Javi Gracia has been appointed as the new manager of Leeds United following the dismissal of Jesse Marsch.
The former Watford boss arrives at Elland Road having not managed since leaving Qatari side Al Sadd last year, which followed a brief spell with Valencia.
Gracia, 52, endured a tough end to his spell with the Hornets and was ultimately sacked in the first few games of the 2019/20 season – just months after guiding Watford to only their second-ever FA Cup final.
He has now been tasked with helping Leeds, who are enduring a difficult campaign, avoid relegation. The Spaniard’s new side are 19th in the Premier League and have won only four games all season.
Their last victory in the league came all the way back in November – with goals from Rodrigo, Sam Greenwood, Liam Cooper and Crysencio Summerville scoring in a 4-3 win against Bournemouth.
Javi Gracia managed Watford from 2018 until 2019 and guided the club to an FA Cup final
Watford were thrashed by Man City in the FA Cup final and Gracia was sacked just months later
Following Gracia’s arrival, the Leeds faithful will be hoping that the Spaniard can keep their struggling side in the division.
Work permit pending, his first game in the dugout could be a huge relegation six-pointer at home to Southampton on Saturday.
Here, Sportsmail breaks down where it went wrong for Gracia at Watford as well as Valencia and Al Sadd.
Gracia’s spell at Watford 2018-19
Gracia was appointed Watford boss in January 2018 on an 18-month deal following the dismissal of now Fulham manager Marco Silva.
Watford were 10th in the league when he took charge but had lost seven of their last nine matches.
His arrival at the club sparked an upturn in their fortunes. He brought togetherness and discipline to the Hornets, and did what he was brought in to do as he guided them to Premier League safety.
The following season, Gracia led Watford to their highest-ever Premier League finish of 11th and to their first FA Cup final in 35 years, which they lost 6-0 to Pep Guardiola’s rampant Manchester City.
The Spaniard was such a success early on that he was given a four-and-a-half year deal through until 2023.
But, after a superb campaign in his first season, it all began to crumble for Gracia – despite a significant spend in the summer transfer window, including the club-record £27million signing of Ismaila Sarr.
Watford were soundly beaten by Brighton on the opening day of 2019-20 and the writing was on the wall for the previously-heralded Gracia.
Watford’s 2019 Premier League season under Gracia started poorly as they lost 3-0 to Brighton
He was sacked in September, with Watford bottom of the table having loss three of their opening four games. They had just one point and had scored only two goals.
At the other end, Watford shipped eight goals – they hadn’t kept a clean sheet since the previous February – and it was this leaky defence, and his reluctance to play some of those signed in the summer, that ultimately cost him his job.
Sarr, despite his record price tag, barely featured in those four games, with free transfer and Premier League stalwart Danny Welbeck also seeing his appearances limited. Both made just one substitute appearance each, which irked owners Gino Pozzo and his father Giampaolo.
Where did he go next?
Gracia returned to Spain after his dismissal at Watford and was appointed as the new manager of Valencia in July 2020, 10 months on from his sacking at Vicarage Road.
He signed a two-year contract with the Spanish side and was brought in to move the club back towards the European places after a ninth-placed finish the previous season, but he endured a mixed opening to his tenure at the Mestalla.
Gracia won two of his first four matches with Valencia before three straight defeats were followed by a memorable 4-1 hammering of Real Madrid.
But he never really got going, winning just 11 of his 38 games in charge. His pragmatic style failed to capture the imagination of Valencia fans and he was sacked following a 3-2 home loss to Barcelona, which left the club in 14th place and facing the real possibility of a relegation battle.
After losing his job at Watford in 2019, Javi Gracia returned to Spain to manage Valencia
Gracia would go on to replace Xavi at Al Sadd with Xavi moving on to Spanish side Barcelona
He won the league with the Qatari side in what was a successful year for the club
His dismissal was announced by Valencia in a terse three-line statement. It was not a happy time for either Gracia himself or the club, who were desperate to return to their days of playing Champions League football.
Another year-long absence from the game followed before he became manager of Qatari side Al Sadd in December 2021 following Xavi’s departure to join boyhood club Barcelona.
Gracia rebounded from his disappointments with Watford and Valencia in Qatar, the fifth country he had managed in.
Despite joining in the middle of the domestic season, Gracia quickly adapted to the new country and league and enjoyed a successful stint with Al Sadd as he won the title, with his side finishing 15 points of nearest rivals Al-Duhail.
Three months later, Gracia opted to leave Al Sadd – and he has not been in the dugout since.
Is he the man to salvage Leeds’ season?
After being appointed as the new manager of Leeds, many will be hoping Gracia can turn their season around.
Throughout his career at Watford, Gracia adopted a 4-4-2 system – with the two midfielders sitting deep and allowing the wide players to free roam and create chances for the two forwards.
However, at Al Sadd, Gracia switched to a 3-4-2-1. The change paid dividends as he won the league.
Despite recent success with 3-4-2-1, it looks likely that Gracia will switch to a back four at Leeds.
Speaking to the Mirror in 2018, former Watford keeper Ben Foster said that the players bought into his ideas.
Leeds fans will be hoping that Gracia can turn their season around as the side are struggling
Gracia’s Leeds host fellow strugglers Southampton in an important clash on Saturday
With Leeds fans wondering what Gracia will bring to Elland Road, Foster said that the Spaniard is a ‘good guy’ and that the players appreciated the fact that he was not a ‘ranter’.
‘The manager here is a good guy, a really good guy. The lads have bought into his ideas and he puts it across really well. He’s calm, not a ranter and raver, and the players appreciate that,’ Foster said.
‘He is very big on pressing and pushing higher up the pitch, and that suits us because we’ve got the players to do it.
‘But the main thing is work-rate: There’s a lot of high-intensity running, closing down and closing the space. We’re quite aggressive as well.’
Others, however, may be concerned at Leeds opting for a manager whose most recent Premier League spell ended in disaster.
Time will tell if he is the man to get Leeds out of the mire but he will go some way to doing so if his new team beat Southampton in a huge clash on Saturday.