With the 2018/19 season upon us, here’s a run-through of the 20 men who’ll be looking to lead their teams to glory in LaLiga Santander this season.
There’ll be nine new coaches in the hot seat this campaign (Eduardo Berizzo, Antonio Mohamed, Rubi, Eusebio Sacristan, Leo Franco, Mauricio Pellegrino, Julen Lopetegui, Asier Garitano and Pablo Machin), some of which will be managing in LaLiga Santander for the very first time.
Ernesto Valverde returns for his second season in charge of Barcelona looking to defend the LaLiga title, with Diego Simeone (Atletico Madrid) and Lopetegui (Real Madrid) looking to close the gap at the top.
Elsewhere, Quique Setien is also back for a second campaign at Real Betis, fresh from securing the club’s best top-flight finish (6th) in over a decade, while Jose Luis Mendilibar (Eibar) and Jose Bordalas (Getafe) will be hoping to take their sides that one step further and secure a European qualification spot.
Deportivo Alaves - Abelardo Fernandez, 48, Spanish
Former Sporting Gijon, Barcelona and Spain defender Abelardo won two LaLiga titles during his time at the Camp Nou. The Asturian coached home-town club Sporting from 2014-17, securing promotion from LaLiga 123 in 2016 before impressively guiding Alaves to safety after taking over the Basque side half-way through the 2017/18 campaign.
Athletic Club - Eduardo Berizzo, 48, Argentine
A defender with Celta Vigo and Argentina as a player, Berizzo returned to Balaidos as head coach in 2014. In 2015/16 he guided Celta to Europa League qualification and the Copa del Rey semi-finals. His spell at Sevilla in 2017/18 was marked by a successful battle against prostate cancer, allowing him to replace Jose Angel Ziganda the summer at San Mames.
Atletico Madrid - Diego Simeone, 48, Argentine
A winner of the LaLiga title with Atletico in 1995/96, Simeone took charge of his former club in December 2011. He has since guided them to the 2013/14 LaLiga title, as well as victories in the Europa League [2012 and 2018], European Supercup , Copa del Rey  and Spanish Supercopa . Simeone is now the second longest-serving coach in the club’s history - with 250 LaLiga games to the end of 2017/18.
FC Barcelona - Ernesto Valverde, 54, Spanish
A winger with Espanyol, Athletic Club and Barcelona as a player, Valverde has now coached at all three of those LaLiga clubs - as well as at Villarreal, Valencia and Greek side Olympiakos. Valverde won the 2017/18 LaLiga and Copa del Rey double in his first season in charge at the Camp Nou, and has to date coached a total of 385 LaLiga games across his career.
Celta Vigo - Antonio Mohamed, 48, Argentina
A former Argentina international midfielder, Mohamed played most of his club football in Mexico, where he also began his coaching career. He has since won trophies in both Argentina and Mexico, where his most recent club was Monterrey. ‘El Turco’ was appointed to replace Juan Carlos Unzue for Celta’s 2017/18 campaign.
SD Eibar - Jose Luis Mendilibar, 57, Spanish
A former midfielder with Basque lower league side Sestao River, Mendilibar is now a veteran of over 300 LaLiga games in charge of Athletic Bilbao, Valladolid, Osasuna, Levante and current club Eibar. His third season in charge last year brought the top flight’s smallest club’s highest ever finish of ninth.
RCD Espanyol - Rubi, 48, Spanish
Joan Francesc Ferrer - known as Rubi - is a former lower division player with various Catalan clubs. After spells in charge at Girona and Real Valladolid in LaLiga 1l2l3, and Levante and Sporting Gijon in LaLiga Santander, in 2017/18 he guided Huesca to a first ever promotion to the top division. In June 2018 he was named to replace Quique Sanchez Flores as Espanyol coach.
Getafe CF - Jose Bordalas, 54, Spanish
Bordalas began his coaching career early, after injury cut short his playing career at 28. After two decades of experience with various clubs in Spanish football’s second and third tiers, the Alicante-native moved from Alcorcon to suburban Madrid neighbours Getafe in summer 2017, and had an excellent first LaLiga season at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.
