Shall we play a game? Let’s play Find the Winning Manager. Wouldn’t you rather play a nice game of FIFA 2015? Later… let’s play Find the Winning Manager.
It’s not Global Thermonuclear War, but the managerial shuffle in Europe’s biggest leagues sometimes feels like the end of the world for football fans. What makes the hiring and firings of managers so frustrating is the constant recycling of coaches who have never won anything. Nada. Zip. Sixty-year-old Big Sam Allardyce is on his sixth English club, four of them in the Premier League. Yet he has won exactly zero trophies. Tony Pulis? He’s 57 and on his eighth club. Hull City is 54-year-old Steve Bruce’s seventh club as a manager…nothing. Let’s not even talk about Serie A…
A club’s choice of manager is an obvious reflection of its ambition, and it has to be disheartening to see your team hiring a gaffer who’s been run out of his previous job. Yet there are coaches who have winners’ medals for major European and domestic trophies, but are not currently in charge of a team.
So this week, let’s play Find the Winning Manager. Here are the rules:
1) The manager must have won a major domestic or European trophy in the last 20 years. That means Champions League, UEFA Cup/Europa League or Cup Winners’ Cup in Europe, one of the top five domestic leagues (Spain, England, Germany, Italy or France… sorry Portugal) or one of those leagues’ major knockout trophies. I’m biased so I’ve included the English League Cup, just to show you the dearth of winning English managers. Oh and Super Cups don’t count.
2) The manager must not be leading a club. This includes serving as an executive ie. Gérard Houllier at New York Red Bulls.
3) The candidate must be under the age of 65 by the end of the domestic season, just to counter the “oh he’s too old” argument.
Honours: 2010 Copa del Rey with Sevilla
Okay, we might be starting with a bit of a dodgy example. Antonio Álvarez was a club legend who became essentially a caretaker manager; he was Sevilla’s assistant coach when Manolo Jiménez was sacked, and took charge of Los Rojiblancos who were in fifth place with 10 games left… oh, and still had to play a Copa del Rey final. Álvarez led them into a final Champions League position, and then a 2-0 win over Atlético Madrid for Sevilla’s second King’s Cup in four years. But two nail-biting losses to Braga in UCL qualifying that summer, followed by a 1-0 home loss to Paris-Saint Germain and a mediocre 2-2-1 start to La Liga season, and Álvarez was out. Who knows how influential he was? Think of him as a Spanish version of Roberto Di Matteo.
“*Blitzkreig” Baup won the French league in his first year in charge of Les Girondins, and then leading them to a top-four finish in all but one of the next four seasons, while picking up a League Cup along the way. But after a disasterous start to the 2003-2004 campaign, Bordeaux let him go. An unimpressive stint at Saint-Étienne then led to his move to Toulouse in 2006, when he led the constantly relegation-threatened club to third place and a Champions League spot. He moved onto Nantes and then Marseille, taking over from Didier Deschamps in 2012. The mighty Marseille had finished a lowly 10th spot when Deschamps left; yet again, Baup moved in and guided his club into a Champions League spot. But again, poor results last season got him the sack. He’s been without a job just over a year… surely there must be something for him in England.
*Not his real nickname, to my knowledge
Luis Fernández is another example of a young manager whose career sputtered after a flash of brilliance. The Spanish-born Frenchman left Cannes at 34 years old to coach in the capital, and led PSG to two domestic cups, a third-place league finish, and a Champions League semi-final. The following year, he would win what is still PSG’s only major European Trophy, the Cup Winners’ Cup. He then left for Spain where he guided Athetic Bilbao to its best finish in 14 years. But a few mid-table seasons later, then a return to PSG, was followed by some more work in France, Spain and Israel (including with the national team). Fernández has not managed since 2011; just this week, he told French media that he wants to return to coaching.
Señor Espanyol himself, Paco Flores spent almost 20 years — off and on — managing at the club’s various levels. His first real managing job was filling in for the fired Miguel Ángel Brindisi, coming up from the youth side in 2000 to lead Espanyol away from the relegation zone and winning the club’s first Copa del Rey in 60 years. He then got Real Zaragoza promoted, and followed that with stints in lower-league Almería and then Gimnàstic, who got relegated in 2007. Flores hasn’t coached since… and at 62 years old, he may have decided to stay away from the benches.
Honours: 1997 FA Cup with Chelsea
One of the world’s best players during the 1980’s, Ruud Gullit won trophies in every country in which he played. But he will forever be in Dutch hearts as the captain of the Netherlands team that won the 1988 European Championship against the hated Germans. So it was a natural sight to see him transition from Chelsea player to player-manager in 1996. The move paid off: he led his side to Chelsea’s first FA Cup in 27 years. But disagreements with owner Ken Bates led to his sacking, despite the Blues riding high in the tables. Gullit then moved to Newcastle United and lasted exactly one disasterous season, with rumours abounding about Gullit’s “lifestyle” issues in the notoriously fun-filled city. The Dutchman didn’t get another managerial position for five years, taking over back home at Feyenoord, but lasted less than a season. Two years later, he moved to MLS, coaching David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy. There reports of clashes with the team’s big players meant he was out… again after less than a year. Gullit spent six months in Chechnya (Chechnya?!?) at Terek Grozny but was again shown the door. That was in 2011… still no takers.
Coming Up Tomorrow: Five more managers, including a 2014 World Cup manager without a job, and possibly the scariest coach in the game.