Franz Beckenbauer, Helenio Herrerack, Bob Paisley, Giovanni Trapattoni, the list goes on. These have been some of the great managers in the history of football. Each with their own individual style and each achieving their own glorious accomplishments in the Beautiful Game. Moving into more modern times and names like Alex Ferguson, Pep Guardiola, and José Mourinho will come to mind. However it can be seen that the modern game is being dominated largely by those who have vast amounts of finance available to them, contributed by wealthy owners, if you could call them owners.
The Modern Game
It appears that when Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea Football Club in 2003, he began a trend of wealthy businessmen investing in football clubs and thus availing incredibly large amounts of finances to the club. This can still be seen today. PSG, Málaga, Anzhi Makhachkala, Zenit St. Petersburg and of course Manchester City have all followed in this manner. All clubs splashing the cash in their own way, most notably the signings of Cameroonian starlet Samuel Eto’o for €25 million, Brazilian superstar Hulk for a whopping €40 million and Zlatan Ibrahimović for €23 million to PSG. But what do all of these mega-money buys mean for the team? It creates a team of high priced, high quality players merged together, much like that of the team of Manchester City. But the cherry on the cake, the glue that holds the team together, is the manager. Are these mega-rich teams led by master tacticians that know the game inside and out with a good eye for talent? Or are they overpaid ‘yes men’ that take orders and follow commands?
They know the game inside and out. They have studied the game and learned their trade over many years. They know the markets and know how to play football the right way. Arsène Wenger, Joachim Löw, Jürgen Klopp, Brendan Rodgers and of course Pep Guardiola. These are what I like to call football managers. Real football managers. They live and breathe the game. They each have their own distinct way of doing things and each have their own way of playing football. They have raw passion for what they do and they strive to succeed. They strive to do their best for their team and their fans, they strive to be the best. They are intelligent men that study the game and have in-depth tactics devised for their team. They play in a brand of football that is captivating to watch and is a marvel for teams to play against. Pep Guardiola once said “in football, everything starts with the ball and finishes with the ball.” A statement that seems half-witted in its simplicity but however crys out the ethos of his, Barcelona’s style of football. In 2003 Arsène Wenger was asked over the strength of his team over the entire season. He said “It’s not impossible. I know it will be difficult for us to go through the season unbeaten. But if we keep the right attitude it’s possible we can do it.” That season his Arsenal side went the entire 38 league games unbeaten and decisively won the Barclays Premier League.
This is the ugly side to management. Men that receive praise without earning it. Attain success without implementing it. Achieve much yet work little for it. I like to refer to them as “yes men”. You may refer to them as whatever you please but their title will not take away what they do to our beautiful game. Men such as Roberto Mancini who are employed more as businessmen than football managers, who buy their success, who do not strive to succeed but instead buy it with large amounts of finance availed to them. Who take orders from another businessman, the owner. Who does not work for the team but takes orders like a puppet danced around by its commander on strings. Yes I will refer to such men as “yes men” as they are yes men.
They take orders and will not do what is best for the team, for the fans but for what is best for the company. I see teams such as Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona as families rather than clubs but I do rather see the new-age Manchester City as a company, not a club, not a team. The men that run such teams should not be seen as great and wonderful managers to be compared with the greats as Sir Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola. They are not football managers in my eyes.
It’s An Art
I see football management as being an art in itself. They do not get the glorious acclaim that their players may receive or the front page stories but they are the engine, the dynamo that unites men into a team. They strive to be the best and perform to the best of their abilities for their team, their club, their fans. They are the unsung hero’s of football which without them, would go without a purpose.