Girona FC - Eusebio Sacristan, 54, Spanish
Eusebio made over 500 LaLiga appearances as a player, patrolling the midfield with Valladolid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Celta Vigo, winning four LaLiga titles when at Barca. After beginning his coaching career in the Camp Nou youth system, he had spells in charge of Celta and Real Sociedad, before being appointed this summer at Girona.
SD Huesca - Leo Franco, 41, Argentine
A former goalkeeper with the Argentina national team, Franco kept goal for LaLiga clubs Merida, Mallorca, Atletico Madrid and Real Zaragoza before spending the 2015/16 season with Huesca in LaLiga 1l2l3. He has now returned to El Alcoraz for his first senior coaching job, replacing last year’s promotion-winning boss Rubi.
CD Leganes - Mauricio Pellegrino, 46, Argentine
Ex-Argentina centre-back Pellegrino played in LaLiga with Barcelona, Valencia and Alaves, winning the 2002 and 2004 LaLiga titles during his time at Mestalla. He has coached at Valencia and Alaves, as well in the Premier League with Southampton, before returning to LaLiga with Leganes this summer.
Levante UD - Paco Lopez, 50, Spanish
Former Levante youth team coach Lopez did a superb job on taking charge of the senior side late in the 2017/18 campaign, winning seven of ten games to ensure safety from relegation. His playing career included spells at Valencia and Levante, while he has also coached in the youth systems at Valencia and Villarreal.
Rayo Vallecano - Michel, 42, Spanish
Miguel Angel Sanchez Muñoz - known as Michel - was a midfielder who spent most of his career at Rayo, making 178 LaLiga appearances in total. He took over as coach at Vallecas in February 2017, and guided the team to the LaLiga 1l2l3 title in his first full season in charge.
Real Betis - Quique Setien, 59, Spanish
An intelligent midfielder as a player, Setien made over 200 LaLiga appearances as a player with hometown club Racing Santander, Atletico Madrid and Logroñes. After spells in charge of Racing and Lugo in LaLiga 1l2l3, he impressed many during 18 months at Las Palmas in LaLiga Santander. He then guided Betis to sixth place and Europa League qualification last term.
Real Madrid - Julen Lopetegui, 51, Spanish
Lopetegui made almost 100 LaLiga appearances as a goalkeeper at Real Madrid, Logrones, Barcelona and Rayo Vallecano, before starting his coaching career in the Bernabeu youth system. After success with Spain’s international underage sides between 2010 and 2014, he spent 18 months at Portuguese club Porto, then took over the Spanish national team in 2016 before succeeding Zinedine Zidane in the Real Madrid dugout.
Real Sociedad - Asier Garitano, 48, Spanish
Garitano made his name by guiding suburban Madrid side Leganes from the third tier to a first-ever promotion to LaLiga Santander in 2016. 2017/18 brought a famous Copa del Rey victory over neighbours Real Madrid, before Basque native Garitano moved north to take over Real Sociedad last summer.
Real Valladolid - Sergio Gonzalez, 41, Spanish
A long LaLiga career saw Sergio play almost 400 games in midfield for Espanyol, Deportivo La Coruña and Levante and win 11 caps for Spain before returning to his first club as coach in August 2014. An immediate success on taking over at Valladolid last April, he won eight of 12 games as the Castilian side secured promotion to LaLiga Santander through the play-offs.
Sevilla FC - Pablo Machin, 43, Spanish
After beginning his coaching career at Numancia, Machin came to prominence by guiding Girona to promotion to LaLiga in 2017, then securing a very impressive 10th place in the Catalan club’s first ever top-flight season. He took over at Sevilla last summer, with veteran Joaquin Caparros moving upstairs to become the club’s sporting director.
Valencia CF - Marcelino Garcia Toral, 52, Spanish
Marcelino played with hometown club Sporting Gijon, Racing Santander, Levante and Elche before beginning his coaching career in Sporting’s youth system, then first team in 2003. He has since coached Recreativo de Huelva, Racing [twice], Real Zaragoza, Sevilla, Villarreal and Valencia, who he guided to fourth spot and a return to the Champions League last season.
