On the rare occasion that Jose Mourinho isn’t being completely sarcastic or downright ignorant in his post-match press dealings, he tends to come out with something rather insightful. After the lack of excitement in the red half of Manchester during the transfer window, Jose was drawn on the topic of recruitment.
He mentioned that managers are now more like head coaches and that recruitment comes from board level – usually headed by scouts that have watched players throughout the year. While this connects a few dots and makes a whole pile of sense to the external viewer, it brings about a number of problems.
First of all, UEFA will have to change their managerial courses. The UEFA Pro license – the highest qualification you can achieve as a manager – deals directly with finances so that managers are in a position to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, as it were.
But at least it means that no manager can be compared to Alex Ferguson anymore, as they now appear to be two completely different jobs. I honestly don’t think I could have taken another Twitter egg lamenting the ‘days of old’ under Ferguson and using Mourinho as a target in this context.
While football will never be strictly about analytics because plays aren’t chosen prior to their occurrence like in the NFL, managers do work on certain elements like passages of play and set pieces. This, along with the character and style of play have long-been the footprints that managers have left on a side.
You’re asking a qualified football professional to now become a coach and expect them to be trained as such, but also to take on the emotional balance of an entire dressing room on top of it. Whatever way you want to label it, a head coach will have to ‘manage’ situations regardless. They’ll need to be in a position where they get players playing for them.
This is a large part of recruitment. You need to know personalities. Granted, footballers should be professional and work under any manager to the best of their ability. But you can’t place millionaires on social platforms and expect them to be robots.
Power belongs to players these days and managers are just pawns.
If you try and remove a manager’s right to select the personalities he or she wants in a dressing room on top of taking the style of play out of their hands, their job has no agency.
Managers are treated very poorly at present. Regardless of the pay-offs they get from contracts they once signed, they have committed to an area, possibly changed their children’s schools and moved far away from any other family support systems. It’s not all about money – it’s about human beings, too. Which is ironically the element of football that billionaire owners and greedy consultants are trying to remove.
One positive that should come of it, is that clubs can prescribe to a style of play and sign players accordingly, then bring in a coach to fulfil that ideology. This should reduce the number of sackings as well as more clearly define clubs in terms of their own identities – but it won’t.
If Manchester United really wanted an Alex Ferguson approach at Old Trafford, then bring in a manager who plays 4-4-2 and crosses the ball every chance they get. But that’s not perceived as good football anymore and that’s where the contradiction lies.
Consultants and big brass don’t understand what they want, nor do most of any given fanbase. They want ‘good’ football. Good football doesn’t exist because it’s completely subjective. If the head of a recruitment department knows they want a manager to play 4-3-3 with a high press like Klopp, then more power to them. But the chances are that they’ll just be a puppet for a billionaire who pays too much attention to his Twitter feed.
We’re not clearing up the mess that currently exists between managers and boardrooms, we’re just adjusting the org chart. Wenger left Arsenal, partly because he was pushing on, partly because his tenure had gone stale, but also because Kroenke wanted to Americanise the club and rebrand it as a company.
We’re stepping into a very new era in football and managers will be the first victims.