Argentina routed the United States 4-0 in the Copa America semi-finals on Tuesday evening in Houston, but even though Lionel Messi broke Gabriel Batistuta’s all-time goalscoring record for La Albiceleste with a 25-yard free-kick, the result went largely unnoticed on this side of the Atlantic.
Euro 2016 has ensured that the focus of the football world, in Europe at least, has been fixed firmly on events in France, rather than on the centenary Copa America, which sees Colombia face reigning champions Chile in Chicago on Wednesday night for the privilege of facing Messi and co in the final in New Jersey on Sunday.
England’s travails in France are a primary factor in the attention being away from the Copa America, but such insularity may yet lead to another mistake being made if, or indeed when, the Football Association begins the search for a new manager.
If Roy Hodgson was to announce tomorrow that Euro 2016 would be his last tournament – the FA may make that decision for him if targets are not achieved – where would the search focus on for a replacement?
There would be a preference for an Englishman, but it would not be a necessity, although any non-English candidate would have to be familiar with English football and the Premier League.
Those parameters would instantly reduce the options available to the FA, but even if it looked beyond the shores of Great Britain towards Europe, who would spring out as an obvious choice?
Domestically, every possible candidate is compromised by more negatives than positives.
It would be difficult state a case for Alan Pardew, Steve Bruce or Sam Allardyce – none possesses a shred of international experience – while the likes of Brendan Rodgers and Martin O’Neill have only recently signed contracts with Celtic and the Republic of Ireland, respectively, which make them non-runners.
Internally, the FA could look to promote Gareth Southgate or Gary Neville from roles within the organisation, but Southgate would be a hard sell to the public without a stand-out achievement on his CV, while Neville, as popular as he is with the players as Hodgson’s coach, discovered during a tough six months a Valencia that management is not without its pitfalls and difficulties.
The list goes on – Rafael Benitez and Jose Mourinho, both highly-successful coaches in England and Europe, are committed to Newcastle and Manchester United respectively, while Manuel Pellegrini – hardly a personality to excite players or supporters – has made it clear that his next job after leaving Manchester City will be a club job.
Turn back to the Copa America, however, and perhaps the achievements of the USA in reaching the semi-finals, before losing to the team currently top of the Fifa world rankings, hints at Jurgen Klinsmann being the surprise name who would tick all of the FA’s boxes.
Whether the 51-year-old German could ever be persuaded to turn his back on his California lifestyle and return to English football is another matter, but five years into his reign as head coach of the States, Klinsmann has only enhanced his reputation and that of the team he has now guided to the World Cup second round and the last four of the Copa America.
An Anglophile, who remains hugely popular in this country following the impact he made on and off the pitch with Tottenham Hotspur in the 1990s, Klinsmann would also bring charisma, experience and a proven track record to the job.
His achievements as a player – World Cup winner, European Championship winner, Germany captain, prolific goalscorer – would ensure instant respect from players and public alike, but Klinsmann has also made it happen as a coach.
Having inherited a Germany team that had suffered a group stage elimination at Euro 2004 under Rudi Voller, Klinsmann embarked on a bold initiative to discard the old guard and promote youth, at the same time as reorganising the structure of Die Mannschaft behind the scenes.
When he walked away from the job, handing over the reins to Joachim Low after guiding the Germans to the 2006 World Cup semi-finals, he had sparked the renaissance of the nation’s football team by placing his faith in the youth of players such as Philipp Lahm, Lukas Podolski, Per Mertesacker and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Ten years on, Germany continue to reap the rewards of Klinsmann’s work and his time with the States has also elevated that nation as a respected force on the world stage.
Klinsmann answers each of the FA’s criteria for the role of England manager, but it appears that the blinkers are on and that the search may yet be restricted to within the confines of the Premier League.
Yet if the Hodgson era comes to an end within the next two weeks, the FA cannot allow itself to be restricted to an ever-dwindling list of candidates.
They simply need to look beyond the horizon, perhaps even all the way to California.
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