It was once said that Chelsea were running out of managers, insomuch as they had sacked in their then-recent history every one of the small eligible pool of suitable, elite-level coaches.
It was like a Soviet-era purge that had the inconvenient consequence of a dearth of competent cavalry officers or heart surgeons.
That turned out to be right when Chelsea were reunited with Jose Mourinho in 2013, largely because there was no one else with the necessary track record, or indeed ego, to do the job.
Much the same reason was given, one suspects, for Richard Burton’s second marriage to Elizabeth Taylor and, as it transpired, Jose’s return was just as brief.
For the club currently in the post-Jose break-up era, the problem is similar: Spurs’ fraught history and equally fraught sense of ambition means they operate in a narrow marketplace for managers. Who comes next?
Hansi Flick is, for instance, a figure of interest for Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, and one can see why, with Bayern Munich’s Champions League last season and a role in Germany’s World Cup win on his resume.
It gives a man standing and inspires confidence, within the club, that this is a credible figure whose appointment will not be met with a wave of derision on social media.
Never mind that he would not, for instance, even have been a consideration before he was promoted to the top job by Bayern 18 months ago. There is comfort to be taken in what he represents and Flick remains a possibility, although he seems destined to manage Germany.
As for Spurs, they are said to seek an established coach — with a strong profile — whose most recent season has been a success.
That last factor has been one of the problems, though, with the likes of Graham Potter and even other outside contenders such as Scott Parker and Ralph Hasenhuttl. As with all football managerial jobs of this scale, there are many considerations beyond the simple ability of the coach himself. Timing, it seems, is everything.
There are limits to Spurs’ attractiveness to the leading candidates based on their 2020-21 performance, as the responses of Julian Nagelsmann, Erik ten Hag and — so far — Brendan Rodgers have demonstrated.
The decision to sack Mourinho on April 19 felt like it was made then, in no small measure, to give the club a run at the long-admired Nagelsmann. But it was not enough time to intercept Bayern.
In 2015, Liverpool sacked Rodgers when they did chiefly because Jurgen Klopp became available and the window for action was limited.
A strong profile and recent success are reasonable requirements for a club looking for success, as well as being extremely limiting factors. This Spurs appointment is complex because it must satisfy so many competing factors that go beyond the simple question of a coach’s ability and vision.
The candidate must be obtainable, as others have proved not to be. He must generate enough natural optimism among the fan base for the appointment not to be a bust on announcement, which is not necessarily guaranteed in the case of recently relegated managers such as Parker or Eddie Howe
There are question marks over the compatibility of Levy with experienced overseas candidates, such as Antonio Conte, Maurizio Sarri, Max Allegri and Rafael Benitez. They have the status, but all four have hardly enjoyed frictionless relationships with former clubs. At the other end of the scale, when it comes to affable, collegiate managers, Levy seems to have shown little or no interest in Gareth Southgate.
It makes the candidacies of Roberto Martinez and the enigmatic Ralf Rangnick, a perennial go-to for bookmakers considering English managerial vacancies, easier potential appointments to imagine. Their recent track records, at least, are much harder to interpret negatively.
Both have solid accomplishments in their careers as well as, it should be said, reasons why they might not be suitable.
Rangnick has recently worked more in technical director and development roles, but both, nonetheless, feel credible. That is one of the great challenges of this critical appointment for Levy, 20 years into the Enic years at Spurs.
What sort of appointment feels like it would carry the majority in a club who depend so much on mood and confidence? What appointment has a logic and a momentum?
The circumstances discourage risk — and yet risk has rewarded Levy in the past.
That was certainly the case with the relatively inexperienced Mauricio Pochettino, which is why the likes of Rangers’ Steven Gerrard and Steve Cooper, the Swansea City manager, have appeared at the edges of the Spurs conversation.
Gerrard, of course, is already at a very big club and four qualifying games from being a Champions League manager. So, he is another who could make a very strong case for turning down any Spurs offer, were it to come.
Levy and Spurs have not built the kind of club, in recent years, where there is scope for the riskier appointment, and the Mourinho era played out rather too closely to many predictions.
Every managerial decision requires a degree of clairvoyance, but this one feels particularly uncertain. So many strange dynamics are at play, including the previous incumbent having already found new employment, which at least should save on compensation payments.
The absence of what might be described as an obvious candidate is partly a result of Spurs’ special requirements and a general paucity in the available market.
But if one was searching for a sign of how snookered Spurs must feel, then look no further than the standout overachiever in Europe this season, who has excelled on a tight budget, won trophies, outperformed wealthier clubs and even has Premier League experience.
In short, the man one would normally regard as a serious contender, by default, would be ex-Arsenal boss Unai Emery.
© Telegraph Media Group Ltd (2021)
Telegraph Media Group Limited