The Football Association hopes it’s not a question to be answered quickly, but where will they go if Gareth Southgate leaves after the World Cup?
Here’s an idea: Call Pep Guardiola.
Is it realistic? Maybe not. But if you don’t ask you won’t get it and if the FA can somehow convince Guardiola it would be like winning the lottery.
Should Gareth Southgate leave after the World Cup, the Football Association must inquire about Pep Guardiola
Patriots will say ‘he is not an Englishman’. That’s true, but is it really important?
He is a generation coach, the best on the market. That’s what the FA should be aiming for.
Whether the Spaniard would amuse it is probably questionable at best.
Even if he was ready, he would be hugely expensive – earning £19million a season at Manchester City, a figure well above the FA’s post-Covid budget.
But it is undoubtedly worth exploring. His contract expires at the end of the season, although City are understandably keen to extend it.
Pep Guardiola’s contract with Manchester City expires at the end of this season
You would think that Guardiola is unlikely to leave Etihad in the middle of the season, but is he worth waiting until summer?
If Guardiola can’t, why can’t Mauricio Pochettino? Or Thomas Tuchel?
Both are out of work, know the Premier League and are both cheaper than Guardiola.
Pochettino is as close to captain Harry Kane as any other manager; while Tuchel has won the Champions League. Both are worth considering.
Then there’s Northern Irishman Brendan Rodgers, whose stock isn’t quite as high as it used to be, but his coaching abilities are beyond question.
Thomas Tuchel, out of work after being sacked by Chelsea, is another candidate they should consider if Southgate were to leave
Of course, the merits of appointing an Englishman are obvious.
To use a modern football phrase, it means more. And of course it does.
In an ideal world, the English manager should be English.
But in the quest for authenticity, the FA are limiting themselves, especially if there is no clear English candidate this winter, should Southgate split.
Until three weeks ago, the FA had their eye on Graham Potter as Southgate’s successor.
His work at Brighton in implementing a clear and compelling philosophy has been admired. But as we now know, Chelsea’s American owners had the same idea.
Southgate himself admitted during a pre-match press conference in Germany that he is not protected by the length of his contract
The FA will continue to monitor Potter’s as he begins his journey at Stamford Bridge, but appointing the 47-year-old is a non-starter for now.
Eddie Howe is another the FA admirer, but like Potter, he is anchored in a prominent job at Newcastle.
Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard are still cutting their teeth at the highest level of club management, although Southgate’s mostly positive reign suggests that success in the Premier League is not necessarily a requirement for international football.
Lampard is doing an excellent job rebuilding an Everton football club that was on his knees when he arrived.
Frank Lampard will continue to be watched by the Football Association so that he may one day become a candidate for the job
Gerrard finds life at Aston Villa more difficult, but his heritage means he would command immediate respect from players.
But while the pair are definitely on the FA’s radar, they probably need a few more years in club football.
Steve Cooper is already a World Cup winning coach in his previous guise as England’s Under 17 boss.
He is highly regarded in St George’s Park – certainly by FA technical director John McDermott.
Moreover, it is not inconceivable that Cooper will be available after the World Cup amid tensions behind the scenes at Nottingham Forest. But if we are pedantic – Cooper is Welsh and has little experience at the highest level.
Steven Gerrard, like Lampard an English legend, is having a rough time this season but may one day be considered for the role too
An outside choice: Scott Parker – who implemented a clear philosophy at Fulham and Bournemouth before being sacked last month for non-football reasons.
But ultimately there is no obvious English choice for the FA if Southgate leave this winter.
There was little surprise at FA headquarters on Sunday when Southgate appeared to be opening the door to leave after Qatar.
Some within the governing body suspect he will walk away regardless of how England perform at the World Cup.
But while Southgate’s comments didn’t come out of nowhere, they should have sharpened the minds of those at the FA charged with looking for his successor.