Villarreal CF - Javier Calleja, 40, Spanish
A former midfielder who made over 200 LaLiga appearances for Villarreal, Malaga and Osasuna, Calleja began his coaching career in the Villarreal youth system in 2015. He was promoted to take over the first team in September 2017, ending his first term in charge with qualification for next season’s Europa League.
A fresh LaLiga season has arrived and the new campaign begins with an explosive match-up between Valencia and Atlético Madrid – the teams that finished fourth and second respectively in 2017/18 – on Monday evening.
Following a summer of significant investment, Diego Simeone’s Rojiblancos have been tipped by many as a serious candidate to lift the LaLiga Santander trophy next May and they’ll have to overcome a significant hurdle at Mestalla, where a revamped Valencia squad await. Bringing three points back to the capital will be a tough ask but Atlético came through a similarly tricky test in the opening round of their triumphant 2013/14 campaign, when Diego Costa led them to a 3-1 victory away at Sevilla.
Two teams hoping that Los Colchoneros fail to win their 11th league championship are Barcelona and Real Madrid and they both have the benefit of launching their title bids at home. Champions Barcelona will take on Alavés under the Camp Nou floodlights at 22:15 CEST on Saturday evening, before Real
Madrid welcome neighbours Getafe to the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu 24 hours later.
The weekend’s action and, in fact, the season as a whole gets underway in Girona at 20:15 CEST on Friday, when year’s surprise package host newly promoted Real Valladolid, who won promotion through the LaLiga 1l2l3 play-offs last term. That’s followed by some further Friday night football as Europe-bound Real Betis tackle Levante, who’ll look to carry their incredible end-of-season form (eight wins from their final 11 matches last season) into this year’s competition.
Celta Vigo and Espanyol both begin life under their new coaches, Antonio Mohamed and Rubi, respectively, in Saturday’s first game after very different pre-seasons. The Galician outfit didn’t win any of their five friendlies, while the team from the Catalan capital won all six of theirs.
There’s another tasty clash on Saturday evening as two teams who’ll aspire to qualify for Europe meet, with Villarreal hosting Real Sociedad. There were nine goals and one victory each from their two meetings last season, so this is a fixture worth tucking into.
Early Sunday evening sees the other two newly promoted teams make their entrance, with Huesca visiting Eibar for their first ever top-flight game. Just as the Basque side did in 2014, Huesca won their first ever promotion to LaLiga last season and will be the 63rd club to compete in the top division of Spanish football when the ball gets rolling at Ipurua.
That match is followed by Rayo Vallecano’s return to LaLiga, as they host a Sevilla side that will have played a Europa League qualifier in Lithuania on the Thursday evening beforehand. The side from the Madrid suburbs haven’t beaten Sevilla in their past nine attempts, but they’d love to make it 10th time lucky this weekend.
It’s then up to Athletic Club and Leganés to wrap up this opening weekend in the late slot on Monday night, an interesting dessert to the feast that Valencia vs Atlético promises to be.
Well-placed FNR sources believe deals for Japanese legend Honda and returning Socceroo Maclaren could both be wrapped up in the coming days.
Reigning A-League champions Melbourne Victory look set to make a huge splash in the transfer market, with the acquisition of two high-profile players in the same week.
Kevin Muscat is reportedly keen to strengthen his squad after Leroy George, Besart Berisha, and Rhys Williams all departed during the off-season.
The funding for Honda’s contract will likely be provided, at least in part, by the $3 million marquee player fund provided to FFA by Fox Sports.
Maclaren’s deal, however, will have to come under the cap, as fellow Socceroo James Troisi is already on marquee wages.
The 24-year-old striker is at crossroads at his German Bundesliga II club SV Darmstadt 98, for whom he made just 7 substitute appearances last season without scoring a single goal.
His loan spell at Hibernian proved far more fruitful, with 8 goals in 15 games, including a hat trick against Rangers on the final day of the season.
