Rangers Twitter (or ‘X’ as the youngsters call it now) was on fire on Sunday morning due to the announcement that former Monaco boss Philippe Clèment was to become Rangers’ 19th manager in the club’s long and illustrious history.
It seemed like Kevin Muscat and Philippe Clèment were the favourites due to their outstanding interviews and Clèment came out on top.
It really doesn’t sound like there was much between them. However, the overriding factor could have been the rumours that Muscat wasn’t willing to leave Yokohama F Marinos until the end of the season, which would have been around December time. That though I think appears to have been debunked. He did interview well by all accounts and I’m sure that would have maybe ruled him out as even though December isn’t that far away, it’s too far away in footballing terms. We could be out of Europe and have no League Cup in the bag by the time he’s appointed. Granted it sounded like the board weren’t going to rush into any decision, however, I think that would have ruled him out.
Rangers had kept info coming out of Ibrox over the past couple of weeks from their shortlist and how it whittled down. I liked this. The club can be criticized for a lot of things however they were keeping us abreast of developments, something that we didn’t really do in recent years. For example, when it appeared Frank Lampard was in the running, the club debunked that quickly. That prevented the fans from turning up to the Ibrox gates with pitchforks. Wise move.
It sounded like there was some competition for Clement too with Saudi side Al-Shabab wanting him as their boss. According to @Nieuwsblad_be, Clèment rejected a €15,000,000, 2.5-year deal to become their manager. Phenomenal money, however not surprising in the slightest if you have seen some of the dosh that’s been thrown around that league in recent times. What does that tell us? It’s not about money? Perhaps. Al-Shabab may have lots of money to spend, however, that’s not always everything. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time it is. That’s why we see so many footballers going over there to ply their trade. To me, it shows Clèment has a hunger and desire to be at a club where he can mould his ethos into. A club with history and stature. European football can be a big factor too. Something that Saudi can’t offer. Well not yet anyway.
Clèment will be joined at Ibrox by his former assistant at Club Brugge, Stephan van Der Heyden. Stephan has been Mark van Bommel’s assistant with the Jordan national side as well as managing Indian side Kerala Blasters. He also famously played for Brugge v Rangers back in the newly formed Champions League back in 1992.
Club Brugge v Rangers – Champions League – 1992
So what do I know about Philippe Clèment?
Probably as much as you do. So I did some digging to find out what I could about our new gaffer.
Philippe Clèment started out as a Defensive Midfielder, playing mainly in Belgium with Beerschot, Genk & Club Brugge. He also featured for Coventry City and was capped 38 times for the Belgium national team between 1998 and 2007. He featured for Belgium in the World Cup during France ‘98 and Euro 2000.
His managerial career started in 2011, taking up the position of manager for Club Brugge’s U-21s.
Aimé Anthuenis – former Genk coach 1996-1999
His mentor, Aimé Anthuenis, his former coach at Genk back in the 90’s, spotted the managerial qualities that Clèment had. He told RTBF Sport back in 2021 “At Genk as well as at the Devils, I noticed that he was predisposed for the job. He was interested, asked questions, gave his opinion, behaved like a leader and had a great sense of teamwork.”
His first top managerial job came in the form of caretaker boss at Brugge after Georges Leekens departed after a series of losses after only a short stint at the club. He was previously Leekens assistant. He managed 2 games before Juan Carlos Garrido came in as the next permanent manager. His first game as a manager was a Europa League clash with Newcastle United, which ended in a 2-2 draw. Not a bad result. However Newcastle United had their own problems that season. Finishing 16th in the Premier League, just avoiding relegation. They did, however, get through to the Quarter Finals that season, so had a decent run in Europe. A young James Tavernier featured for Newcastle that night. Wonder what ever happened to him eh?
Brugge only managed a draw and a win in the Europa League that season. losing all their other games. They finished bottom of their group. Clèment also lost his first league game in charge, which would be his last one during the interim period – for now. A 6-1 thumping at the hands of Anderlecht in the league.
