The search for Juan Carlos Osorio's replacement as Mexico manager is officially on. The Colombian took his time in thinking over his position with El Tri but ultimately refused a new contract, as was announced on Friday evening.
Wrapped up in that statement is a fact that should not be overlooked when analyzing who will come in: The Mexican federation (FMF) was happy with Osorio's stint in charge. The FMF was even willing to cede more decision-making to Osorio had he stayed.
With that in mind, it is difficult to believe the FMF, now headed by Yon de Luisa but still with Guillermo Cantu and Dennis te Kloese in place, will fall back on previous head coaches like Miguel Herrera, Victor Manuel Vucetich, Hugo Sanchez, Ricardo La Volpe, Ricardo Ferretti or Javier Aguirre. And there isn't an obvious Mexican choice outside of that group.
Much more probable is another slightly left-field appointment from outside Mexico. The perfect candidate would speak Spanish, have experience in the Mexican game and also the game in Europe, adhere to an attacking philosophy, be adept at handling media and, obviously, be available and interested.
What follows are 10 names that could be options. A couple of these will cause eyebrows to be raised given today's rapid-reaction culture. But sometimes what a manager did (or didn't do) in his previous job doesn't reflect his actual ability or the potential that he could succeed with Mexico. Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper, and given that the FMF went after Osorio in the first place, there is every chance of a bold appointment.
Finally, the likes of Arsene Wenger, Zinedine Zidane and other really big names have been discounted. They are unlikely to be willing to relocate to Mexico and work in CONCACAF.
The Argentine former Chivas manager would appear to be the front-runner for the position after winning both a Liga MX title and the CONCACAF Champions League with the Guadalajara side before being unceremoniously ditched by the club earlier this summer.
Almeyda is keen, knows the Mexican players, is a shrewd manager of the media, has an international profile and proved himself to be very good in cup and playoff soccer.
On the negative side, Almeyda's Chivas had a Liga MX record of seven wins from 34 league games since the side won the 2017 Clausura. And it can't be ignored that he left the club after a bitter dispute with higher-ups in the organization.
The former Chelsea manager is still only 40, has management experience in four countries and a playing philosophy that would seem to fit the Mexican player pool. Also, he's currently out of work and could be attracted to the challenge of making history with Mexico. There have already been rumors that the FMF has met with Villas-Boas.
Gerardo "Tata" Martino
Experience on the international stage, both in Europe with Barcelona and now in CONCACAF with Atlanta United, would make Martino a very interesting contender for the Mexico job, although prying him away from his project in MLS may prove difficult.
The innovative Independiente head coach would certainly fit the Osorio mold. Holan famously started off as a field hockey coach, sold a car to buy computer equipment so he could monitor his players in training, and despite being 57 years old he's one of the most forward-thinking coaches in Latin America.
Holan guided Independiente to the 2017 Copa Sudamericana and given that he has a contract until 2021 and is a fan of the club, it wouldn't be so simple to bring him to Mexico. He will also be keen to have a run at this year's Copa Libertadores. Still, the lure of a World Cup proved to be too much for Osorio and it could also turn Holan's head.
Sampaoli's reputation may have been damaged by Argentina's dismal World Cup and reports of unrest within his squad, but the 58-year-old remains a good manager and one that is available.
Outwardly attacking and with a playing style very much suited to Mexico's talent pool, Sampaoli's calling card is his stint with Chile and victory at the 2015 Copa America. Sampaoli also has experience in Europe with Sevilla and needs a new challenge. Whether Sampaoli has the same personal skills to win over the players like Osorio did would be a question mark.
Could he be tempted by Mexico less than two years after getting fired by the United States? If the FMF is really willing to give a manager free rein to oversee the whole program, then this may not be as bizarre a fit as it looks at first.
Frank de Boer
Three consecutive Eredivisie titles with Ajax marked the start of what looked to be a very promising coaching career, but short stints with Internazionale and then Crystal Palace didn't work out for De Boer. The Dutch manager may well be looking for a new opportunity, does speak Spanish from his time playing for Barcelona, and would seem to be a decent fit for Mexico.
It looks likes Pekerman will leave Colombia at the end of August and there have already been rumors about an Argentina return. But what if Mexico put together a firm proposal for his services? Pekerman is certainly the kind of manager that would enjoy overseeing the range of Mexican national teams, although he had a legal dispute with Tigres in the past and at 68 years old may not want the stress of the job with El Tri. Also, he's not known for doing many interviews, which might not go down too well. It would be a hard sell.
Quique Sanchez Flores
The out-of-work Spaniard has worked in four countries and was heavily linked to the Spain job after the World Cup before Luis Enrique was appointed. The downside is that Sanchez Flores was recently fired by Espanyol and may not have the profile Mexico is looking for.
Another one of Argentina's bright younger managers, Gallardo has stayed loyal to River Plate since 2014 but one would assume he would eventually move on for a fresh challenge. The 42-year-old would represent a coup for Mexico, although the former Monaco player's next move might be to Europe instead.