Honda, meanwhile, is currently uncontracted after a spell in Mexico with Pachuca.
The realisation Australia will never see Tim Cahill don the Socceroos jersey and box the corner flag begins to creep in following the announcement of his International retirement.
Cahill officially announced the news dressed in all black, during a sombre yet celebratory farewell fit for a player of his status.
In the eyes of many, Cahill is Australia’s greatest ever footballer.
Five goals in four World Cups, an Asian Cup triumph and the title of Australia’s greatest ever goal scorer among many other accolades certainly justifies this tag.
Socceroos teammate and long-time friend of Cahill, Archie Thompson, believes Cahill was a great ambassador for the sport and will continue to do so through his off-field leadership.
“What he’s done is unbelievable, no one has worn the Australian jersey like he has,” Thompson said exclusively to FNR.
“He’s a leader and just seems to get the team up and going, and that’s what’s going to be missed.”
While Cahill was not the most technically gifted player according to Thompson, his determination and will to succeed was instrumental in putting Australia where it is on the football landscape.
“Timmy may not have had the skills of the other players, but he utilised what he did have and is what made him a star,” Thompson added.
Cahill’s retirement exacerbates concerns in relation to Australia’s ability to score, with Cahill perpetually coming to the side’s rescue even in the latter stages of his career, but the 38-year-old was confident in his press conference of the talent at hand.
Thompson labels Cahill’s off-field work with the next crop of strikers as “outstanding”, believing Cahill will continue to work with the national team in some capacity following his retirement.
“He’s got very big shoes to fill and I don’t see anyone doing it just yet, but we have an Asian Cup coming up and hopefully we have someone stepping up then.”
Thompson revealed he first met Cahill in 2002 and set the record straight as to who created the famous corner flag celebration.
“Because he’s fresh out of playing he did, but really I did,” Thompson concluded.
Thompson first used the celebration after scoring a goal against Jamaica, which caught the eye of Cahill who asked if he could take it to the English Premier League.
Evenings on FNR airs daily from 6-8pm (AEST) on FNR_Football Nation Radio.
Liverpool are set to break the bank to attract Roma goalkeeper Alisson, who may be the missing piece to Jurgen Klopp’s master plan.
According to the Liverpool Echo, the Reds have launched a £62 million bid, which if accepted would be the highest transfer fee for a goalkeeper.
Alisson would likely replace current goalkeeper Loris Karius, who was regarded by many as Liverpool’s biggest liability after making many embarrassing errors last season.
The 25 year-old kept 17 clean sheets in the 2017-18 Serie A campaign, and is contracted to Roma until June 2021.
The Italian club have listened to offers from Liverpool, and FNR’s Adriano Del Monte believes that he will replicate that form in the EPL next season.
“He was the best goalkeeper in Italy, and there’s no doubt he’ll do the same in the Premier League,” Del Monte said during Afternoons on FNR.
Klopp’s attacking style surfaced domestically and continentally last season as a result of a heavy focus towards recruiting playmakers and proven goal scorers, but while Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino formed the most dangerous attacking pair, the same praise could not be directed towards Liverpool’s defence.
The acquisition of Alisson, following Virgil Van Dijk’s arrival and Dejan Lovren’s discovery of form, would ease concerns over the side’s capability to defend and projects their title credentials both domestically and continentally.
“[Liverpool] have done it before with Van Dijk, and you can argue it paid off and got them to a Champions League final”, Rick D’Andrea said during Afternoons on FNR.
“They now have to break the bank in the area that cost the team the most”
In addition to the existing core group, Klopp has since added Guinean midfielder Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri, a strategic acquisition that surprised many.
Klopp has so far excelled at crafting a team capable of winning silverware, as the Reds took a giant step last season finishing in the top four and progressing to the final of the UEFA Champions League.
Alisson’s arrival would make Liverpool one of the most balanced sides in England, especially if Lovren and Van Djik continue to build on their form.
Phillipe Coutinho aside, Klopp has succeeded in maintaining a core group of players at a club that are expected to go one step further next season.
