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Football Managers

February 7, 2011

Here’s a list of names and some of their achievements. See what they all have in common.

  1. Frank Rijkaard, winner of the 2006 Champions League with Barcelona.
  2. Steve McClaren, guided FC Twente to its first ever Dutch championship.
  3. Chris Hughton, won promotion with Newcastle United by a country mile.
  4. Martin Jol, just lost out on fourth place in the Premier League in 2006 with Tottenham Hotspur because of some dodgy pasta.
  5. Roy Hodgson, guided Fulham to the final of the Europa League in 2010 and still a hero in Switzerland.
  6. Rafa Benitez, winner of the 2005 Champions League with Liverpool.
  7. Roberto Di Matteo, won promotion with West Bromwich Albion and stayed clear of the relegation zone this season.
  8. Henk ten Cate, ex-assistant at Barcelona when they won the Champions League and at Chelsea when they won the title.

You have probably guessed it, all of them were sacked from their respective clubs during this season. This reminded me of a line in Simon Kuper’s Soccernomics:

Only a few managers consistently perform better with their teams than the players’ wage bill suggests that they should. It’s hard to identify what it is that these men do better than others, because if it were easy, everyone would copy them. Most other managers simply do not matter very much, and do not last very long in the job. They appear to add so little value that it is tempting to think that they could be replaced by their secretaries, or their chairmen, or by stuffed teddy bears, without the club’s league position changing.

So is a manager’s position in a team really that insignificant? Can they really be replaced by a stuffed teddy bear? Sometimes when results are bad, the club fans do think so. But looking at this list, these managers have achieved something in the past, surely they can not become that bad overnight?

In Soccernomics, Simon Kuper hypothesises that a football club’s ending league position is usually has a correlation with their players’ wage bill. Jose Mourinho has done well at Chelsea and Inter but both clubs had huge wage bills. Frank Rijkaard did win the Champions League with Barcelona, another club with a huge wage bill but got relegated with Sparta Rotterdam, who at that time were nearly bankrupt. And when Martin Jol was having problems with Ajax, he kept saying that he can get out of it if he was given a bag with EUR 10M (while the club was actually in the red).

Maybe managers can be replaced by stuffed teddy bears. If that is the case, then club owners should take a risk and either stick with a manager for a longer period (see Manchester United and Arsenal) or just give in and appoint a stuffed teddy bear. If in the end the team is going to park the bus (or as Mourinho said, park the airplane) then anybody can do it.

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