Managers are the heart and soul of a footballing team. No single individual contributes as much to the success of the team than the guy at the helm who decides the tactics, the transfers, and makes the entire team tick.
A mistake by a player may cost you a goal; a mistake by a manager can have disastrous consequences for the entire season. Despite trying their best and knowing the beautiful game better than most on the planet, managers are not invincible and make mistakes. Here, we look at the five worst mistakes made by some top managers in the modern era –
#5 Jose Mourinho letting Kevin De Bruyne go
The Portuguese is one of the greatest managers of all time and no one can dispute that. The Champions League winning manager is also one of the most controversial figures in footballing history, dividing opinions wherever he goes.
Although a few decisions of his have turned heads and have been termed wrong in the past few years, perhaps the one unanimously accepted as being poor is letting the Belgian starlet Kevin De Bruyne depart from Chelsea.
Mourinho lost no sleep over his decision to sell De Bruyne to Wolfsburg in 2014, yet the player proved his worth the very season he was transferred and title rivals Manchester City bought him a year later- paying more than thrice the amount Wolfsburg gave to Chelsea.
KDB is now one of the best players in the league and is highly influential in the City team under Pep. The Belgian also recently accused Mourinho of not believing in him when he was at Chelsea.
Perhaps Jose’s biggest regret in recent years would easily be this. For all you know, De Bruyne might have saved him in the horrific 15-16 season.
#4 Sir Alex Ferguson letting Paul Pogba leave
Although the greatest manager in the Premier League era himself admitted his biggest mistake to be his decision to retire in 2001, that error does not make its place here as his revival and the coming years cemented his legacy as one of the greatest ever.
Easily the biggest mistake of the Scot’s brilliant career would be letting Paul Pogba leave prematurely. Sir Alex Ferguson risked a FIFA investigation to bring the youngster to Old Trafford in 2009, and he performed brilliantly with the youth team. However, a lack of opportunities with the senior team and growing frustration at his stunted growth at the club made the player eventually part ways.
Pogba left the club for £800,000, and United recently signed him back for £89 million, so the mistake turned out to be very costly. Pogba has gone on record to say that SAF was the primary reason for him leaving, and since breaking it at Juventus the midfielder turned out to be the powerhouse that the Manchester outfit had lacked for a long time.
Even though the Scot might not admit it, letting such a player leave was probably his biggest mistake ever.
#3 Pep Guardiola’s Real Madrid debacle
Moving aside from the transfer-related stuff, we come to a moment that the perfectionist Guardiola himself has admitted to being his worst mistake ever.
The current Manchester City manager has achieved in seven years what most managers cannot achieve in their entire careers. But, his CV would have been even better if not for this costly mistake that eventually ensured he would leave Bayern Munich without a Champions League trophy.
“I got it wrong man. I got it totally wrong. It’s a monumental f***-up. A total mess. The biggest f***-up of my life as a coach.”
The first leg of the Champions League semi-final in the 13-14 season at the Santiago Bernabeu saw Bayern Munich dominate possession but a Karim Benzema goal made them lose the game. Termed unlucky, the return leg at the Allianz Arena was expected to be a Bayern win but what followed is now in the history books due to its shocking nature.
Before the return leg, Pep’s overthinking cost his team dearly. He had devised a three-man defence system to play in the second leg to make sure they thwart Real’s counter attacks. However, a few days before the match, he thought a 4-2-3-1 would be more successful. Hours before the match, Pep changed his mind again and put forward a 4-4-2 extremely attacking system.
This turned out be a complete disaster as the Bayern players seemed as unsure as their coach. They were left stranded during counters and set pieces and the team looked nothing like they had the entire season in the league. Real Madrid won 4-0 at the Allianz thanks to braces from Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo, and Pep was in shock. His failure to win the CL at one of the biggest clubs in the world would still be haunting him.
#2 Arsene Wenger – “I almost signed..”
Arsene Wenger is a brilliant coach whose career has unfortunately been marred due to Arsenal’s trophyless run from 2004-2013 and his inability to do well in Europe.
Even though Wenger has made some brilliant signings in his tenure with the Gunners which range from Dennis Bergkamp to Mesut Ozil, there are a few players that the Frenchman has openly said he passed up signing – and most of these players went on to be superstars in the future.
From the likes of Vincent Kompany whom Wenger admitted he nearly signed as a long term replacement for Sol Campbell (the £5M price tag put him off) right to Didier Drogba (a man who has haunted Arsenal on several occasions), Wenger has passed up chances to sign some brilliant players in his managerial career.
More recently, the Frenchman said he had watched Dmitri Payet “many times..” but had decided against signing him, and also knew about players like Rafael Varane and Angel Di Maria when they were younger. You can easily make an almost signed XI by Arsene Wenger. Just imagine if Arsenal had gotten even a couple of players out of the dozen or so Wenger rejected.
#1 Rafa Benitez sells Xabi Alonso for Gareth Barry
Well this one is just embarrassing in hindsight, and also a primary reason for Liverpool’s downfall post-2009.
Rafael Benitez is currently managing Newcastle United in the Championship. From winning the Champions League with Liverpool to going there in just over a decade, you don’t have to be a pundit to know that he made some bad decisions along the way- perhaps none so fatal and laughable as this one.
Xabi Alonso was brought to Merseyside by Benitez, and he was an integral part of the team that won the Champions League in Istanbul on that famous night. The Spaniard formed a deadly partnership with captain Steven Gerrard in the middle of the park and his influence in the team was unparalleled.
Despite all that, Xabi revealed in his autobiography that the manager told him he could leave the club in 2008, a year after Liverpool reached the CL Finals again.
In a move that since figures like Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have blasted and called stupid, Benitez sold Alonso to Real Madrid for £30M. The manager wanted to get some funds to finance a move for some other players, and at the top of that wish list was none other than Gareth Barry.
Now although Barry is not a bad player, selling Alonso to buy him would be like selling your Ferrari to buy a Fiat. Alonso’s departure left a gaping hole in the middle for Liverpool and the Barry deal never went through. A year after his sale, Liverpool were performing horribly and eventually Benitez left the club.
In his new book, My Story, Gerrard said: "It was clear Alonso was royalty after our first training session together in August 2004, and Rafa Benitez, who had been so clever to buy him in the first place, was equally stupid to sell him to Real Madrid five years later.
"He was, by some distance, the best central midfielder I ever played alongside.”
Alonso went on to win the World Cup and two Euros with Spain, as well as another Champions League trophy with Real Madrid and still starts for Bayern Munich. It can be said that without a doubt, this decision to sell the gifted Spaniard is the worst one made by a manager in the modern day.