The sad state of affairs for football managers
“It is a demanding club and the president and the board have made the best decision.” These were the words of Iker Casillas, the captain of Real Madrid, following the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti. The experienced Italian coach left Real Madrid having won the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup in a span of just two seasons.
In addition to this, he saw his rampant side set a record of 22 consecutive victories in all competitions in the first half of the 2014/15 season. Unfortunately for them, untimely injuries to crucial players disrupted their momentum and adversely affected the remainder of their season as the Spanish giants ended up falling short on both, the domestic as well as the European scene.
Being the club icon that Casillas is, one would not be surprised that he has backed the board and defended the club in the media. Although, one does get the feeling that even he must have been irked by the ruthlessness with which Ancelotti was relieved of his duties as a result of a few bad months in the second half of Real Madrid’s season. However, to a neutral football follower these days, Ancelotti’s predicament is not an unfamiliar sight.
Influx of big money
In today’s times, media has contributed immensely to globalization. As a result, football clubs from different countries are more connected with each other and are aware of each other’s activities. When one club makes a significant achievement, the whole world of football takes note instantly. Other clubs desire to emulate that success and the general expectations of such clubs rise. The targets set for the season are very high and more often than not, it is a struggle more than a challenge to meet these targets.
Also, with increasing private investment in football, rich businessmen buy clubs and view them as assets. An asset is meant to be glossy and desirable to the naked eye, and club owners wish to add as much gloss to the image of their club as possible. The only way this can be achieved is by constantly winning silverware and increasing the popularity of the club. This too, in turn, leads to unrealistic expectations, target setting. etc.
The ones that face the most amount of pressure in order to meet these needs are the managers. Managers are the biggest representatives of a football club in the media and play an immense role in how the image of the club is portrayed.
They have the responsibility of developing and implementing a work culture and ethic on and off the football field that will ensure success in the best possible way. However, to instill this culture and having things run exactly the way the manager wants, takes time. The best example to highlight this is the work of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
After joining the club in 1986, the Scot failed to achieve anything significant in his first four years and experienced what he himself said to be ‘one of the darkest periods he had ever suffered in the game’. There was widespread condemnation by the fans and the media but the board of directors assured him that his job was safe and identified how he had improved the coaching and scouting systems at the club.
He went on to win his first league title in 1991 and what followed was the most successful period in the history of the club under the leadership of Ferguson, United won 13 league titles and 2 UEFA Champions Leagues and other trophies such as the FA Cup, League Cup and so on.
As for Sir Alex, he became one of the greatest managers in the history of the game. Looking back, it is frightening to imagine what would have happened, had he been sacked inside his first 3 seasons at the club.
Jose Mourinho, a managerial great himself, has publicly claimed that he delivers his best in his second season at a club and has always stayed true to his claim. However, sadly, quality managers such as Manuel Pellegrini, Brendan Rodgers and Pep Guardiola are desperately clinging on to their jobs on the basis of one season of underachievement.
Carlo Ancelotti lost his job due to the same reasons. Filippo Inzaghi of AC Milan has been seen insisting week after week in post match press conferences that he needs more time to deliver results, much like his predecessor, Clarence Seedorf.