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Daniel Levy’s Imaginary (Managerial) Shortlist: Roberto Martinez

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Could Martinez make the leap back to club football? Eh.

Belgium v Belarus - FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar Qualifier Photo by Jeroen Meuwsen/BSR Agency/Getty Images

The Basics

Name: Roberto Martinez
Age: 47
Team: Belgium National Team
Nationality: Spain

The Specifics

  • League One: Swansea, 2008
  • FA Cup: Wigan, 2013
  • FIFA World Cup: Belgium, 3rd place, 2018

As if beating Manchester City in an FA Cup final isn’t enough, Roberto Martinez commands one of the most talented national team squads on the planet. Belgium is constantly ranked in the top five with headliners Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, SuperJan Vertonghen, and Dolphin Chadli. Despite many picking the Belgian team as the clear favorite to with the World Cup in 2018, they eventually fell short, beating a Tottenham Hotspur filled English team, and placing third.

Tactics

Both Lukaku and De Bruyne have criticized the tactical shape Belgium has taken in the past. After drawing against Mexico in 2017, De Bruyne decided to speak out publicly:

“Mexico were tactically better,” De Bruyne said. “As long as there is no good tactical system we face difficulties. It’s a pity we have not yet found a solution. We are playing a very defensive system, but our team is filled with many attacking players.”

Lukaku has also said he would prefer a more direct style of football as well. Martinez has explained his system saying they like to be fluid from a 5-3-2 to a 3-4-3 system as it “helps the front players have with Kevin, Hazard, and Lukaku.”

Martinez is known for his possession style of play with a mind for attack, citing inspiration from Johan Cruyff. His time at both Wigan and Swansea was hyper-focused on ball retention, at times bordering on conservative. Martinez has gone full seasons never dipping below 50% ball retention. Harry Winks would be thrilled.

I’m also not sure his players, or perhaps himself, know what his true philosophy on football is on any given day. We’ve seen both sides of the coin when it comes to possession and perhaps he views it as a dial instead of a switch. Raising and lowering the intensity of attack but always assuring possession first, depending on the opposition.

Strengths

So yeah, he has a squad of super soldiers to fall back on but there is strength in that. They speak three languages in Belgium, have an absurdly high expectation for their national team, and house the most eclectic room of egos you’ll find on continental Europe. The ability to manage all those spinning plates while providing results certainly speaks volumes as to who he is as a manager. Just look at his reaction when both De Bruyne and Lukaku spoke out against his possession styled tactics. He didn’t run to the nearest camera lambasting his players. Instead, he took responsibility and said they will do better to be more attack minded. A stark contract from some of the more recent press conferences we’ve endured.

Weaknesses

Everton as fans cited gross game mismanagement and an inability to plug defensive holes as the reason Martinez was released from duty. Despite earning a place in the last 16 of Europa and two semi-finals for FA and League Cup – the board and community demanded more.

National team football is vastly different than club football and in that vein, Martinez has been out of the game since 2016. There is too much uncertainty surrounding the ability of Roberto Martinez and if you take Belgium off the resume, it’s no more impressive than a hundred other names.

The Verdict

Likeliness of being hired

Unlikely. I find it hard to believe that when Daniel Levy cozies up in his pajamas, nestled under a chicken-feathered comforter, he dreams of Roberto Martinez reinvigorating this club. Clearly Tottenham have missed out on their first two preferred choices in Nagelsmann and Ten Hag, but Martinez is far from the caliber manager Daniel wants to attract. It also seems to me that much of the same tactical confusion Everton portrayed preys on Belgium. It may just be better masked given the level of talent.

Grade if Hired: C