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Five more wild guesses at the next Red Bulls manager

A legendary ex-MetroStar? A recently-sacked Premier League standout? A low profile monk from the Red Bull network? We look at a few more possible routes New York could go in selecting a new head coach.

Manchester City v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League
Now-former Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe (center) faces off against Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola (right)
Photo by Robin Jones - AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images

There are whispers everywhere. You can’t go down a grocery aisle without hearing shoppers discuss the biggest story in America. “Who will be the next manager of the Red Bulls?” they gossip to each other while filling their carts with all manner of necessary and, frankly, inessential sundries. And it’s not just at the supermarkets. It’s in medical facilities, schools, and at the dinner table. There is a clear chasm in this country as brother fights against brother over who they believe deserves the job on everybody’s mind.

Head of sport Kevin Thelwell has to make quite the selection, armed only with decades of professional experience and an overflowing rolodex. A couple weeks ago Once A Metro managing editor Ben Cork hypothesized some intriguing possible candidates based on logic and reason. He is truly the well-reasoned and research based Dr. Alan Grant of this site.

Allow me – the much cooler and better-looking Dr. Ian Malcom of OaM – to throw some names at the wall and claim it is chaos theory despite not understanding what that means after reading the Wikipedia article. Are there any rumors or reports linking these coaches to New York? Don’t know! Are they a tactical or style fit? Don’t care! This is an article proudly filled with speculative nonsense.

Anyway, here’s some speculative listicle slop to fill your manager search trough, you pi-… esteemed readers.

Roberto Venturato

SC Pisa v AS Cittadella - Serie B Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images for Lega Serie B

REASON: Thrifty

Generally speaking, the RBNY manager is expected to produce results with a squad that is slightly less valuable than other teams in the league. If over-delivering is the key quality in the search, then look no further than Italian manager Venturato who has been exceeding expectations at “minnows” Cittadella. The former player took over the Veneto based club in 2015, immediately securing promotion out of Lega Pro into Serie B. Despite having one of the least valuable squads in the league, Citta qualified for the promotion playoffs in each of the past four seasons, missing out on Serie A in heartbreaking fashion in 2019.

Venturato was born in Australia and moved to Italy at 10, so English proficiency is not an issue. His squads play “positive attacking football” which would be a welcome change in these flailing, indirect times. He also held the requisite “odd job” seemingly required of every Red Bull hire, working as a financial promoter while managing through the semi-pro ranks. Would the 57-year-old be likely to leave what is an ideal situation in Italy? No, but maybe he’ll have a midlife crisis or harbors a secret passion for Broadway.

Eddie Howe

Everton FC v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League Photo by Robin Jones - AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images

REASON: Splash

Conventional wisdom indicates that Thelwell is going to hire someone from his native United Kingdom, where until this year he has spent his entire professional career. On a list of completely unlikely candidates, this is the one that will absolutely not happen. Unless… no, no, no, of course the Red Bulls aren’t going to hire Eddie Howe who recently left AFC Bournemouth following relegation from the Premier League. But… it would be quite the signal of intent that the club “has huge potential to achieve some great things.”

Following a playing career spent mainly at Dean Court, Howe managed the Cherries from 2008 through 2011 and 2012 through 2020, bookending a brief spell at Burnley that ended due to “personal reasons.” Bournemouth consistently punched above its weight led by its young “miracle man” who won the Football League Manager of the Decade in 2015. While his work history and pedigree indicate English clubs will be lining up to hire him, perhaps he’s looking for something different after dedicating a majority of his life to a single institution.

In a sense, Howe and Thelwell have taken similar paths. Both ascended the ladder at a young age and worked for a long time at relatively big clubs, almost becoming synonymous with their existence. While Thelwell could have waited for the English offers that were surely coming, he opted for the new challenge in MLS. Perhaps Howe would appreciate a similar change of scenery, taking the opportunity to guide a squad of scrappy young go-getters thousands of miles away from any lingering thought or connection to his beloved Bournemouth.

