A dramatic football season reached its conclusion 2 months ago. Before the start of the new season, we look at the top managers in LaLiga, Serie A, and Bundesliga — to assess their performances and what needs to be improved ahead of the next campaign.
Real Madrid | Carlo Ancelotti
Last term, Real Madrid finished second in La Liga behind Atletico Madrid, reached the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey, and made the semi-finals of the Champions League. Los Blancos were two points off Atletico at the end of the campaign, and they actually had a stronger defensive record last term, conceding just 28 times in their 38 matches, but the capital giants, under Zidane, only scored 67 goals, 13 fewer than the 2021-22 campaign. Real Madrid made hard work of their Champions League group last term, only picking up 10 points from six matches, but they did beat Atalanta BC and Liverpool in the knockout rounds before losing 3-1 on aggregate to Chelsea in the semi-finals. Last season, the team were heavily reliant on Benzema for goals, and while the Frenchman has enjoyed another excellent campaign, there has been a much stronger contribution from the players around him, namely Vinicius, who ends the season with 22 goals and 20 assists in 52 appearances in all competitions.
Barcelona | Xavi Hernández
Interestingly, Barcelona finished higher in La Liga this season (2nd) than last (3rd), but they were only seven points behind the champions Atletico Madrid in 2020-21, whereas they finished this term 13 points behind Real Madrid, who won the title at the end of April. The Catalan side scored 85 league goals last term, conceding 38, while this season they scored 68 and conceded 38, so it is not difficult to see where they have struggled. The fact that Aubameyang did not arrive until January but finished as their joint-leading goalscorer with 13 is telling, especially as Messi struck 38 in all competitions last term. Barcelona also won the Copa del Rey last term, in addition to reaching the last-16 stage of the Champions League, so they have performed worse in those two competitions in 2021-22. For many, Xavi’s ceiling is higher than Koeman’s, with the Dutchman arguably achieving all that he could last term; the current head coach can be pleased with his record since arriving, and he is expected to be given time to get things right at Camp Nou.
Atletico Madrid | Diego Simeone
Despite a significant form wobble in the early stage of the calendar year, Atletico Madrid ultimately capitalised on a stunning start to the season to win La Liga in 2020/21. It took them two inspiring comeback triumphs on the final two matchdays to pip cross-city rivals Real Madrid to their first league title in seven years. After a slightly uneventful summer, Atletico will be looking to retain the league title as the 2021/22 La Liga season gets underway next weekend. Diego Simeone has been a polarising figure, depending on which side of the spectrum of liking him you stand. However, the Argentine deserves the credit for his astonishing achievements in Madrid, and not even his ‘haters’ can deny that. Simeone has not turned Atletico into the most entertaining team to watch, but he has made them competitive on multiple fronts. In addition to helping Los Colchoneros establish themselves as a permanent top-four fixture in La Liga over the past decade, El Cholo has been the only one to beat the ‘big two’ to the title in the past 18 years.
Sevilla | Julen Lopetegui
The 2019-20 season went pretty much how Sevilla would have wanted. Under new manager Julen Lopetegui, the Andalusian side qualified for the Champions League and of course, won the Europa League. triumph marked the sixth time Sevilla have won the competition, a record. Going into the new season with no fans, Sevilla would have expected to do better on those performances. Sevilla started their campaign with two back-to-back wins against Cadiz and Levante respectively. However, they immediately ran into turbulence after that. One point from their next four matches left them languishing 16th in the table. Thankfully, the club managed to right the ship quickly by winning five of their next six. That kind of topsy-turvy form was one of the constants for the club this season.
AC Milan | Stefano Pioli
Stefano Pioli’s small squad stunned Serie A by dethroning city rivals Inter as champions with a fantastic finish to the 2021-22 campaign With AC Milan sitting proudly back on top of Serie A, technical director Paolo Maldini declared, “We are here, because we always believed.” Even in the dark days. Even as recently as three years ago, when Stefano Pioli’s side were routed 5-0 by Atalanta. Back then, it felt like it would be a long time before Milan were challenging for titles again, let alone winning them. The club, remember, was still in financial disarray, with Maldini & Co. trying to clean up the mess left behind Milan’s previous owners. However, through a combination of shrewd recruitment and sheer will, the Rossoneri claimed their first Scudetto since 2011 in thrilling fashion, sparking wild scenes of celebration among the club’s long-suffering supporters. Milan had reached the promised land many times before, of course, but rarely had they ever had to travel so far to get there.
Inter | Simone Inzaghi
Although Inter were able to claim both the Supercoppa Italiana and the Coppa Italia (winning both titles against Juventus), they ultimately lost out on defending their Serie A crown finishing two points off in second place behind city rivals AC Milan. Another impactful personality was new manager Simone Inzaghi. The Italian manager left Lazio after Conte departed and did a phenomenal job in his first season in charge. He kept Inter’s formation of 3-5-2, which had worked so well under Conte, but implemented his own style to the way Inter played and it was refreshing to witness. Beyond his successes domestically, the 46-year-old managed to get Inter into the Round of 16 in the Champions League – something Conte could not accomplish in his two-year tenure. His efforts rewarded him claiming trophies Inter were not able to acquire for a long time and this will give him and the squad increased confidence that they can continue collecting silverware next season and beyond.
Napoli | Luciano Spalletti
The early stages of the Napoli season were electric, the first loss of the season coming in week 13. By this point, Luciano Spalletti’s side had put four past both Udinese and Sampdoria as well as coming from behind at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium to beat Juventus. With this being the first season that the stadium was named as such, on top of the iconic duo Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne departing after a long time with the club. the Napoli season got off to a very good start. Injuries to key players led to a decline in results and Spalletti’s men were unable to recover. They secured Champions League football for next season which is certainly exciting. They have a number of players on their hands who are worth a pretty penny so this transfer window promises to be worth keeping an eye on, both for incomings and outgoings. Insigne is a Neapolitan through-and-through so it was an emotional send-off for him and Mertens too. It remains to be seen where the future of the latter lies, meanwhile, the former will be making the move stateside. The legend will be playing for Toronto FC.
Juventus | Massimiliano Allegri
The 2021-2022 season has been Juve’s most disappointing in over a decade. With no trophies, consistently disappointing performances and another embarrassing Champions League exit, the only consolation for the Bianconeri has been securing the fourth spot. The return of Max Allegri was widely regarded as an appointment that would provide The Old Lady with much-needed stability and an opportunity to return to their former winning ways. Instead, what materialised was quite the opposite, leaving many fans increasingly concerned with the immediate future of the team and the route Mister Allegri is taking them down. A big summer and season lie ahead for the former Serie A champions. Max Allegri has divided fans this season. Some are adamant he will get it right and the on-pitch issues are primarily because of player quality. However, it is impossible to ignore the problems the Tuscan tactician has created this term. Above all is the regressive mentality he imposes on the team: negative approach, a distinct lack of authority against any opponent and a playing style that has no fluidity. No one was expecting miracles, but achieving the top four in the way they have whilst losing two cup finals cannot be deemed as anything like a success. It is time for Max to prove the doubters wrong.
Bayern Munich | Julian Nagelsmann
Bayern won the title by 13 points in 2020/21, with Nagelsmann guiding Leipzig to the runners-up spot. When Flick left to take over as head coach of Germany over the summer, his successor sought to become a Bundesliga winner for the first time. A Bavarian who grew up supporting Bayern, Nagelsmann had proven his coaching credentials with Hoffenheim and Leipzig. It’s a different challenge to manage the champions, though, where second best is unacceptable. Nagelsmann had often played a three-man backline at his other clubs, but with Bayern he largely stuck with the 4-2-3-1 formation that worked so well for Flick. It was not all plain sailing, however, as Nagelsmann’s side suffered a shock 4-2 reverse in Bochum on Matchday 22, which preceded a below-par showing in a 1-1 draw in Salzburg in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie, where only a last-gasp Kingsley Coman strike earned them a draw.
Borussia Dortmund | Edin Terzić
Borussia Dortmund have appointed Edin Terzic as their head coach until 2025 following the departure of Marco Rose, the Bundesliga club said in a statement on Monday. Terzic was promoted from assistant coach to interim head coach of Dortmund from December 2020 until May 2021 following the sacking of Lucien Favre — and guided the club to German Cup glory in his final game. Dortmund finished eight points adrift of champions Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, but it was Dortmund’s performances in the Cup competitions — elimination from the Champions League group stage, defeat by Rangers in the Europa League and a shock defeat by St Pauli in the German Cup — that ultimately cost Rose his position and saw Dortmund turn to Terzic. Dortmund also announced their fourth signing of the close season on Monday: Salih Özcan from Cologne. The 24-year-old defensive midfielder follows Niklas Süle, Nico Schlotterbeck and Karim Adeyemi into the club, who are reinvesting in their squad following the high-profile departure of Erling Haaland to Manchester City.
Leverkusen | Gerardo Seoane
There were great celebrations at the end of the season that saw Bayer 04 finish third in the Bundesliga to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League for the thirteenth time. The outcome of an eventful season that had many highlights but also several setbacks for the Werkself. Gerardo Seoane takes over as head coach at the Werkself for the 2021/22 season. The Swiss coach moves under the Bayer Cross after three seasons with the Swiss top-flight club Young Boys Bern having won three league titles and one domestic cup competition. With the arrival of the 43-year-old, there is a modification to the Black and Red style of play that still contains the offensive and proactive Leverkusen DNA but is also more adjusted to the players available, the situation of the opponents as well as Werkself form and future matches. In addition, the approach is strongly focused on the desired result.
RB Leipzig | Domenico Tedesco
RBL began the season in dreadful fashion, losing three of their first four league matches and heading into the midseason break both in 10th place in the league and already eliminated from the Champions League. But Domenico Tedesco both stabilized their defense and further unlocked Nkunku’s potential – 20 of his 35 goals came after the break – and reaped the benefits. RBL won the DFB-Pokal, its first major trophy, and reached the semifinals of the Europa League before an upset loss to Rangers. The transfer window doesn’t close for another month, so we don’t yet know if Laimer will still be sporting a Red Bull logo for this coming season – Nageslmann, his former RBL manager, has expressed a strong desire to acquire his rights, but the club is attempting to hold onto him for one more season – or if RBL will complete a move for the brilliant Raum. Regardless, one key name did not appear on the departures list: Nkunku’s. The 2021-22 Bundesliga player of the year signed a new contract with the club through 2026 and while one assumes the sport’s richest clubs will try even harder to sign him next summer, he will be in Leipzig for 2022-23.