With no clear favourite to take over the vacancy left by Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, the name of Jose Maria Gutierrez Hernandez — better known as Guti — has appeared more than most.
The former Madrid midfielder has garnered plaudits for his work coaching the club’s under-18 Juvenil side during the last two seasons. And just this weekend former Blancos stars including Fernando Morientes have backed their former-teammate as a viable candidate for the job.
Guti’s case is helped by the immediate frontrunners being tied down elsewhere. Mauricio Pochettino signed a new long-term contract at Tottenham just last week, while Joachim Low immediately ruled himself out of contention as he focuses on the World Cup with Germany.
Promoting from within worked incredibly well with Zidane, but it would still be quite a risk for Madrid club president Florentino Perez to go with Guti at this point. Here we look at the pros and cons of making just that decision.
He is already at the club
Zidane’s shock exit took everybody by surprise and Perez admitted at last week’s news conference that he had not expected to be looking to hire a new coach now.
A major factor in Guti’s favour is that he is already in place at the club, ready to step up immediately, and has watched closely how the team have gone through recent seasons. Given the unique challenges being Madrid manager entails, a former player who knows the Bernabeu inside-out has a big advantage over anybody coming in from outside.
Promoting a former player from within worked with Zidane
There were plenty of sceptics when Zidane was promoted to replace Rafa Benitez in January 2016, with the former Galactico not widely seen as future management material when a player. But the Frenchman stepped calmly up into the job, and nine trophies including three Champions Leagues in just 30 months showed how an internal candidate can work well. Pep Guardiola’s success after he moved up to take over the Barcelona job is also closely remembered around Madrid.
He is liked by local fans and pundits
Having scored 77 goals in 542 games between 1995-2010, winning five La Liga titles and three Champions League trophies, Guti does not lack name recognition around the Bernabeu. A local lad who won a place in the team among many international stars, he has always kept a close connection with Madridista fans and pundits. His appointment to take over the senior team would be a popular decision among the more emotional supporters for sure.
He has impressive ambition
Guti has made no secret of his ambition to sit on the Bernabeu bench someday — and was happy to return to the Bernabeu in summer 2016 and set about working his way back up through the ranks again. After his first season in charge of the U18 side brought an historic domestic treble, he quickly set becoming senior team coach as a “personal objective.”
And there was more determined talk last April when he publicly appeared to pressure Perez into moving him up the ladder by threatening to move elsewhere to keep progressing his career.
He has no senior coaching experience
Even after Zidane’s spectacular success, the biggest argument against appointing Guti now must be his total lack of experience coaching a senior side. The Frenchman had at least spent a year as an assistant to Carlo Ancelotti with the first-team, being directly involved in their 2013-14 Champions League and Copa del Rey victories. Guti’s record with the youth team has also slipped this year — with the team being beaten to the regional league title by neighbours Atletico.
He was a carefree personality as a player
There is no set personality type which guarantees managerial success, but most of the top bosses share an intense focus on their profession. Something Zidane certainly had. As a player Guti was not always as focused on getting the very best out of his personal talent, or on team objectives over individual moments. Zidane’s standout moment as a Madrid player was the volley which won the 2002 Champions League final; Guti’s was a backheel assist in a 2010 La Liga win at Deportivo La Coruna.
There are questions over how he carries himself
After finishing his playing career at Besiktas, Guti had a couple of years as a Madrid-backing pundit. This included some familiar rabble-rousing across the Clasico divide — such as a 2014 tweet “congratulating” Barca on another “robbery” following a controversial Champions League victory at Manchester City. Such comments only increased his popularity with many Blancos fans, but (Jose Mourinho aside) Madrid managers are usually expected to show more respect and dignity in their public speaking.
It is a challenging dressing room to win over
The Bernabeu dressing room is among the most difficult to win over in world football. Top managers as experienced as Mourinho and Rafa Benitez left after being unable to control big characters like Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo. Zidane had the CV and personality to immediately command respect from individuals with whom he had already built a close relationship. It is unlikely that Guti would inspire similar reverence from day one.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan