After 4 seasons of real struggle at Napoli, Mullan has finally landed the job he craved, by getting the opportunity to takeover at 8th Place Division 1 side Espanyol. Espanyol have punched above their weight a little under their former manager to establish themselves in Division 1.
There can be no excuses from the new Manager on this gig, this is not the mess that Napoli were in when he took that hot seat with the team rooted at the bottom of the table 20 points from safety.
So what about Espanyol?
Mullan takes the reigns with 14 of the 47 players in the squad the wrong side of 30. With there a clear missing second tier of players to succeed the likes of Busquets, Di Maria, Bonucci, Alba, Trippier, Herrera, Paulinho, Aspas, Matip, Handonovic, Caceres, and Alonso.
“We assessed things pretty quickly, and the things shouting at straight away was there was no out and out goalscorer and its a very ageing squad. The choice, was simple, we stick and watch players retire or downgrade, or we try and trade with the saleable assets, which in Espanyol’s case was Koke, Maguire and Traore We’ve chosen the latter option although our first two deals saw younger players leave and two more over 30’s arrive. Aguero arriving is massive. Rated 93 and a proven goalscorer, he is worth 2 or 3 places up the table if you can feed him.
Fernandinho was next to join, he is rated 91 and maybe 36, but it was his ability to play both centre back and centre midfield which attracted us to going for him. We knew if we can get him in to cover for a season or two, it would open up the option of selling Maguire if we can get a really good trade. We gave Moncayola, for him which probably raised an eyebrow or too, given he is due a decent rise and therefore was a big asset to the club. Sometimes its about the calculated gamble and joined up thinking.
We followed that up by arguably one of the most intense negotiations i’ve had in 12 years of SM, with Standard Liege who wanted to aquire, Koke, Maguire and Trippier. At one point the discussions had up to 9 players swapping clubs. Throughout 24 hours of back and forwards, different players from Liege being thrown in the mix, it got got to near midnight last night and the deal was dead. Our valuation could not be met, and other clubs were now in for our players. By lunchtime today Koke and Maguire seemed destined to join another club as talks were at an advanced stage. Then out of the blue, Liege put a final offer on the table of Brozovic, Ndidi and Fekir, which met our valuation ,criteria of positions and age and the deal was struck. We are pleased to get these three players in, and despite losing our best centre back and highest rated player in Koke, this gives us a little more depth.
Another on off deal was Di Maria, we pretty much agreed a deal with Celta Vigo, and I wasted a lot of time on this, With Raphinia and a youngster joining. They offered the deal with a choice of 3 youngsters, we picked one. They then asked could they decide the youngster which they chose Alberto. We agreed to Alberto, and then after agreeing the deal they backed out. I’ve never backed out of an agreed deal before, and have been stung during rating changes over night, where i’ve took my eye off the ball and walked straight into a player which has just got downgraded. More annoyingly we had two other clubs in for Di Maria, who we had to say no to, and then they agreed deals with other clubs for their players. We live, we learn, we move on.
This evening we opted to let Herrera go to Olympiacos which i think long term is a good one for us. We lose a solid 90 rated midfielder, but grab two South Americans with lots of promise . I’m excited we’ve bagged Enzo Fernandez in particular, whilst also joining is Facundo Torres. We want to try and build a solid base of young players in our under 21’s with the emphasis on probability of improvement. These two certainly fill that Criteria.
I’m not expecting any more outgoings now in terms of major deals. We are still talking to a couple of clubs regarding Trippier, but I think thats us pretty much done until the end of the season. We’ve a few injury/fitness issues at present, which is not the best preparation for tomorrows game with Man City. Aguero is likely to miss out starting against his former club as he is not fully fit, whilst we will also be without Di Maria, Busquets, Bonucci and Aspas. Right there is pretty much our best players all missing. Its probably going to mean a big formation change to try and put a competitive side out.
Regarding the future, I’m looking forwards to testing myself against the some of the best managers in top 100. Its interesting, in the last 48 hours I’ve talked and held negotiations with a total different spectrum of managers, who i never could at Napoli due to not having a single player any of the better teams wanted. Its a gamble to break up a team mid season, results historically fall off. However i’m happy with our business and hooefully at some point we can improve on the clubs previous best achievements.