The Spanish national team is set for a revolution following the resignation of Coach Vicente Del Bosque, and the RFEF is determined to ensure that his successor can secure a smooth return to the glory years of 2008-2012.
Del Bosque’s place amongst the immortals of Spanish football is certain following his reign at the helm for the most successful period in La Roja’s history, however the need for change has been growing for some time.
The 65-year-old was determined to bury the ghost of Brazil 2014 with a strong showing in France this summer, and despite plenty of promise, there is a nagging feeling that other nations are creeping ahead of the once-imperious Spain.
Whoever steps into Del Bosque’s shoes, with the former Real Madrid boss set to move into a new role within the RFEF, faces the task of remodelling Spain ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
One of the primary difficulties facing the RFEF in establishing a new head Coach is that a number of potential targets have recently taken charge at new clubs, but the lure of leading Spain back to glory could be very strong.
Benitez undoubtedly has a real pedigree for the job, comfortably fulfilling the criteria of having managed at the highest level with spells at Real Madrid, Valencia, Chelsea, Liverpool and Napoli.
His decision to remain loyal to Newcastle United following their relegation to the second tier of English football in May created both surprise and admiration amongst those expecting an exit.
However, the profile of Benitez within Spain makes him the most credible candidate as his experience and measured persona make him the closest fit to Del Bosque, and Spain appear reluctant to steer too far away from their current model of management.
Benitez would be a steady choice that would likely see Spain address some of their defensive concerns, which were exposed against a streetwise Italian side, and his links to the Premier League could see a return to the national team for some of their English-based stars.
The influence of former Athletic Bilbao player Valverde as Coach of the Basque club has pushed them to consistently challenge for European qualification, a factor that has not gone unnoticed in Spain.
His work in promoting young players, reinvigorating established talents (Aritz Aduriz) and developing a siege mentality within his team mean that he could be a real candidate to replace Del Bosque.
His strong ties to Athletic are likely to be the primary stumbling block for the RFEF, though, as he has grown the club into a position to challenge at the ‘best of the rest’ level, winning the Supercopa Espana last season in the process. However, he has the hallmarks of a Coach ready to step up a level and possesses the required experience required, and those coupled with his ability to stoke a fire in the belly could be exactly what the Seleccion need.
Like Valverde, Marcelino has worked minor miracles with a somewhat less-glamorous club in the form of Villarreal. He too has established the Yellow Submarine as a club consistently placed, with limited resources, to challenge the likes of Athletic, Sevilla, Celta Vigo and Valencia for a place in Europe.
Although not exactly a bulldog in terms of temperament, he does command huge respect at El Madrigal, and his preference for playing a fusion of counterattacking and possession-based football would appeal the RFEF.
Unfortunately he has seen some of his top players sold on at Villarreal, much to his frustration, but his pragmatic approach and an inclination to get the ball into dangerous areas with pace could be seen as a necessary development for Spain.
Former Real Madrid midfielder Michel is an unorthodox option for the top job in Spain, having served a nomadic apprenticeship in Spain, Greece and France.
He experienced underwhelming spells in charge of Rayo Vallecano, Real Madrid B, Getafe and Sevilla before moving to Greece and winning two League titles with Olympiacos.
His most recent managerial stint was last season with Marseille, however he was sacked in April following a disappointing campaign in Ligue 1, although problems off the pitch only made his remit more difficult.
His only significant achievement in Spain was preserving Getafe’s top-flight status between 2009 and 2011, but his lack of impact at other clubs may have left his reputation tainted.
A move for Michel is most likely as something of a last resort or as a stop-gap solution until a permanent successor is found.