90,000 fans packed under the Eiffel Tower elatedly rejoiced as teen sensation Kylian Mbappe put the nail in the coffin and secured France’s second World Cup in twenty years.
Interestingly, the final perfectly reflected what was unexpectedly one of the greatest World Cup’s in history.
France stuck true to form and opened the match the way they did the tournament, courtesy of an own goal and VAR intervention.
It was only fitting VAR would rear it’s either beautiful or ugly head in a match as significant as this.
The six goals perfectly epitomised the multitude of goals scored and Kylian Mbappe continued to make the spotlight his own.
Croatia’s ardour which gained them global support surfaced as Ivan Perisic netted a well worked set-piece goal which would have made Gareth Southgate proud.
Daniel Subasic reflected this fervour between the sticks on one leg after eight hours of football in a fortnight and Hugo Lloris gave a shout out to the various goalkeeping blunders when he failed to get past Mario Mandzukic in the six-yard box.
The only outlier was Paul Pogba who reminded everyone of his worth when he scored France’s third and took the responsibility of trolling English fans on social media afterwards.
There was an extra element of caution for France who had fallen at this hurdle two years ago on home soil and like the Euros had the ultimate underdogs standing in their way.
But this didn’t faze the favourites. Not on this night.
This was a French side with Mbappe on one wing, Griezmann on the other and one N’Golo Kante dictating play in the middle and while the French failed to set the world alight each player consistently fulfilled a role.
One of these players, Benjamin Pavard was the unsung hero in France’s triumph. A centre back playing at right back was always going to leave the door open for pacey wingers but Pavard made the position his own, so much so a fit Benjamin Mendy would have struggled to break into the squad.
The Croatians can hold their heads equally as high due to the significant funding the Croatian FA will receive allowing for an improvement in infrastructure at a grassroots level and opening the door for future golden generations.
Russia 2018 had a profound impact on the football landscape, one which has fans screaming ‘Bring on Qatar 2022.’
Russia has started its FIFA World Cup campaign recording a 5-0 victory against Saudi Arabia in front of a partisan Moscow crowd at the Luzhniki Stadium.
The result ranking as the second greatest opening match margin in World Cup history, sitting second behind Italy’s 7-1 win against the US in 1934.
Albeit the result is the greatest since the introduction of the Group Stage in the tournament.
Head coach Stanislav Cherchesov's will be hailed as a tactical genius after two of his substitutes found the back of the net and sealed three valuable points for the host nation.
Russia upheld the trend set by the many host nations before them by claiming maximum points in the opening match and temporarily muting the local media’s castigation towards them.
Four years of anticipation was met by a vibrant opening ceremony headlined by Robbie Williams who blasted his greatest hits and flipped inappropriate gestures to the camera while thousands in attendance sung along.
As the Argentinian referee commenced proceedings the added expectation of opening the tournament was evident as misplaced passes were aplenty.
Saudi Arabia sought to frustrate the hosts by maintaining a majority of possession in their defensive half but a lack of drive and offensive movement ultimately contributed to their fall, failing to register a clear attempt on goal.
The Russians hit the scoreboard early by capitalising on poor marking from the Saudi defence as Aleksandr Golovin combined with an unmarked Yuri Gazinskiy at the back post for the opening goal.
In response to this poor defensive display Russia pounced on spilled passes in midfield and looked to punish on the counter.
The home side were dealt an unfortunate blow midway through the first half as Alan Dzagoev was forced off with a hamstring injury which could see him sit out for the remainder of the tournament.
The 27 year-old was replaced by a spritely Denis Cheryshev who exacerbated Saudi Arabia’s woes by moving past two sliding defenders in the box before converting his nation’s second goal after an impressive build up right on the cusp of half time.
Staring down the barrel of an embarrassing defeat the visitors started the second stanza as they did the first.
Saudi Arabia’s best chance coming in the 55th minute when a ball swung in by Yahya Al Shehri bypassing star talisman Mohammed Al Sahlawi who mistimed his shot.
