As the dominance of Leo Messi continues as the world’s greatest footballer, the shortlist of players nominated for the FIFA Ballon d’or seems to become more peculiar and lazily selected every year, with several players overlooked in favour of less impressive, but more famous names. This year though, the most shocking omissions were on the 10 man shortlist for FIFA’s World Coach of the Year, with some even more shocking inclusions in their place.
The following men were nominated for the award: Carlo Ancelotti, Rafael Benítez, Antonio Conte, Vicente Del Bosque, Sir Alex Ferguson, Jupp Heynckes, Jürgen Klopp, José Mourinho, Luiz Felipe Scolari and Arsène Wenger.
Carlo Ancelotti may have become one of few men to have won league titles in three different countries, but the given the standard of competition his PSG side faced in Ligue 1, anything but 1st place would’ve constituted a terrible failure. Wenger’s Arsenal may have had a great calendar year so far (domestically) but have won nothing – except 4th place of course. And even our own Jose Mourinho himself said that the 2012-13 season was the worst of his entire career.
These were my top 10 coaches of 2013:
1. Jupp Heynckes – After so narrowly and painfully missing out on all three major trophies in 2012 (not painfully for us of course), in what would turn about to be the final year of his management career, Heynckes led his Bayern Munich team to outstanding and historic treble win, creating one the most complete club sides of all time. The Bavarians defeated Spanish and Italian champions Barcelona and Juventus, 7-0 and 4-0 respectively (on aggregate) in the knockout stages of the Champions League, before beating Borussia Dortmund in the final. It was the league campaign that was truly remarkable however, as he claimed the Bundesliga in record time, with record points and with a record gap ahead of 2nd place. Heynckes is the certain winner FIFA’s award.
2. Antonio Conte – Although the Italian’s Juventus side have lost much of that winning aura that pervaded their unbeaten league win in 2012, Conte’s side were fantastic in the latter half of last season, going on to retain the title by a comfortable margin. The 4-0 defeat to Bayern in the quarter finals of the Champions League was a disappointment. But on the whole, Conte has created one of the most impressive, ruthless and disciplined sides in the modern era of Italian football. And this season, he could lead Juventus to a third consecutive title for the first time since the 1930’s!
3. Diego Simeone – By far and away the most incredible omission from the official list is the man who has finally managed to break the overwhelming duopoly of Spanish football, with La Liga looking very much like a three horse race so far this season. Despite the small budget and the loss of superstar striker Radamel Falcao, the Argentine’s Atletico Madrid have been one of the most tenacious and well organised sides in Europe for the last couple of years and are only continuing to improve. His victory over Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabeu last May was the biggest win in the clubs history for seriously long time and was Atletico’s first win over their rivals since the 1990’s!
4. Jurgen Klopp – Despite not winning anything for the first time in three years, 2013 was the year Jurgen Klopp announced himself as one of the most talented and exciting managerial talents in Europe. In spite of having lost several big names over the last few years, the German’s coaching and recruitment has continued to develop and improve this Borussia Dortmund side, who at times were technically stunning last year, most significantly in their 4-1 battering of Real Madrid.
5. Vincenzo Montella – Another baffling absence from the official shortlist was Vincenzo Montella, the young Italian coach who was appointed to lead a revolution at Fiorentina, who sold and replaced almost 80% of their squad in the summer of 2012. Whilst many anticipated a lengthy transition period, La Viola were incredible from the beginning, finishing 4th in the Serie A, agonisingly close behind AC Milan. They also played arguably the most proactive and entertaining football in Europe, sometimes fielding up to 5 attacking/creative midfielders at a time.
6. Sir Alex Ferguson – There was a feeling in England when Manchester Utd won the Premier League in May, that they did so by default, with everybody else just being too bad. David Moyes’ struggles this year however show just how impressive Sir Alex’s final season was, as he dominated the league with arguably the most average Manchester Utd side he had coached for years. Weak in defence, no first choice goalkeeper until November, a total dearth of quality in midfield and totally reliant on Robin Van Persie upfront. The Scot’s 13th PL title was never in doubt.
7. Luiz Felipe Scolari – Taking over from Mano Menezes last year, the former Brazil coach found himself with a team lacking any sort of identity and turning out purposeless performances in pointless arranged and stupidly located friendly matches. Fast forward to now and Brazil look genuine contenders for their home World Cup next summer. Having put his faith in younger players like Paulinho and the brilliant Oscar, the 2002 World Cup winner pieced together an impressive looking side in virtually no time at all and managed to humble Spain in the Confederations Cup final with a dominant 3-0 victory.
8. Philippe Montanier – The Frenchman’s decision to leave Spain this summer and join French side Rennes was extremely surprising, given how fantastically he had overachieved with Real Sociedad last season. The unfancied Basque side were brilliant to watch all year, playing some amazing high pressing, counter attacking football. Montanier managed to get the best out of players like Carlos Vela, Antoine Griezmann and club icon Xabi Prieto in securing an extremely well deserved Champions League place. Another shocking exclusion by FIFA.
9. Stephen Keshi – Keshi’s victory with Nigeria at the African Cup of Nations earlier this year was arguably the finest individual managerial achievement of 2013. His ability to take a team with only a couple of truly gifted players and make them a solid and cohesive unit was impressive enough. But have done so whilst dealing with the competing political interests in Nigerian football and tribal divides and corruption, qualifies his success as truly outstanding.
10. Rafael Benitez – Finally, 2013 was by no means a vintage year in the career of Rafa Benitez, who spent the first few months of it being despised by his own club’s fan base. A large percentage of Chelsea fans probably never appreciated just what a good job he did for us, securing third place and a major European trophy, whilst under the rather demeaning title of ‘interim manager’. His work so far this season at Napoli has been hugely impressive also as he looks set to fight out an exciting three horse race with Roma and Juventus for the title.