David Moyes' return seems imminent, but his decision requires diligence
The dilemma of the out-of-work coach: do you take the first challenge that comes along? Or do you wait in the hope of something bigger, or better-suited, or better-paid, without knowing what, when or even if that job may ever come along?
This is where David Moyes, the ex-Manchester United coach who said in an interview with the BBC last month that he was ready to return to coaching, is now. The Scot has been in the running to replace Jagoba Arrasate at La Liga bottom dweller Real Sociedad, and club chairman Jokin Aperribay confirmed that the pair met to talk things over.
No appointment has been made yet, but the longer things drag on – and with La Real up against champion Atletico Madrid at the weekend, the new man will likely be confirmed next week – the less likely it seems that Moyes will be in charge.
This was not his first flirtation with La Liga: before Josu Urrutia was elected president of Athletic Bilbao in 2011, he was said to be on the ticket of standing president Fernando Garcia Macua. (Instead, Urrutia appointed Marcelo Bielsa, who led Athletic to the 2013 Europa League final – so it worked out just fine.) Spanish reports have suggested Moyes asked for too much money, with Arrasate on a reported €300,000 annual salary, less than 10 percent of what Moyes was reportedly earning at Old Trafford.
|MUFC Through 10 Games||MOYES||VAN GAAL|
|RECORD||5-3-2 (17 points, 8th place, 7 points behind first)||3-3-4 (13 points, 10th place, 13 points behind first)|
But it cuts both ways and perhaps also this challenge did not convince Moyes: after all, La Real have won only once this season, in a crazy come-from-behind 4-2 win over Real Madrid. The club may be financially sound after selling Asier Illaramendi and Antoine Griezmann in recent years, but its players are in a relegation scrap this season, and losing it is a risk Moyes cannot afford to take.
If nothing else, this week has focused Moyes’ mind on the next opportunity and it might also help us answer one question about him: where does he see himself as a coach?
“I always had the hope of being coach abroad,” Moyes told France Football in a May 2013 interview. “If I had the choice, I would go probably Germany. In part because of the mentality, which is similar to mine. How can I explain? Direct, a worker.”
The last time a British coach flopped on the big stage, he kept a low profile and then returned to the job abroad before coming back to England. That was Steve McClaren, who followed up failure to qualify England for Euro 2008 by winning the Dutch title with FC Twente, then an ill-fated spell at Wolfsburg before returning to coach Derby County, currently fourth place in the Championship, one division below the Premier League.
Moyes may fit the profile of a club like Aston Villa or a West Brom, who dream of a coach that can help a team overachieve with its budget restraints, but the Real Sociedad link does tell us that he is prepared to think about taking a job outside of England, where there will be less media attention on every decision he takes.
What are the chances of a job in Germany, then? The clubs behind Bayern Munich in the league are happy with their coaches – Borussia Moenchengladbach with Lucien Favre and Bayer Leverkusen with Roger Schmidt, even Borussia Dortmund with Jurgen Klopp – while Wolfsburg took a chance on McClaren after his Twente adventure and that did not work out. It would not risk a repeat of that.
Further down the table, Eintracht Frankfurt under Thomas Schaaf and Stuttgart under Armin Veh (last three results: 3-3, 4-5, 0-4) could find themselves under pressure soon. Would either of those clubs be a good fit for Moyes? As German-based football writer Bernard Reeves said: “The ethos of club football in Germany would definitely suit Moyes. He has always produced hard-working and hard-running teams, of which there are plenty already, and ones that still play 4-4-2, which he did so well at Everton.”
There was a link to Inter Milan, though it’s significant that this came from English reports and not Italian ones. Current coach Walter Mazzarri reportedly has two games to save his job, although the price of paying out his contact, around €10 million, could deter owner Erick Thohir from pulling the plug. Inter fans want Walter Zenga, while ex-players Sinisa Mihajlovic, currently at Sampdoria, and Diego Simeone, of Atletico, would be end-of-season targets.
It would be in keeping with Moyes’ character that he would not enter any job negotiations as long as the current boss is still in place. If nothing else, the Real Sociedad link has allowed Moyes to benchmark any future positions. He can earn better money elsewhere, sure, and maybe compete higher up the table. But those two criteria also mean more focus and more pressure. Nothing will be like Manchester United for him.
In that respect, he will have it easy. But he cannot wait for too long, and he knows it.