Ange Postecoglou has barely cleared his desk and we've already had an airport sighting and suspended betting sparking a social media frenzy - is it too early to call silly season on the search for Celtic's new manager?

An ever-growing list of candidates contains a heady mix of the predictable, the ambitious and a few intriguing wildcards into the bargain.

A rising star of the City Football Group, Celtic fans were already familiar with the name Enzo Maresca when it resurfaced in the near-immediate aftermath of Postecoglou’s departure.

It featured fairly prominently the last time this job was open to applicants before being lost amid the ensuing Eddie Howe saga. His return to the managerial frame has again piqued supporters’ interest. After all, you don’t earn the trust of Pep Guardiola without having a little something about you.

Maresca is Manchester City’s assistant manager – a key figure at the all-conquering Premier League winnersw, packed to the rafters with world class players and on the brink of a historic treble that would also confirm their long-craved status as European champions. You can’t find a testimony on Google that isn’t anything less than effusive about his coaching credentials, and his potential as a manager.

On paper, there’s lots to like about the 43-year-old from Salerno and his potential to continue Postecoglou’s legacy. There’s just one thing nagging away at an expectant Parkhead public, though.


Maresca has had one job as a first-team manager, and it lasted for just 14 matches. Shortly before Postecoglou arrived in Glasgow, Maresca departed the Etihad for a return to his homeland in May 2021.

His task: elevate a once proud club back to Serie A, and quickly. I Crociati had suffered through a thoroughly miserable 2020/21 season, plummeting out of Italy’s top-flight at rock bottom having won a paltry three league matches all season.

They were comparative heavyweights in the second tier, but Maresca did not meet the brief of producing instant results and he was brutally sacked a month before Christmas. He faced criticism for using players out of position, and of adopting a tactical approach that did not align with the profile of player at his disposal.

At face value, it is a considerable blot on his CV, and one which has raised questions as to his suitability for managing Celtic, where he would be expected to win every single domestic fixture.

Conor Clancy, co-founder of Total Italian Football, was among the journalists covering Maresca’s brief tenure up close, and believes there was more to how things unfolded than the unflattering numbers.

“I was impressed by his ideas,” said Clancy. “He was very keen to play football the way you’d expect anybody who’s worked with Pep to play football. Adrian Bernabe, for example, came to Parma from City and it was obviously because Maresca was there.

“He came in as this tricky little number 10 and Maresca played him, basically, between centre-backs when in possession. Valentin Mihaila, who was somewhere between a striker and a winger, he played him as a full-back.

“There was very much this approach of ‘everybody on the pitch is a footballer, first and foremost’. It wasn’t always that well-received. But to be fair to him, that Parma job was difficult when he took it.

“They’d just gone down to Serie B and nobody really knew what was happening. The squad was thrown together with mostly young kids who had never played first-team football before, Bernabe being one of them. He’s still here and loved by the fans.

“It didn’t last long. But that he was dismissed and replaced by Giuseppe Iachini, who I’d call the Italian Tony Pulis, shows Parma didn’t really know what they were doing at the time.

“He felt like the right man at the wrong time. If he’d come to this job with the players there now – it’s not a perfect squad but they are more established in Italy – I think he’d do a much better job.”

Like the man he could succeed at Celtic, Maresca’s arrival in Parma was brewed scepticism among sections of the football media. The two scenarios are not identical but are there parallels with how Postecoglou was met by his fair share of cynics.

Where Postecoglou found has lack of experience in Europe under scrutiny, Maresca’s reputation as a new-age ‘philosopher’ coach did not sit awfully well the more hardened members of the press.

“Some of the old guard of the press who have been going to games here for longer than I’ve been alive were a bit resistant to him being seen as one of ‘Pep’s disciples’, and the way they are spoken about,” Clancy explained. “Even the term ‘disciples’, it comes with a certain expectation, especially coming from Pep, and it’s often met with some resistance.

“Even now you can see it with Mikel Arteta, people talked about him as if he’s not a ‘proper football man’. There was that impression here with Maresca.”

But while he may not have curried much favour in the press box, he made an entirely different impression on the players.

“The players loved him,” Clancy said. “When Maresca was sacked, a lot of the players were annoyed, particularly the younger ones. It was a pretty international squad, and Maresca speaks French, Italian, Spanish, English and possibly a few others.

“On the training ground, he was communicating his ideas to all these kids in whatever language they preferred to speak in, while also encouraging Italian use. When he was replaced, a lot of players had these little secret meetings around Parma; they were driving to car parks to basically moan about how the club had f****d them over by replacing this really young guy that they all loved with someone who was the exact opposite.

“The Celtic fans would probably like him; he’d make an impression and communicate his ideas really well. I just think the timing was it – he needed more time. I really, really do think if he had been given more time last the year, the results would have come.

“You can’t just implement that within two months. They did get worse without him; Iacchini came in and went for a back-to-basics, ‘big Sam’ approach.

“He ended up leaving with a bit of credit because he was seen to have steadied the ship but the points-per-game ratio was worse under Iachini, and he didn’t really have any ideas. Maresca was trying to build towards something.”

If Postecoglou had not kept in touch with Rangers at the Premiership summit during a bumpy first few months, who knows if the Parkhead board’s trigger-finger would have grown as itchy as Parma’s. But Celtic are a club who now know the value of allowing a manager sufficient time to build, on the obvious proviso that results do not become completely unacceptable.

Should become their preferred candidate, he would inherit a squad which should be much better equipped to implement ideas influenced by Guardiola, whose impact on Postecoglou’s approach was clear from the outset. Clancy’s view is that Parma too hastily dispensed with Maresca, and that they remain mired in Serie B shows things haven’t improved much since. He saw a manager with high potential, and one who makes sense as the continuity candidate at Celtic.

“With Postecoglou and Brendan Rodgers, it’s clear Celtic have an idea of what they want to follow,” Clancy said. “In theory, that’s what Maresca would give them. It’s what he was introducing. He had the basics in place but they were missing that zip in the final third, that hadn’t been found.

“This might be a bit dismissive but he would have the luxury in Scotland of Celtic being way better than most other teams. Most of the team, even if it’s not 100 per cent what he wants it to be, it’ll be enough to beat most opponents, whereas at Parma that wasn’t the case.

“Parma were probably the sixth to tenth best team in the division, and everything is a bit tighter in Serie B. I’m excited to see what he can do in his career, he made an impression on me and I was disappointed when he was sacked.

“Having heard the stories I have from players, I know they liked him – the young players did, at least. The players who were the right fit for him, liked him – even if they weren’t playing. I think that says a lot.”