Swansea owner Hew Jenkins goes into tomorrow’s board meeting with the future of the club’s management very much on the agenda.
After The Daily Star claimed that fan favorite Brendan Rodgers had accepted a £90,000 per week deal, it begs the question, does Francesco Guidolin actually have any chance of hanging on to his position as Swansea’s man in charge?
Just weeks ago, emphatic defeats to Leicester and Newcastle meant the Italian’s tenure at the club looked to be doomed with the familiar grin of Rodgers hovering over. However superb recent wins over Liverpool and West Ham have slowly started to turn the tides for the former Udinese manager.
Whilst his influence as yet has been anything but spellbinding, if Jenkins’ decision was judged on resume’s alone then perhaps it would be Guidolin and not Rodgers benefiting from a nifty £90,000 per week pay packet.
Guidolin, who began his management career 28 years ago, has a 97 Coppa Italia as his major honor. He is a respected name in his home country. In fact, only six other managers have managed more Serie A games than him (555 games over 21 years).
He was even was touted as a potential Italy boss before Antonio Conte threw his hat into the ring, and is still one of the names banded around to replace the soon to be Chelsea boss after Euro 2016.
“Two years ago, before Conte became available, I believe that I was very close to the Azzurri bench,” Guidolin commented when speaking to the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
“I like it when people speak highly of me, because I think I’ve done very well in my career. I feel like one of those directors who don’t get the awards in Hollywood, but are loved by a niche audience. I find that gratifying.”
Whilst Guidolin initially grabbed the spotlight on home shores after turning Vicenza from obscurity to Serie A heavyweights in the 1990s, it was with Udinese at the second time of asking that the Italian truly made people stand up and take notice of his management abilities.
His first period in charge at Udinese led to an impressive fourth place finish during the 1998–99 season. A mid table finish the following year led to stints with Bologna, Palermo (twice), Monaco and Parma (for which he gained promotion), all before returning to a struggling ‘Zebrette’ side who had previously finished a disappointing 15th in Serie A.
Guidolin, with the help of such talent as Alexis Sánchez, Kwadwo Asamoah, Antonio Di Natale and Medhi Benatia, guided a team of unpolished diamonds to another fourth placed finish, their highest points tally in their history, with a 2011–12 UEFA Champions League place sealed on the final day of the season.
Celebrations that lead to such charming scene’s as this.
What with the stress that being a top level manager brings, not to mention a self confessed obsessive dedication to his job, Guidolin ended his stint as a manager to begin work for infamous club owners ‘the Pozzo family’ as an advisor, before truly hibernating from the game.
“I wanted to stay for life at Udinese and at times we talked about me doing something different, becoming a sort of ambassador for the Pozzo family but it did not happen. I have now recharged the batteries, have watched games on my own and I have studied the game. At Udinese, perhaps I gave more than I received.”
Funnily enough, the owners passed at the opportunity to install him at their ‘other club’ Watford, instead choosing to gamble on Quique Flores. The next port of call for Guidolin would be Swansea.
Not that his management appointment was greeted by fanfare. In many people’s eyes, the man for the job had just been given the ‘old heave ho’.
In Garry Monk, Swansea believed they had one of England’s truly great young managers.
Previously under Brendan Rodgers, the club finished 11th in their debut Premiership season, and with the Great Dane Michael Laudrup, Swansea finished 9th and also won the League Cup. But Laudrup was controversially axed early in 2014 and replaced by club veteran Monk.
Eyebrows were raised at this decision, as Laudrup had achieved a lot in his short spell at the club, and Monk had no prior managerial experience. Fan reception was immediately raucous though, as Monk guided Swansea to a 3-0 win over bitter rivals Cardiff in his first game.
Monk would go on to establish Swansea as Premiership stalwarts with an impressive 8th place finish, despite losing star striker Wilfried Bony to Manchester City in January.
Fast forward to December 2015 and, despite an encouraging start to the season, Swansea were left perilously above the relegation zone – leading to a rather bizarre sacking of golden boy Monk.
Guidolin was sworn in to expressionless faces of Swansea fans everywhere. Not only were many unfamiliar with the Italian’s work history, there were questions marks over his ability to handle the stresses of an intense relegation scrap and his ability to grasp the English language at such a crucial time.
Perhaps what the Swansea board saw in their new appointment was a man who knew how to get a struggling side back on track, and sharpish.
Swansea strengthened upon his arrival with striker Alberto Paloschi from Chievo and Leroy Fer on loan. At the same time, Swansea discarded the inconsistent Jonjo Shelvey to Newcastle however were weakened to greater effect with the departure of the Jonjo Shelvey to Newcastle, earning the Welsh club a profit of approximately £7 million.
Despite promising early season displays, the form of Andre Ayew and Jefferson Montero deteriorated rapidly. Whilst the Italian saw his side scrape a win over Everton in his first game in charge as Swans manager, the Welsh side didn’t record a victory for the entirety of February – and it wasn’t pretty to watch.
Owner Hew Jenkins, usually a steady hand, was no doubt worrying for his clubs future at this stage following his huge gamble on Monk.
Since then, Guidolin has done his chances of holding on to the job the world of good, with a recent spout of wins making his overall record look rather impressive, seven wins and three draws from his 14 games in charge.
Whilst admittedly many of the Swans’ best displays since Guidolin’s arrival came when club legend Alan Curtis was at the helm, it’s not too bad considering the dire straights the team was in upon his arrival.
“He (Guidolin) has brought exactly what he thought he would bring to us,” said Jenkins speaking to the BBC recently.
“He has brought in a bit of common sense and a bit of simplicity, as well as experience.
“I don’t think those simple things are highlighted enough in the modern world of football.”
Sure, the two recent wins over Chelsea and Liverpool were against under strength teams with other things on their mind (the beach in Chelsea’s case), a 4-1 Upton Park win against Champions League chasers West Ham however was undeniably impressive.
For once, the Welsh side strayed away from unconvincing defensive sensibilities that have so far this season become a staple of Guidolin’s reign, instead the visiting fans could be delighted with fast incisive attacking football, the same style he had demanded from his Udinese side 5 years prior. Of course his former employers weren’t just devastating attackers, they were first and foremost difficult to beat. Perhaps this has been too much of a focus up till now.
Whilst Swansea City are set to be taken over by American investors in a stunning deal worth up to £100m, Welsh chairman Jenkins will still remain the man in the driving seat when it comes to club decisions.
And one very large factor when it comes to deciding who will be in charge of Swansea next season will be who exactly Jenkins trusts with the new investors money.
This is one area that Guidolin will surely get the benefit of the doubt ahead of any other potential suitors. The former Udinese man isn’t prone to spending large amounts to get songs out of his sides.
Under the Italians stewardship, world class players such as Andrea Barzagli and Edinson Cavani were brought into Palermo for next to nothing. Not only that, but he’s proved to be an expert in nurturing young talented players including the likes Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, in which he blossomed when paired with the experience of Di Natale at Udinese, and Bayern Munich’s star center-half Medhi Benatia, who likewise got first team exposure under Guidolin.
Whilst the management merry-go-round shows no sign of being any less cruel, surely Guidolin should expect at least one full transfer window to shape a raggedy side, one with much dead wood, into one that is truly in his own image
After all, he’s done far more with far less.
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