After three(ish) years at Real Madrid, the managerial merry-go-around is about to spin really hard. The news of Zinedine Zidane stepping down as Real Madrid first team coach caught everyone by surprise. Not even the well-connected journalists had any idea what the press conference was going to be about. Only a few minutes before its start, the well-respected Jose Luis Sanchez detonated the ultimate bomb: Zinedine Zidane was to step down after an unprecedented successful stint as a Real Madrid’s coach.
Shortly after the end of the press conference, everyone started to speculate who is going to succeed Zidane as the first team coach. While there are some fan-favorite candidates like Mauricio Pochettino, there are plenty of names being thrown around, chief among them is the great José María Gutiérrez Hernández, otherwise known as “Guti”.
Since Guti is being spoken about as a possible candidate, let’s take a look at his managerial career.
Guti is still currently the coach of the most senior Real Madrid youth team – Juvenil A -- where he spent two full years. However, he announced in April 2018 that he will not continue as Juvenil A coach, because he needs to move up to continue his progression.
“My dream is the same as dreams of many managers… to coach Real Madrid” Guti, April 2018
Guti’s first year at Juvenil A was overwhelmingly successful. He won the domestic treble, and he pushed quite a few promising players from Juvenil to the Castilla team. The second year was not as successful, but this can be attributed to a slightly worse pool of players at his disposal. However, it needs to be emphasized that youth teams and coaches should be evaluated mainly based on their titles, even though it might not necessarily be an indicator of how good the coach is.
Style of play
Guti has followed in the modern trend of playing from the back with short passes, occupying the crucial zones on the pitch and winning the ball back high up the pitch. He implemented this style of play at Juvenil A and one must say that it was a success. His players adapted quite quickly to this new style, which was completely different from that of his predecessor Santiago Solari.
Guti was flexible when it comes to formations and shapes. He had no problem adjusting the formation to get the best out of certain players that he felt could carry the team. He experimented with three at the back and variations of a three and four-man midfield.
Guti' Real Madrid Juvenil A team - Model of Play in Advanced Positions pic.twitter.com/F47rUOnsQE— Lee Fletcher (@LeeFleckCoach) November 13, 2016
If I had to highlight one of his weakness, then I would probably mention his in-game management. I do not feel like his substitutions and changes made significant improvements. Yes, there were games (like the UEL knock-out tie against Monaco in 2017) where his changes turned the game around, but, in my opinion, these are rare occurrences.
How would he fit as a first team manager?
This the million dollar question. I don’t think that anyone can really say. There are so many variables and unknown factors, but let’s break down some points. He has some unquestionable advantages over the other potential candidates. He has the status of Real Madrid legend and with that a certain charisma and authority of a former club player. Would that be at the same level as Zidane? I don’t think so. The next thing is that he is well acquainted with the club and he understands the politics and the importance of Madridismo. He is universally adored by Madridistas and he wouldn’t have to prove his loyalty to the club.
However, the crucial question is, will he be able to transfer his skills and motivational ability from the youth team to the biggest team in world football? Will he not crumble under the heavy spotlight of being the first team coach?
Yes, I can see the argument many are ready to make – ‘Zidane / Guardiola did it’. Well, I’m naturally a reserved person and take a more realistic view of these situations. Those two instances are unique. They are both unicorns, and it’s unlikely to happen again. And it’s even less possible to happen right after Zidane did it. The odds are not in his favour.
I think it would a massive gamble to appoint Guti straight from the Juvenil team. He said that he has offers from abroad, so let him take that challenge and come back in the future. He could potentially lead Madrid one day, but I’m worried that he would be rushed and it could severely damage his career should he fail.
I love you Guti, but please, sit this one out.