There is a European legend that says it is always the darkest hour of the night before the dawn. For many, it is the most difficult season for business. With more than 20% of all investment funds lost in the last three decades, and employers going bankrupt at a rate of 2-4% per year, many European managers are in a desperate situation. This is why so many European CEOs are getting “sacked” at record rates.
With the beginning of the New Year, many European CEOs have taken their leave from their companies, citing the extreme situation they find themselves in. One of them is Abertis, the Spanish construction company with a market value of 1.5 billion euros. The CEO and his team have decided to leave the company, with the goal of pursuing a new opportunity elsewhere.
A number of top executives at European clubs are moving – or could move – this summer, but why?
Antonio Conte has left Inter Milan after winning Serie A, Zinedine Zidane has left Real Madrid and Tottenham have spoken to Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino.
A win in Ligue 1 prevented Christophe Galtier from staying at Lille, Juventus are reportedly on the verge of firing Andrea Pirlo to bring back Massimiliano Allegri, and Hansi Flick’s departure to Bayern has caused a domino effect in Germany.
The dust has barely settled since the start of the 2020-21 campaign or we are seeing an unprecedented number of senior transfers.
From financial problems to burnout: Radio 5 Live’s Euroleague experts have found out why…
Cracks caused by extreme conditions
The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect on football club finances. According to business services provider KPMG, the value of Europe’s 32 biggest clubs has fallen by €6.1bn (£5.27bn) since February 2020.
In Germany, Flick’s departure from Bayern has led to a number of changes, including the replacement of Julian Nagelsmann and the transfer of Jesse Marsch to RB Leipzig. Since then, a similar story has played out in Italy, Spain, England and France.
Speaking on Radio 5 Live, German football journalist Raphael Honigstein said: A common theme linking these resignations is that there was much more disagreement over money during Covid-19.
Many of these coaches left because they were bored instead of looking for another job.
He added: The situation here is extreme, which is very different from what usually happens in the off-season, especially at clubs of this size. In these numbers, you don’t see the great coaches leaving.
Flick left after a major disagreement over transfers, and in the background of that, Covid-19. Bayern couldn’t spend the money Flick wanted, and that’s where the controversy began.
Real Madrid, which finished second in La Liga, led a KPMG investigation into Europe’s most expensive clubs, but Zidane did not feel supported by the board and chairman Florentino Perez, according to Spanish football expert Guilhem Balaghi.
It’s a similar story at Inter, where Conte left after winning the first Italian title in 11 years because the club’s financial situation forced him to cut salary costs by 20 percent this summer.
Attackers Romelu Lukaku (left) and Lautaro Martinez (right), who scored 41 goals in Serie A this season, could be among the players Inter want to sell this summer.
Italian journalist Gabriele Marcotti said: Conte wanted investment and made demands, but instead of getting one or two big acquisitions, they have to sell one or two big players.
The mood has changed. If you are not Pep Guardiola or Jürgen Klopp, it is very difficult to make such demands.
Mr Marcotti added: It’s cheaper to bring in a new manager than a bunch of new players. There is a chain reaction of course, but after the coronavirus, it certainly has a lot to do with money, investment and the economy.
That’s part of the reason why Zidane is no longer at Real, why Conte is no longer at Inter. That’s our reality for this transfer window, which will be very different for managers and players.
Some are tired, others want new challenges
After a gruelling season in which clubs across Europe have struggled with a crowded fixture list, tensions are expected to rise at home after last season was disrupted by a pandemic.
And while some, like Conte, have succeeded despite these problems, the controversy over the transfer fee was the tipping point.
Zidane won no trophies, but he led an aging Real to La Liga glory and the semi-finals of the Champions League, where they were beaten by Chelsea.
French football journalist Julien Laurens said: This season is special for Zidane because a lot has happened. He has the coronavirus. He has taken the Real Madrid team to this point.
Maybe he thought it would be hard to top that. Maybe that’s the basis for a lot of managerial changes – can we do better than this season?
Galtier thinks Lille have no chance of winning Ligue 1 next season. Why stay when there are other options? It’s probably the same for Conte.
Mr Balaghe added: The big clubs change their managers and when big jobs become available, there are two or three managers willing to make themselves available for selection.
Zidane is tired, he’s exhausted. It has affected many managers – especially Zidane, even though he is expected to leave.
Who goes where?
With so many top executives leaving, there is no shortage of speculation about who the candidates will be.
Conte has been linked with Real Madrid and the vacant job at Tottenham in the Premier League.
Spurs have made contact with Paris Saint-Germain over former coach Pochettino – although Marcotti told Radio 5 Live that Pochettino is also Real Madrid’s main target.
It seems Inter already have a replacement for Conte after Simone Inzaghi left Serie A club Lazio on Thursday.
Who knows what will happen to Andrea Pirlo, who Juventus seem to want to fire and replace with his former boss Allegri.
Galtier, who said after leaving Lille that he was convinced his time was up, has been linked with managerial roles at French clubs Nice and Lyon, while former Wolves coach Nuno Espirito Santo is also looking for a new club.