Roberto Donadoni

Juventus v Bologna FC - Serie A

REASON: Prestige, familiarity

If a person were attempting to justify their choice, the phrase “former player with the club and national team manager” contains quite a few buzzwords that make ears prick up. Donadoni played with the MetroStars in 1996 and 1997, reportedly enjoying his time in MLS. His managerial career has been far less decorated than his time on the field, with stops all over Serie A and steerage of the Italian national team to a quarterfinal finish at Euro 2008. His most recent position was with Shenzen FC in the Chinese Super League, resulting in his firing last month.

Perhaps Donadoni is looking for a fresh start. Maybe he can fulfill the promise that was made when he left the club to return to AC Milan in 1997. “Donadoni is not saying goodbye,’’ said general manager Charlie Stillitano in 1997. ‘’He’s just saying, ‘We’ll see you later.’ He will always have a place in the MetroStars’ family. We would create a position for him, whether it is as a player, coach or technical adviser.’’

It’s unknown whether this offer is still valid after 23 years. Might be worth a call and an interview to see what he can bring to the table.

Bruno Lage

SL Benfica x Shakhtar Donetsk - UEFA Europa League Photo by Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images

REASON: Professional connection

A lot has been made of the connection between Wolverhampton and super-agent Jorge Mendes. In 2018, Thelwell described the relationship as “an informal cooperation” in which the front office would “consult [Mendes] and ask him for advice.” Whatever it is and was, it’s been very fruitful as the club has climbed out of the Championship and firmly established itself in the Premier League.

While Thelwell is no longer the sporting director at Wolves, it’s possible that reigniting the relationship could bear fruit. Mendes has a few available managers in his stable, the most notable being Bruno Lage. The 44-year-old worked his way up the ladder from humble beginnings as a youth coach in 1997 to managing Benfica from January of 2019 through June of 2020. He led the team to its 37th Primeira Liga title and earned a few coach of the year awards, but his tenure ended in resignation last summer following a run of poor results.

Lage worked in Britain as an assistant under Carlos Carvahal at Sheffield Wednesday and was recently connected with a move to Aston Villa, but it never came to pass. Will Portugal and England’s loss be Red Bulls’ gain? Can Thelwell rely on his professional connection to provide a manager? Will residents of the Ironbound fill Red Bull Arena, having finally received the requisite pandering that has been demanded by lazy analysts and commentators for the past decade? The answers are maybe, possibly, and no.

Some guy from Austria or Germany

RB Salzburg Training Session
Rene Aufhauser (right) has been a key assistant to former New York manager Jesse Marsch (left)
Photo by David Geieregger/SEPA.Media /Getty Images

REASON: Institutional knowledge, desperation

As Gordon Gekko once said, “Synergy is good.” New York has acquired a few players on loan and permanently from sister clubs in Leipzig and Salzburg. If ownership wants some of its coaching talent to gain experience but stay under the umbrella, then perhaps it’s time for a manager to move stateside?

There are several Red Bull coaches in a position to take the reins in MLS, solidifying their leadership abilities within the organization. It’s probably asking too much to request one of the higher-ups, but the various staffs feature interesting prospects. Leipzig assistant Dino Toppmöller already has over 200 matches of management experience at F91 Dudelanage, SV Mehring, and RE Virton. Babak Keyhanfar spent two seasons in charge of SV Gonsenheim before working with the Mainz academy and assisting at Liefering. Former Austrian international René Aufhauser has been quietly climbing the coaching ranks from Liefering to Salzburg.

Matthias Jaissle? Franz Schiemer? Moritz Volz? Xaver Zembrod? I can continue spitting out names. What’s important is that Red Bull considers strengthening the New York head coaching role with one of its own. Unless they’re comfortable with another “Ernst Tanner” situation happening, with the former Salzburg academy director transforming the Philadelphia Union from garbage dump to waste management facility.

***

That is an appealing and SEO-friendly number of managers organized into an easily consumable list. The unspoken parameters of the hiring process will be discovered by observing the basic, general qualities of the successful applicant. Is it a manager from England with whom Thelwell was already familiar? Is it someone who has experience performing under similar conditions to MLS and RBNY? Will it be a panic hire nudged in the club’s direction from benevolent ownership located somewhere across the sea? Like Jeopardy!, sometimes the question can only be revealed by the answer.

Kevin, I know you read this website several times a day, so feel free to take my suggestions when making calls. You don’t have to publicly give credit. We’ll know *makes awkward hand gesture* and that’s enough for me.