The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Written by Salvatore Bono

It’s been less than a month and the Premier League 2016-17 season is already proving why the British have the best soccer league in the world.

Even with major names like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan added to the league, this season will not be about high profile players but the men charged with getting the best out of them. That’s right, we are talking about the managers.

For a league that spent a reported £1.1 billion in transfers, plenty of action will take place off the field. Queue video from BBC Three: 

That’s the thing, while it is hilarious, this scene from Anchorman “featuring” Arsenal’s Arsène Wenger, Leicester City’s Claudio Ranieri, Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho, Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola and Chelsea’s Antonio Conte is also perfect because it illustrates what’s to come this season.

Add Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp, Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino, the return of David Moyes to the Premier League with Sunderland, and the addition of former Napoli and Inter man, Walter Mazzarri as Watford manager.

You can’t contain your excitement? Neither can we.

The Premier League might only be missing Carlo Ancelotti who is out to prove that he can dominate any league, as he takes the reigns of Bayern Munich.  

Putting him aside, the managerial talent in the league is undisputed. The Avengers have, indeed, fully assembled.

To make things even better: many of these managers have a deep-rooted hatred for one another – enough that it makes Red Sox and Yankee fans look like best friends. Seriously.

Jose Mourinho vs. The World

Mourinho and Guardiola go back to their days in Spain’s La Liga. Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona side was top of the soccer world when Mourinho joined Real Madrid. In the three years they were in the same league, Spain was not big enough for the both of them.

A frustrated Guardiola once blasted Mourinho when asked about him in a press conference, saying: “In this room, he’s the f*cking chief, the f*cking man, the person who knows everything about the world and I don’t want to compete with him at all.”

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There was no love lost between Guardiola and Mourinho while in Spain. They now take their rivalry to the Premier League.

Mourinho clearly looks to make it personal against his now cross-town rival as he went to great lengths to secure the signature of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whom he coached at Inter. Ibrahimovic left Inter right before their historic treble winning season in 2010 and went to Barcelona where he famously had it out with the Spaniard.

In his best seller, I Am Zlatan, the Swedish striker called out Guardiola’s tactics.  “When you buy me, you are buying a Ferrari. If you drive a Ferrari you put premium fuel in the tank, you drive onto the motorway and you floor the accelerator,” he wrote. “Guardiola filled up with diesel and went for a spin in the countryside. If that’s what he wanted, he should have bought himself a Fiat from the start.”

In a move out of a gangster movie, it is no surprise why the Portuguese manager wanted to work with the striker again. Both proven winners, both egomaniacs have unfinished business with Guardiola. Ibrahimovic even called his former Barca boss a “spineless coward.” Holy sh*t.

But it won’t just be the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager that Mourinho will be fighting with this season. He will surely reignite his feud with Arsenal’s Wenger. 

From shoving matches to name calling, Mourinho and Wenger hate each other with a passion as red as Arsenal’s and United’s colors.  The roots of their animosity however, can be traced to Mourinho’s first stint as Chelsea manager.  At the time of his appointment, Mourinho famously described himself as a “Special One.”  And the Special One, has been a torn on the side of Wenger since.

During his second spell at Chelsea, Mourinho called the Frenchman “a specialist in failure” for not winning any major trophy in 8 seasons. 

Adding insult to injury, Wenger has never won a league game against the Portuguese tactician.  Mourinho’s league record against Wenger is 7 wins, 6 draws and 0 losses in his two stints as Chelsea manager. Wenger sole win came in the 2015 Community Shield final.

Speaking of Chelsea, Mourinho will surely be hoping that Conte fails in his first Premier League season. The former Chelsea boss has moved onto a bigger club after being sacked by the London team and Conte, who hardly speaks English, will have to be quick on his feet in the potential war of words against Mourinho. Mourinho leaving the Blues on bad terms will no doubt stoke a fire with the Italian.

Conte won’t be the only Italian that Mourinho tangles with as he reignites his beef with Claudio Ranieri.

“He’s old and he hasn’t won anything,” Mourinho once said of Ranieri. “I studied Italian five hours a day for many months to ensure I could communicate with the players, media and fans. Ranieri had been in England for five years and still struggled to say ‘good morning’ and ‘good afternoon’.'”

Ranieri signed to Leicester City last year, and against all odds, won the league while Mourinho found himself without a job halfway through the season. 

“He’s old and he hasn’t won anything,” Mourinho speaking of Ranieri in 2008.

Ranieri was Mourinho’s predecessor at Chelsea when he took over the club for the first time in 2004.

Bundesliga’s Best Square off In England

It won’t just be the 53-year-old Portuguese loudmouth who will be locking horns with other managers this season.

Klopp and Guardiola also have a history. Both coached in Germany’s Bundesliga and went at it several times. During their two years in the same league, they squared off eight times, taking four wins each.

Klopp has imprinted his “heavy metal football” brand to Liverpool and it shows.  In the words of Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher, it is “relentless, intense and dramatic and leaves you breathless.”  Poetic stuff really. Much like Klopp doing the Sturridge dance.

Klopp performs the Daniel Sturridge dance for reporters. He will be hoping his striker remains injury-free this season.

Manchester City v. Liverpool is going to be a rather tasty match-up this season.  Which of these two will come out on top?

David Moyes Returns to the Premier League

The Scottish tactician was one of Everton’s most beloved managers. In 2013, Moyes had the unbelievable opportunity to take over at Manchester United following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. Filling Sir Alex’s void was always going to be difficult.

So what do you do when you replace a man with over two decades of history and plenty of silverware?

Moyes fired most of the coaching staff at United, brought on his own guys from Everton and was sacked before the season ended. While the manager was basically set up to fail, no one could replace Sir Alex right away – United knew it, the players knew it, the fans knew it, even Moyes knew it, but it was worth a shot.

After an underwhelming season in Spain with Real Sociedad, Moyes returns to the Premier League with Sunderland. The 53-year-old won’t have the pressure he had at United this time around and might be able to use Sunderland to rebuild his reputation.

Goodfellas

There are a record three Italian managers in the Premier League this season – Conte, Ranieri and Mazzarri.  Each of them has their own brand of football, broken English, and will try to outdo one another.

Mazzarri and Conte are novices to English soccer and are still learning the language. Ranieri gave England their greatest story with the success of Leicester last year.

Mazzarri is hoping to do with Watford what his Italian counterpart did with Leicester. The former Napoli manager has always lived in Ranieri’s shadow, succeeding him at both Inter and Napoli. Now they square off again in England.

Before the season started, Mazzarri told the press: “I don’t like talking too much – actions will speak louder than words and I will try to instill that in my players this season. But the challenge is exciting.”

While Mazzarri, who famously chews water bottles during games, has nothing but respect for Ranieri, it is Conte who the former Napoli manager wants to bite down on.

When Mazzarri was managing Napoli and Conte at Juventus, the two despised each other. They refused to shake hands, stared at each other during games and even slammed one another’s tactics in the press.

It was a beef that would make Kanye West and Taylor Swift look like good friends.

Kanye being Kanye.

Italians in the Premiership do very well as managers – Ancelotti had a couple successful years at Chelsea, Roberto Di Matteo gave the Blues their only Champions League victory. Ranieri will forever be a part of Leicester’s history, and even Chelsea’s, having managed them for four seasons.  Prior to Ranieri’s stint at Chelsea, another Italian, Gianluca Vialli managed them for two years.

Whatever new feuds get started among the managers in the league this season and whatever old ones get reignited, one thing we can count on is there will not be a lack of headlines.

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