The announcement that Real Madrid first team coach Fernando Hierro is also leaving the club doesn't really come as much of a surprise. Having re-joined Madrid last season as a coach in Carlo Ancelloti's backroom team the idea was always that he would be more of a coach working with the players on the training ground as opposed to being involved in direct management in game situations. With Paul Clement also having given his intention to leave the club a few weeks ago in pursuit of a manager's job himself, this is looking like being a busy time behind the scenes as the departure of Carlo Ancelotti et al leaves vital positions to be filled.
Indeed, one theory coming from the Madrid area is that Ancelotti's insistence on keeping his own backroom team may well have contributed to the decision made by Florentino Perez to replace the Italian coach. A recent suggestion was that the Madrid hierarchy weren't too happy with fitness levels and wanted Ancelotti to replace some of his staff which he refused to do; although I am unable to confirm the authenticity of that at the present time.
It's common knowledge that together with Paul Clement, fitness coach Giovanni Mauri and goalkeeping coach Villiam Vecchi have worked with Ancelotti for years. However, he had to speak up in defence of the latter two recently when criticism was levelled at them through the media over the fitness of the Madrid players.
It's difficult to know whether there are any specific aspects of fitness that came under criticism of if it was simply generalised opinion; in which case Carlo Ancelotti would have been right to back his staff. Criticism of match fitness, however, is always - I feel anyway - very easy to make and it's simple to dismiss a defeat or a poor performance with a throwaway remark to the effect that the game was lost because the players weren't fit enough.
It's hard to know either exactly what type of relationship goalkeeping coach Vecchi had with the keepers at Madrid, but he was seen in one game gesticulating angrily about Iker Casillas after the ball had been cleared by a Madrid defender; an outburst caught on camera which suggested that there was little love lost between the pair at the time. Experienced players don't take too kindly to that sort of thing, though, so it won't have done much for any relationships that may already have been strained.
However, few managers / head coaches nowadays are content to work with inherited staff and Ancelotti was no different in that respect. Head coaches bringing in their own staff is part of the way football operates now and everyone has come to accept this over the years. Few managers are content to work with coaches already in place and managerial deals have often fallen by the wayside if this becomes a stumbling block. If the clubs insist on retaining people who worked for the previous regime as opposed to allowing the new man to pick and choose his own backroom team, some potential candidates may withdraw their interest at that stage.
Rafa Benitez also operates in the same way as Ancelotti did, and two stalwarts of his backroom team are fitness coach Francisco Moreno and goalkeeping coach Vincent Berchili; both of whom worked with Rafa at Inter, Liverpool and Chelsea before Napoli. So if Carlo's men hadn't left of their own volition, then it's almost certain that they would have been replaced anyway by whoever takes over; or have been ready to leave the minute Ancelotti takes another club job.
The only area that tends to avoid change when management comes and goes is the medical side of the club; although that's changing also now as different coaches have different views on the importance of sports medicine. Some coaches like to have huge medical teams behind them which include chiropractors, dieticians, sports psychologists, sports scientists and the like; while others are content to operate with a couple of physiotherapists and a doctor.
At Liverpool, Rafa made wholesale changes to the existing backroom team and overhauled the whole football operation from first team level right down to the academies; and that included the medical teams as well. Not content with the way the club was being run at the time, he replaced most of the staff with people of his own choosing, but he had to fight for the backing to make the changes he wanted which ran throughout the club as a whole.
All in all, Rafa sacked sixteen of the existing Liverpool backroom staff within a two-week period in 2009, mainly those involved with the reserve and Academy teams. This included three coaches, two goalkeeping coaches, the reserve team manager, academy director and assistant, players' liaison officer, education officer, two sports scientists, three physiotherapists and the kit man. Clearly Rafa wasn't happy with the way things were being run and he's obviously not afraid to make unpopular decisions if he feels the club will benefit in the longer term.
The question is, though, what exactly is the ‘long-term' for Real Madrid these days? That's maybe what is being discussed at the moment by whoever has been offered the job vacated by Carlo Ancelotti and it's maybe one of the things that needs clarified by his potential successor before jumping in with both feet. They spoke about ‘the night of the long knives' in Liverpool when Rafa made the changes he wanted then, will the Madrid hierarchy be just as supportive if he feels the same thing needs done again?
As well as the supporters, people involved with the club below first team level will be wondering what the future holds. Will the new coach - Rafa or whoever - be responsible for the pyramid within the club from first-team through to the Castilla sides and canteras, or does none of that matter as long as the new regime can deliver a La Liga title and a European trophy every year?