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Transfer Rater: Eriksen to Real Madrid

Football Whispers
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Transfer Rater: Sarr to Arsenal

Football Whispers
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 By Robbie Dunne

Zidane successor at Madrid: Pochettino and Wenger lead the contenders

Gab Marcotti reveals some of the candidates and his early pick for the next Real Madrid manager.

Zinedine Zidane left Real Madrid on Thursday afternoon and aside from the indelible mark he left on their trophy cabinet, he also showed them what sort of boss is needed to succeed at such a difficult, high profile club.

Here are the top contenders who might fit the bill ...

Mauricio Pochettino

The mastermind behind Tottenham's 3-1 win over Real Madrid in the Champions League group stage, he is considered one of the best managers in European football given the consistency he has achieved with Spurs, turning them into a force in the Premier League. Madrid president Florentino Perez is reportedly very keen on the Argentinian, who even has the DNA to take over at Real Madrid -- admitting recently he would rather work on his farm in Argentina than manage Barcelona. He has signed a new five-year deal at Spurs and Daniel Levy is notoriously difficult to deal with, as Real Madrid know too well after the struggle in 2013 to bring Gareth Bale to the club. He is tactically astute and would be a natural development on the pressing style that Zidane implemented at the club during his spell. Could keep the halcyon days going with his calm disposition.

Arsene Wenger

The former Arsenal manager has said he loved Real Madrid as a child and has been installed as the favourite to replace Zidane. He also revealed recently he was approached several times by the Spanish side during his time in London. "We have always liked the Frenchman and we talked a lot with him," Perez told L'Equipe back in 2009. Based on the president's reaction at the news conference -- he hadn't even reached the grief stage as he was still processing Zidane's decision -- this was a bolt from the blue. Wenger, therefore, could be a short-term solution in an attempt to minimise the damage left by Zidane's shock exit. He is a respected coach and could cope with the massive personalities in the Real Madrid dressing room.

Guti

The Real Madrid legend has taken a path not dissimilar to Zidane by coaching at the lower levels at the club's academy. He was reportedly promised the Real Madrid Castilla job but that fell through and there was a suggestion he would leave the club as a result. That same sequence of moves didn't work for Fernando Morientes, who hasn't managed since a failed stint with Fuenlabrada when he left Real Madrid after being let down for the Real Madrid Castilla job himself. Perez constantly speaks about the values at the club and mentioned during the news conference about Zidane's ability to work with them in mind. Guti might be the perfect man to step in where his former teammate left off. He is respected by players and fans but it seems like a massive jump from the under-19 side to a treble-winning Champions League squad.

Antonio Conte

The Chelsea manager (for now, anyway) has never played or coached in Spain but has the kind of winner's mentality that is so important to Perez and Real Madrid. His all-encompassing enthusiasm would be a big contrast to Zidane's zen-like state but if the next managerial appointment is just a stop-gap in any case, then Conte might work in the short term. Strong rumours suggest he is leaving Chelsea and all of the other top jobs have been snapped up, including at Napoli and Bayern Munich. Conte is a big name and personality that wouldn't flinch at the task.

Maurizio Sarri

His Napoli side came ever so close to toppling Juventus in Serie A as he almost brought the title to Naples for the first time this millennium and the third time ever. His side played an exciting variety of football that captivated audiences around Europe. He's linked to the Chelsea job and that might prove to be too good to turn down but they don't play in the Champions League this year and it is not as illustrious a post as it once was.

Honourable mentions

Fernando Hierro: The former Real Madrid defender managed Real Oviedo most recently and could be a soothing voice to weather the storm post-Zidane. But he is the sporting director of the Spanish Football Federation with a World Cup on the horizon.

Joachim Low: He has no previous link to Real Madrid or Spanish football for that matter but was tipped to replace Zidane back in April 2017. He has signed a new deal with Germany and has a World Cup to focus on.

Masimilliano Allegri: The Italian is not as painstaking as Conte, his predecessor at Juventus, in his pursuit of trophies but effective nonetheless. Andrea Pirlo previously said of the manager that "he brought a sense of calm" to the dressing room, which is what is needed, but he might not be a big enough name to appease Real Madrid fans and the board.

Robbie is based in Madrid and is one of ESPN FC's Real Madrid bloggers. Twitter: @robbiejdunne

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