Athletic Club are set to return to training on Wednesday morning, with a lot of speculation and attention aimed towards Gaizka Garitano, yet if he is to be dismissed in the near future, fans see Mauricio Pochettino as the dream, Ernesto Valverde as the known success and Marcelino as the coach with the most recent success.
Garitano survived slipping to a fifth defeat in the eight matches played thus far in LaLiga Santander this term, but it's unclear whether he will be able to escape being sacked if his team loses to Real Betis after the international break.
Such a defeat could leave the team in the relegation zone, which ironically could close the circle of Garitano's career on the Estadio San Mames bench rather poetically.
He arrived in December 2018, taking over a struggling team in the relegation zone, and November 2020 could see him depart with the club in exactly the same situation.
Athletic Club's board of directors and technical department are obliged to already start assessing the market for coaches as an act of mere due diligence.
The Basque club will not be drawn into a bidding war for a free-agent, they want somebody who they can build around and put trust in, and will spend this period laying the foundations for a successful appointment.
In terms of coaches who aren't currently attached to a club, there is quite the lengthy list, and an argument could be made that it is perhaps the most star-studded one in recent times.
Fans are identifying three specific candidates: Pochettino, Valverde and Marcelino, although the Argentine is very much seen as an unrealistic dream.
An Argentine in Lezama
Pochettino hasn't coached since leaving Tottenham Hotspur in November 2019, yet there are likely to be several offers sent to him in the near future.
He is seen as the main candidate to take over any potential vacancy at Manchester United, whilst he has also been considered by Paris Saint-Germain who are having a very difficult time with Thomas Tuchel at this moment.
Furthermore, whenever Real Madrid have a bad result, Pochettino's name is mentioned, although there is a slight hope amongst fans that he will want to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Marcelo Bielsa, and lead the Basque club.
His salary of 10 million euros per season would be problematic, although people close to him recognise that the club would fit into his philosophy.
With that being said, he feels that the work done with Espanyol, Southampton and mostly Spurs has left him in a position to expect a job at a club the size of Manchester United.
During an interview with MARCA, the former Espanyol coach did actually speak about Athletic Club in glowing terms.
"Athletic Club is an exciting model, which generates enormous respect for what the club represents," Pochettino confirmed. "I have seen Lezama and I have known what their new stadium means. I get that impression from a distance, but it's difficult to compare being inside."
Valverde, a possible return?
After being dismissed by Barcelona, the Spanish coach has been unemployed, although he is seen as someone who could return for a third stint as coach with Athletic Club.
His time there was remarkable and he achieved many plaudits for the level of overachievement he managed at a club with notoriously stringent recruitment rules.
No coach throughout history has ever coached Athletic Club in more matches than Valverde, although he himself has admitted a foreign adventure may appeal to him in the immediate future.
He's also the last coach to win a title with the Basque giants, as he lifted the 2015 Supercopa de Espana, breaking a 51-year trophy drought.
Marcelino, the biggest plan
Marcelino is seen as a coach who will surely have a job before the end of the season, he is the hot-hand, if you will, with his work at Valencia admired despite a sour ending.
Despite being heavily linked with AC Milan, the Spaniard hasn't worked since September 2019, but he is ready to return.
His time with Villarreal was excellent too, and he is keen to arrive at a project that will support him in the long-term.
Source: Marca / Juanma Velasco - Chris Winterburn