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Real Madrid's next manager: Xabi Alonso, Raul and the leading candidates to replace him

The cat is finally out of the bag. In confirming Fernando Diniz as the national team's interim boss on Tuesday, Brazil Football Confederation (CBF) president Ednaldo Rodrigues also revealed the Fluminense manager's successor. "Diniz's game plan is almost similar to that of the coach that will take over at Copa America - (Carlo) Ancelotti," Rodrigues said.

Even though Ancelotti still has a year to run on his current contract with Real Madrid, the news did not come as a major surprise, given Brazil have been chasing the Italian for some time now. It wasn't a question of if he would assume control of the Selecao, but when the announcement would be made.

What is less clear, though, is Madrid's succession plan. We don't yet know who will replace Ancelotti in the hot seat at Santiago Bernabeu.Several coaches have been linked with the vacancy but, as GOAL outlines below, some contenders are better-placed to take the reins next year than others...

Julian Nagelsmann

The German has been linked with Madrid ever since he was sensationally sacked by Bayern Munich in March and that's hardly surprising. While things turned sour at the Allianz Arena, Nagelsmann is still regarded as one of the most innovative young coaches in the game today, as underlined by links with the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham and Napoli. He's also clearly prepared to wait for the right job to come along. However, would he really be prepared to wait another year for the Madrid job to become available? Granted, Nagelsmann is still only 35, so it's not as if he should be in any rush to get back in the game, but it would be a shock if he doesn't accept another role before the summer of 2024.

Antonio Conte

The Italian was a serious contender to take over at the Bernabeu in 2018, but then-captain Sergio Ramos made his opposition to the potential appointment very clear. "Respect is earned, not imposed," the centre-back said at the time. Things have changed quite a bit since then, of course. There aren't quite so many egos in the Madrid dressing room, but one does still wonder if the notoriously combustible Conte is really the right character for a club that affords its superstars a level of freedom and influence that would be anathema to the former Spurs coach. On the other hand, one could argue that Conte is exactly what's needed to shake things up - as he did so successfully at the likes of Juventus, Chelsea and Inter - but it feels far more likely that he will accept an offer from a side promising him far more control than he would be afforded at the Bernabeu long before Ancelotti departs.

Jose Mourinho

Fans of controversy would undeniably love to see 'The Special One' back at the Bernabeu. Lest anyone forget, Mourinho turned the Clasico into such a toxic contest that it led to a deep division in the Spain camp between Madrid and Barcelona players. He's not mellowed in old age, either. If anything, he's even more aggressive and abrasive than ever before, and he's also not lost his ability to whip an entire fanbase into a frenzy, so a Real return would be absolute box office. Perhaps most importantly, it's probable that Mourinho, who backed down on his threat to quit Roma this summer, will be available next year. However, whether Perez wants to go through all that drama again remains very much open to debate. Talk to any member of the Madrid press and they'll tell you that when Mourinho left a decade ago, they were glad to see the back of the Portuguese, who accused the local media of hating him and described the 2012-13 season as "the worst" of his career.

Alvaro Arbeloa

The former Liverpool full-back will be a surprise inclusion on this list for some people, but he is very highly regarded at Madrid - and not just because he is a former youth-team and Castilla player who went on to enjoy two separate spells with the senior squad. Indeed, Arbeloa is making quite the name for himself at under-age level - he currently coaches the club's Juvenil A - and is being touted as a future manager of the first team. However, even with another year of experience under his belt, it would be hugely surprising if Perez turned to Arbeloa. If the president goes with an internal appointment, there is somebody ahead of Arbeloa in the pecking order - but more about him later...

Zinedine Zidane

Could one of the greatest players of all time really return for a third spell in the Madrid hotseat? You certainly wouldn't rule it out. After all, nobody expected him to come back for a second stint. We also know that Zidane is getting itchy feet. He's been out of the game parting company with Real in 2021, after a trophyless season, and recently admitted that he would like to start coaching again, as he feels that he still has plenty more to give. However, talk of him taking over at Paris Saint-Germain came to nothing and, right now, the feeling is that even if Zidane is forced to wait until 2024 for his next job, he's more likely to replace Massimiliano Allegri at Juventus than Ancelotti at Madrid.

Xabi Alonso

According to some Spanish outlets, the current frontrunner for the Madrid job. Alonso would certainly prove a popular appointment, having graced Santiago Bernabeu for five years as a player, winning a Liga title and a Champions League during that time. He also took his first steps into the world of coaching at Madrid, working with the club's Under-14s while procuring his UEFA licence. Alonso then returned to another of his former sides, Real Sociedad, to take charge of the Basques' B team, before proving his managerial acumen at Bayer Leverkusen, whom he led to a sixth-placed finish in last season's Bundesliga after taking over last October with the team second from bottom. Despite interest from Tottenham, Alonso committed himself to Leverkusen for another season, meaning the timing makes sense here, with the ex-Spain midfielder now set to be available for hire next summer.

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