Why Ryan Giggs does not deserve either Everton or Leicester jobs
In terms of trophies and success at the very highest level of the club game, Ryan Giggs has no equal. However, while the status of the Manchester United legend commands professional respect, the next step of his career has stalled since he left Old Trafford in the summer of 2016, and rightly so.
This week, Giggs has spoken publicly about his interest in taking over the reigns at either Everton or Leicester City as both Premier League clubs continue their respective search for a new manager. But while Giggs ticks a number of boxes in terms of status and profile, the game has changed to the extent that a successful playing career is no longer a guaranteed fast-track to top level management.
For his entire playing career, Giggs was protected in the bubble of Manchester United. He was the star name and local hero for the majority of his 25 years playing senior football at the club, and he was a player who defined an era of unprecedented success under Sir Alex Ferguson. Reinventing his game to ensure longevity, Giggs played in the Premier League over the age of 40, and enjoyed the perfect club playing career.
But while he was handed the Old Trafford reigns on a temporary basis following the sacking of David Moyes, and later worked under permanent successor Louis van Gaal, the arrival of Jose Mourinho brought his time at the club to an end. Naturally, he was linked with a number of jobs once he became a free agent, but reportedly failed to impress when invited in for talks.
The isolated bubble of Manchester United
More recently, Giggs has offered his insight as a television pundit, strangely becoming a regular in the studio at England internationals despite playing 64 times for Wales, and as a result his coaching career has failed to evolve since his brief spell at the club he will always be primarily associated with. There is a big, wide football world outside of Old Trafford, but Giggs knows little of it.
Despite his status as one of the best players in the world, his international career proved controversial, and he was regularly criticised and questioned over his commitment as he played just a handful of friendlies in over 15 years with Wales, and brought his international career to a close almost a decade before his retirement. Representing Great Britain at the London Olympics in 2012 didn't help the case for the defence.
Ending his international career with Wales may have helped prolong his club playing career, but his lack of commitment to Wales has ensured he is far less revered as he should be. He is consistently linked with the Wales managers job, but such is the feeling towards him he would prove to be a largely unpopular choice, and this further limits his future job opportunities.
However, the future of current Wales manager Chris Coleman remains in the balance as he considers his own future having failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals, and if the position does become vacant then it is widely-accepted that the Football Association of Wales will discuss the post with Giggs. His status will be a plus, but his credentials to follow Coleman will be seriously questioned.
An uneducated risk in the modern game
In the meantime, his open interest in the vacancies at Everton and Leicester City confirm that Giggs is starting to accept that his status is no longer a golden ticket to top flight management, and his lack of experience as a coach or manager seriously hinders his chances. A name alone is no longer enough to tame the demands of the Premier League.
And it is the rewards of remaining in the Premier League that mean that clubs can no longer afford to take a risk on a rookie manager to ensure safety. Every club has a vision of an ideal philosophy, but when the pressure is on at the bottom of the table, the project is put on hold for the sake of survival, and the only thing that matters is the right result.
Everton and Leicester City are looking for new managers as they are struggling at the wrong end of the table, and the riches of the Premier League make relegation an unthinkable option. Ryan Giggs would be an uneducated risk for either side, a blind appointment based only on his achievements as a player, and the hope that his status can prove sufficiently inspiring.
But neither club can afford to be that naive in making what will be two crucial appointments, and as Giggs becomes more and more distant in the annals of Premier League history, so his status and relevance will fade. Although he knows nothing other than about competing at the very highest level, he needs to take a big step back if he is ever to move forward as a manager or a coach.
The greats no longer have any divine managerial right
There are a couple of basic options available to Giggs. He can either follow the route of other former players and cut his managerial teeth in the lower divisions of the English football pyramid, or he can look to follow the path chosen by Steven Gerrard at his boyhood club Liverpool, and become involved with the youth and academy system at Manchester United.
As a club legend, there is no doubt that a role would be found for Giggs, and his contribution inspiring the next generation of Manchester United players would be immeasurable. However, this would not be a token appointment, and he would need to show the same dedication that Gerrard has displayed away from the spotlight at Liverpool. This is a long-term programme of coach education.
Alternatively, Giggs could look to become a big fish in a smaller pond, and apply for vacancies that arise in the lower reaches of the pyramid. He would be completely out of his comfort zone, and would be working with players that are nowhere near his own ability and on a limited budget. It would be the opposite of everything he has ever known, and could prove to be the make-or-break of him as a manager.
Former Manchester United team-mate Gary Neville has tried his hand at managing abroad at Valencia, and it effectively ended his managerial career. There is a romance to the game that dictates that Giggs will one day take charge of Manchester United on a permanent basis, but while the lesser Premier League teams cannot afford the drop, the big clubs cannot compromise on success either.
Management must be earned
What is clear is that Giggs, and players like him, can no longer expect the same red carpet treatment that they received during the course of their playing careers. Management at the very highest level is now a position that must be earned through experience, and while there will be occasional exceptions, the rewards of the Premier League are too great to take risks.
There is no clear blueprint or path to follow to become a manager at the highest level, but the opportunities will only increasingly arise for those who have proved their worth elsewhere. The financial rewards of the Premier League are regularly questioned, but they do ensure that managerial appointments are made on managerial merit and that at least should be seen as a positive step forward, if not for Ryan Giggs.