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Bournemouth: Cherries sack Gary O’Neil and appoint Andoni Iraola as new head coach on two-year deal

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Andoni Iraola
Andoni Iraola’s Rayo Vallecano finished 11th in La Liga last season

Bournemouth have announced Andoni Iraola as their new head coach, replacing Gary O’Neil who was sacked earlier on Monday.

Spaniard Iraola, 40, has signed a two-year deal with the Cherries following the expiry of his contract at La Liga side Rayo Vallecano.

O’Neil was sacked seven months after he was made the club’s permanent boss and helped them to Premier League safety.

“We’re so excited to welcome Andoni to the club,” said chairman Bill Foley.

Iraola spent three years at Rayo Vallecano, guiding them to 11th in the Spanish top flight last season.

In his first season in charge, he earned promotion with the Madrid club from Segunda Division, before guiding them to the Copa Del Rey semi-finals in the 2021-22 campaign.

Foley added: “With his contract in Spain coming to an end this summer we wanted to act quickly.

“He was highly sought after by other clubs across the continent, and his style of play has been an important factor in making this decision. His achievements in Spain have certainly been very impressive and we’re confident that he is the right man to lead our next chapter.”

Iraola started his managerial career in 2018 in Cyprus with AEK Larnaca, before returning to Spain the following year to manager Mirandes for one season.

As a player, former right-back Iraola made more than 500 appearances for Athletic Bilbao and won seven international caps for Spain. He also played for New York City in in Major League Soccer.

Iraola will join up with the Bournemouth squad at the start of pre-season in July.

Foley, also Bournemouth’s owner, added: “We have identified a number of targets in the transfer market, which along with our January additions will supplement our strong playing squad to give Andoni the best chance to consolidate our Premier League status and keep progressing.”

An innovative thinker who grew up with Arteta

Iraola has a history of overachieving everywhere he has been, beginning with his playing career.

He spent 15 years with Athletic Bilbao, the club who famously only pick players with ties to the Basque Country. In his four seasons as captain, the club reached two Copa del Rey finals, a Europa League final and qualified for the Champions League.

As manager of Rayo he inspired them to promotion via the play-offs and established them in La Liga – even pushing for European football earlier last season.

Iraola’s Rayo had a reputation of being one of the most effective pressing teams in Spain, playing with a high block and forcing teams into errors in dangerous areas.

This ambitious, yet flexible, style of play has seen Rayo pull off some remarkable results in the biggest matches. They beat La Liga champions Real Madrid last season as well as Sevilla and Villarreal, while avoiding defeat to Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. In the previous season they did the double over Barcelona for the first time in their history.

Before joining Bilbao’s youth academy, Iraola got his football education at the renowned Basque club Antiguoko alongside Xabi Alonso, Mikel Arteta and future Athletic team-mate Aritz Aduriz.

Although he spent the bulk of his career with Bilbao, he got to work under top coaches such as Marcelo Bielsa, who led the team to two finals in 2012, and future Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde.

Read more: Andoni Iraola: Who is Bournemouth’s new manager?

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