For most managers in football, it feels like you can have one high-profile job and then bounce around to any number of clubs for the rest of your career. Do you need to have success? Not really. Do you need trophies? Perhaps. Do you need a tangible transfer history? Definitely not. However, some managers fall into a vicious cycle where every job they take seems to be an impossible task.
The first one that comes to mind is Rafa Benitez and his journeys after Liverpool and before he finally found a home at Napoli. Massive uphill climbs and club turmoil followed him like a shadow and it was not until he was able to continue the Napoli success post-Cavani that he started to show the talent we witnessed with Liverpool.
Now, it feels like Andre Villas-Boas has gotten into a similar cycle that might see him continue bouncing around from job to job for several more seasons. Attempting to recreate a Chelsea Champions League season: failure. Attempting to continue Tottenham growth and maintain Champions League football for Spurs: failure. Having to take over a huge Russian club that is in massive turmoil and that has big league and CL ambitions: undecided.
At Zenit St. Petersburg, despite being in second in the league (only off the pace by 3 points with 9 games left in the season) and narrowly missing out on staying in the Champions League by losing out to Borussia Dortmund, AVB faces another mountain to climb. The club hierarchy is looking for deep Champions League runs, domestic success, and the ability to continue to lure players like Hulk to the frigid temperatures of Russia. Not to mention that Zenit is currently experiencing one of the most intense locker room battles in the history of football, and AVB might have chosen another impossible task.
The Russian contingent of the locker room has been less than willing to give everything for the club ever since Zenit created such a large salary disparity when they brought in Hulk. After demanding better wages (not Hulk-sized, but just enough to make them feel significant again), Zenit stonewalled the Russian players and has even had to send several key players packing because of the negativity that they were bringing to the locker room. Considering how weak their midfield has looked this season, the club will probably spend big again in the next transfer window and might create even more clubhouse drama. Where most clubs would probably improve from transfer splurges, AVB does not have the greatest track record with big transfer spending (i.e. Chelsea/Tottenham) and it might make even more wage issues for the club!
Winning the league would be a decent step for the new manager, but asking for deep Champions League runs as the rest of Europe seems to only grow more and more powerful seems like an impossible chore for AVB. However, we have seen previous club hoppers (like Rafa) eventually be able to turn one club around and find success. Will Zenit be AVB’s Napoli? Or is this just another pit-stop en route to a long career filled with short stops at various clubs? With time on his side, you would hope that AVB could eventually find a decent home…but only time will tell.