Philippe Clèment still seemed to be held in high regard though as when new boss Juan Carlos Garrido was appointed, Clèment was made his assistant. Garrido was in the hot seat though for only 10 months. This despite an undefeated start to the league season where Brugge actually looked like they were going to challenge for the title. They sat 4 points behind leaders Standard Liege at that point. It seemed that being knocked out of Europe at the third qualifying round stage to Slask Wroclaw, may have been a big factor behind this. Brugge appointed Clèment once again to be the interim manager and this time along with Stephan Van der Heyden. They were only in place for 1 game though. That a win.
Brugge found a bit of stability with their next manager, Michel Preud’homme. Who spent 4 years at the helm. Once again Clèment was his assistant for that period until he was given his chance in management. That at Waasland-Beveren (now known as Sportkring Beveren). He signed a 3-year deal at the club.
He wasn’t to see out his deal. I’m fact his work at Beveren caught the eye of Genk only a few months into the job.
Standard Liège won the 2018 Croky Cup Final at the expense of Clèments Genk side.
It wasn’t long before Clèment had his first real chance of silverware at Genk. A 1-0 defeat to Standard Liege in the Croky Cup Final (Belgium Cup final), 3 months after taking charge. A game in which Clèment felt hard done by with time-wasting and poor refereeing by the match official at the time Jonathan Lardot. Standard did feel worthy winners though as they did create the majority of chances. The Genk team had some familiar names such as current Arsenal forward Leandro Trossard. This was only Genk’s fifth appearance in the cup final so a great achievement nonetheless.
Clèment also secured European football for the following season with a Europa League spot. Genk made it to the last 32, crashing out to a 4-1 defeat, at home to Slavia Prague. Yes, that horrible lot.
Importantly though, despite the congested fixture calendar with having European football, Genk managed to secure the title in 2018-19. They finished top of the table by 7 points, and managed to secure the title via the complex ‘Play-Off’ system. Thank goodness we don’t have that in Scotland.
Clèment, found himself back at Club Brugge in May 2019 where he won back-to-back Belgian league titles to make it three in a row, of course after winning with Genk the previous season too. He guided Club Brugge to the Belgium Super Cup as well.
Safe to say Clèment hit the ground running when it came to management. 2 manager of the year awards in his short time speak volumes about the work he was doing.
Safe to say he was well-liked at Brugge. To the point where his contract was changed from a 3-year deal to an ‘indefinite duration contract’. Never heard of that really happening before, however, this showed the lengths that Brugge went to keep their man.
Then came Clèment’s first job outside Belgium. Yes even as a footballer he rarely left the country. The only time being a brief stint at Coventry as a player where he played 12 games for the Midland men. Rare for modern footballers, however, I do feel he had an affinity with Brugge. This however peaked the interest of Monaco and they did all they could to get their man to replace Niko Kovac, who was sacked after a poor run leaving Monaco sitting sixth.
It was alleged that Clèment was the outstanding candidate and he pipped Jesse Marsch to the job. Monaco Vice President Oleg Petrov said “His ability to bring the best out of young and talented squads while meeting higher and higher objectives throughout his career, make him the fitting person [to] bring Monaco back into the elite of French soccer and on the European scene,”.
Monaco had a steady season being in the top five throughout, however, Clèment failed to get Les Monegasques back into the Champions League, losing to PSV (Yeah I know familiar right?) at the Third Qualifying Round stage. They were all but through until an 89th-minute equaliser from Erick Gutierrez and a subsequent Extra Time winner from de Jong. That put PSV through to the Play-Off v Rangers FC….
Monaco went through to the Europa League and finished 2nd in Group H which featured Ferencváros, Trabzonspor and Red Star Belgrade. The group came down to the wire with only a point separating 3 out of the 4 sides. Some mixed results in that group for Clèment too. A 4-1 win over Red Star in Monaco and a 4-0 thrashing in Turkey at the hands of Trabzonspor. They eventually went out in the last 32 to Bayer Leverkusen. European form was erratic, to say the least, and the fans weren’t happy. Clèment failed to qualify for Europe the following season as his Monaco side finished 6th. That was the nail in the coffin and was to be the end of Clèment’s reign. His spell lasted 18 months.
Now every manager will have a bad spell, it happens. Could this be due to footballing naivety due to him managing outside of Belgium for the first time? Or were there just different circumstances at the club? Either way, it didn’t work.