The hosts were able to put the tie to bed when Cherchesov's second substitute Artem Dzyuba scored Russia’s third with his first touch. Dzyuba heading truly past Saudi goalkeeper Abdulla Al-Mayoof from another cross hit with precision by Golovin.
From here the Russian’s let their hair down and enjoyed the remainder of the contest by playing with great confidence and giving a vocal home crowd something to enjoy.
Cheryshev added to his tally late in the match with an early contender for goal of the tournament, striking the ball with the outside of his boot on the half volley which sailed into the top corner.
But the home side were not done there.
The were intent on sending a message to their more fancied Group A opponents.
A 94th minute free kick from Golovin, who was the man of the match, the icing on a famous victory which has put the host nation in a very good position ahead of two arduous matches against Egypt and Uruguay.
Russia’s campaign off to the perfect start while plenty of questions raised as to Saudi Arabia’s defensive capability.
Former World Cup winner Alvaro Arbeloa believes Spain has a “good mix” of experience heading into the FIFA World Cup.
Only six of Spain’s 2010 World Cup winning squad remain and according to Arbeloa the players still have the same hunger they did in South Africa to win the tournament.
“Spain has players who have won the tournament already but there are also many young players with lots of talent,
“They all want to win that trophy and it’s not easy but I think the team has the elements to fight for the cup,” Arbeloa said.
Spain has been drawn into Group B along with Portugal, Morocco and Iran.
Arbeloa was part of the Spanish squad which won the 2010 FIFA World Cup as well as the 2008 and 2012 UEFA European Championships and told FNR_Football Nation Radio while there was a lot of talent, the team also had luck on their side.
“We had an amazing generation but we were also lucky,
“If you want to win a World Cup or a European Cup you need to play your best and you need to be very lucky,” Arbeloa said.
Football Extra airs every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 6pm (AEST) hosted by Joshua Parish on FNR_Football Nation Radio.
Former Socceroo Mark Bresciano believes some of Pim Verbeek’s decisions against Germany in the 2010 FIFA World Cup were “poor.”
Bresciano admits not featuring in Australia’s opening match against Germany “left a bitter taste in [his] mouth.”
The 4-0 loss to Germany proved to be detrimental to Australia’s chances of progressing out of the group stage with the team ultimately being denied the opportunity due to a poor goal difference.
“I just thought some of [Verbeek’s] decisions were poor in leaving certain players out of that game considering it was our most important game,” Bresciano said.
2010 was the first time the World Cup had ever been to Africa and Bresciano believes the atmosphere did not feel right.
“I didn’t even classify it as a World Cup, it didn’t even feel like one,” Bresciano said.
Despite Australia not progressing out of the group stage, Bresciano told FNR_Football Nation Radio he is still proud of how the squad performed.
“A lot of people saw it as a failure but we didn’t do too badly considering we had a new coach and a different team to 2006,” Bresciano said.
Bresciano was also involved in the 2014 World Cup squad which finished bottom of their group under then new head coach Ange Postecoglou.
Football Q&A airs every Wednesday from 5pm (AEST) hosted by David Davutovic on FNR_Football Nation Radio.
Former Socceroo Vince Grella believes Brazil felt “uncomfortable” playing against Australia during their 2006 FIFA World Cup Group match.
Despite losing the match 2-0 Grella says the Socceroos “frustrated the life out of [Brazil]” and admits the Socceroos should have gotten more out of the match.
Both of Brazil’s goals came from counter attacks, something Grella says was uncharacteristic considering “a majority of teams would park the bus against Brazil.”
“We didn’t take our chances and that’s the difference at that level,” Grella said.
Grella was also involved in an incident with Brazil’s Ronaldo during the match to which Grella says he “remembers getting the ball and not being shown a yellow card.”
Grella told FNR_Football Nation Radio he had been motivated by Ronaldo’s comments during the week where the Brazilian said he had never heard of any Australian player.
“I’m hoping after he was icing his shin that maybe he’d remember that name,” Grella said.
Football Q&A airs every Wednesday from 5pm (AEST) hosted by David Davutovic on FNR_Football Nation Radio.