Football: Mourinho sacking sets off Europe-wide coach alert

The spotlight is on Pep Guardiola (left) and Rafa Benitez.
The spotlight is on Pep Guardiola (left) and Rafa Benitez.PHOTOS: AFP, REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - The sacking of Jose Mourinho set off a frantic merry-go-round among Europe's star coaches with the spotlight now falling on Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich and Rafa Benitez at Real Madrid.

Carlo Ancelotti, the only manager to have won the Champions League three times, is also hovering on the market.

But with the lure of Premier League riches growing, Guardiola is to announce on Sunday whether he will be staying at Bayern Munich.

German media say the Spaniard has decided to leave. He has already been linked to Manchester City and Chelsea.

Spanish media have said that Real Madrid in turn could fire Benitez if they lose again soon, adding to the intrigue among Europe's major clubs.

Reports say Madrid players have turned against the 55-year-old Benitez in the same way some did against Mourinho in 2010 and as some Chelsea stars did against him this season.

Madrid have failed to win the league since Mourinho left. Yet club president Florentino Perez said Mourinho would not return for now.

"No one can predict the future, but right now he will not be coming to Madrid," Perez told Spanish radio, while adding: "I have very good memories of Mourinho, he lifted our competitive level a lot. It wasn't a dark period for the club as with him we returned to where we belong."

Some reports in Spain and France have suggested Madrid's youth team coach and club legend Zinedine Zidane is best placed to take over from Benitez.

Other big names such as Louis Van Gaal are also said to be at risk.

The team went out of the Champions League at the group stage and their 2-1 defeat at Bournemouth last week left United in fourth place in the Premier League - six points behind the leaders Leicester.

With pressure growing at Old Trafford, Van Gaal's methods, tactics and team selections all face mounting scrutiny.

Van Gaal acknowledged Friday that no manager is safe from a sudden sacking.

"Yes, it is like that. But we know that in advance. Also Jose knows that. This is the world," he said Friday.

Diego Simeone is in no apparent trouble at Atletico Madrid but the Argentine has been named as a leading candidate for the Chelsea job.

British media have said that Guus Hiddink, now holding talks in London, will take over at Chelsea until the end of the season and that Simeone is the man that the Chelsea board wants for the long term.

Italian Ancelotti, 56, who was fired by Real Madrid in May, has been linked to many jobs - including any looming vacancy at Bayern Munich. But he has said he does not want to return to management until the 2016-17 season.

For many of the star coaches, the stakes are getting higher as football's television-fuelled riches grow, particularly in England.

Jurgen Klopp is said to have almost tripled his last wage at Borussia Dortmund when he moved to Liverpool on a contract reported to be worth seven million pounds ($10.4 million) when he signed up this year.

That puts him on a par with the likes of Van Gaal and just behind Mourinho, who could get up to £40 million (S$80 million) in compensation from Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, now looking for a coach for the 11th time in 12 years.