona side for the La Liga title was quite the turnaround.
Simeone no doubt had a big part to play in convincing Antoine Griezmann to commit his future to the club as well, though that sort of thing usually doesn’t matter in awards like this.
Nonetheless, the Argentine showed once again why he’s considered one of the best in the business.
8. GARETH SOUTHGATE
Getting England to a semi-final at an international tournament is enough to win a lifetime achievement award, let alone one for just a single year. The way Southgate took a young side, instilled a philosophy which suited his players, and turned them into genuine contenders at the World Cup was a stunning feat.
Losing to Croatia in the semi-final cut short the ultimate dream, but it was still a magical tournament for Southgate, who’s being duly recognised even if he stands little chance of beating out the candidates mentioned above.
9. ROBERTO MARTINEZ
Roberto Martinez’s career has been a mixed bag. His incredible FA Cup triumph with Wigan in 2013 was tempered by their relegation a week later, and he followed up a season of progress for Everton with a poor second campaign.
His appointment as Belgium manager was a surprise. The fact that it was successful? Even more so.
People have been waiting for Belgium to perform like this for years. Getting the best out of the Golden Generation and leading them to third place at the World Cup was an immense achievement.
It’s not enough to win this award, but the nomination is deserved recognition.
10. JURGEN KLOPP
Klopp is being picked for the thrilling style of Liverpool’s play, and the sense he’s revitalised a proud club. His season ended with no trophies – although an unexpected run to the Champions League final is a definite achievement.
That, plus turning Mohamed Salah into one of the best players in the world, wins Klopp plaudits.
But his best results of the season – two wins against Guardiola’s City in the Champions League, and one in the Premier League – ultimately led to no tangible reward. That lack of success makes him a longshot to win.
11. STANISLAV CHERCHESOV
Russia were prepared for embarrassment at their home World Cup. For the lowest-ranked team at the tournament, in a group which contained Uruguay and Egypt, a battling third place was the height of fan expectations.
Instead, Cherchesov got the most out of a veteran squad and young talisman Aleksandr Golovin, and produced a side which thrilled the crowds – and that was before they stunned Spain in the Round of 16. Cherchesov’s tactics were pivotal in that upset.
Being named in the shortlist is just reward for his work at the World Cup, although he’s the least likely candidate to win the award.
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