| 9.5°C Dublin

new era Thomas Tuchel and Jurgen Klopp confirm the traditional coaching code has changed

A stellar playing career no longer a criteria for top managers


Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp and new Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel

Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp and new Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel

Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp and new Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel

A stellar playing career was traditionally the first requirement for anyone eyeing up a move into football management. However, the job specification for the game’s top clubs has changed forever.

Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Brendan Rodgers and Jurgen Klopp are just four of the modern managerial giants who reached the top without a playing career to set them on their way.

Their impact is ensuring that the age-old route into management is banished to football’s history books.

If we needed confirmation of that reality, Frank Lampard’s termination as Chelsea manager last month cemented a suspicion that legendary former players are no longer cut out to thrive as managers.

Lampard may have ambitions to return to the game, and he is young enough to do it.

Yet for now, he can be ranked alongside Roy Keane, Gary Neville and Thierry Henry on a long list of football luminaries who failed to build on their playing legacy, with the men taking their place reaching the top via a very different path.


While Lampard’s England midfield partner Steven Gerrard is threatening to buck the trend as he closes in on a title-winning season as Rangers manager, these football legends are patrolling touchlines alongside rivals with alternative life stories.

Take the last three managers at Chelsea as a case in point; Lampard succeeded former banker Maurizio Sarri when he took over as Blues boss before being replaced by Thomas Tuchel, who spent the bulk of his modest playing career playing in the fourth tier of the German football league.

It’s a scenario that was unimaginable when Lampard was starting out as a player at West Ham in the mid-1990s, yet the tide has turned against high-profile former players leaping into top management roles for several reasons.

Firstly, the success Wenger and Mourinho generated with minimal back stories as players changed perceptions.


Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger

Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger

Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger

While it appears that wealthy young men, who played at the highest level for a sustained period, lack the appetite to forge a management career almost certain to end with the sack at some point.

In the opinion of former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, the art of football management has changed to such an extent that different qualities are now required to thrive in the modern game.

“I have often been asked why I haven’t gone into management and in many ways, I have surprised myself by not doing so,” Carragher told the Sunday World at a Sky Sports event.

“If you asked the players and managers I shared the dressing room with for so many years, I’m sure many of them would have said I would go on to be a manager.


“I was vocal, opinionated and I wasn’t afraid to stand up to managers and players when I felt they were not pulling their weight.

“You could say I was a manager in the making, to an extent.

“Yet being a manager now is very different from what it was when I started in the game. It is much more than just picking players, coming up with tactics and knowing the game.

“The top managers now have to get the man-management right – and only then they have a chance to do the rest.

“I look at Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool as an example. He has a great balance between getting players on side and retaining that respect and you need that now.

“Coming from a football player environment, you might not have those skills and we have seen a lot of players struggle in management in recent years because of that.”

Carragher’s Sky Sports colleague Neville is among those who tried and failed to make the transition into management, with the former Manchester United defender failing miserably in a brief stint in charge of Spanish side Valencia.

Neville’s former United team-mate Teddy Sheringham also struggled to make the grade after a spell in charge of League Two side Stevenage – and he admitted the challenges he faced were hard to comprehend.

“Statistics confirm that 70 per cent of first-time managers last fewer than six months and never get another job.


United and Spurs great Teddy Sheringham found it tough as boss of Stevenage in 2016.

United and Spurs great Teddy Sheringham found it tough as boss of Stevenage in 2016.

United and Spurs great Teddy Sheringham found it tough as boss of Stevenage in 2016.

“There’s a reason for that,” Sheringham told the Sunday World, who was never given a second chance in English football after being sacked by Stevenage in 2016.

“You need to have much more about you than just understanding football. Kids will come to you with problems and they want some advice on how to solve it.

“I never had to deal with that before, but it comes at you every day and there are problems you would never even have thought about that are arriving on your desk.

“I can understand why ex-players from this era of the game don’t want to get involved in management, but I had a passion to be in football again and that is why I tried management.”

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola made the transition from playing to coaching.

However he is an rare breed, having been given the ultimate head start when he took charge of arguably the greatest team of the modern era at Barcelona in 2008.


Few are as fortunate to get presented with a team featuring a young Lionel Messi exploding onto the world stage, with Guardiola making the most of his big break to forge a successful career that continues to reap rewards some 13 years down the road.

By contrast, Guardiola’s former assistant Mikel Arteta is struggling to follow in the footsteps of his mentor after taking over at Arsenal a little over a year ago, with his future at Arsenal under a cloud after a miserable season of inconsistencies.

The demands of the modern game is testing former players who have spent their lives realising their own football dream, with no time available to develop the skills they need to be managers.

Certainly, commanding the respect of a room full of millionaire footballers would be a test of management skills in any major business.

Only a chosen few can succeed and it seems the skills required no longer need to be developed in a environment.

Top career managers...

They are the modern managers who barely had a playing career to call upon before landing some of the game’s biggest jobs, with this new crop rewriting the rule book for those following in their footsteps.

Julian Nagelsmann

Hailed as one of the next great coaching talents in the game, the RB Leipzig coach never made it as a player.

Arsene Wenger

The Frenchman changed so much in English football following his arrival at Arsenal in 1996, with his modest playing career used as a stick to beat him with initially. His success broke down so many barriers.

Jose Mourinho

The ultimate ‘career manager’, Mourinho didn’t have a successful playing career before he went on to become one of the most successful managers of all time.

Rafael Benitez

Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League-winning boss was not a successful player, but he has enjoyed a highly-lucrative and successful career on the touchline.

Brendan Rodgers

Inspired by Jose Mourinho’s success, Rodgers put the disappointment of his playing career behind him to thrive as a manager with Swansea, Liverpool, Celtic and now Leicester.

Jurgen Klopp

By his own admission, he was a bad player. Yet Klopp’s charming character and brilliant tactical mind have proved to be the perfect mix for his management career with Mainz, Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool.

Thomas Tuchel

The new Chelsea manager did not have a successful career as a player, but he has reached the top as a coach with Mainz, Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain and now at Chelsea.

Star players who flopped as boss

Tony Adams

A leader at Arsenal and seemingly a manager in the making, Adams failed to make his mark during a spell in charge at Portsmouth.

Roy Keane

The former Ireland and Manchester United skipper looked set to thrive in management after a successful opening to his time at Sunderland, but his explosive temperament has pushed him out of the game after clashing with players in his coaching career.

Thierry Henry

Arsenal’s record goal scorer had a spell in charge at Monaco, but it ended in acrimony as he left the club after falling out with players.

Teddy Sheringham

The former Manchester United, Tottenham and England striker had a brief and unsuccessful spell in charge of League Two side Stevenage.

Gary Neville

A brief spell in charge at Spanish side Valencia was ended in failure, with Neville now focusing his attention on his work with Sky Sports, running hotels in Manchester and being the co-owner of the UA92 University and Salford City FC.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

Online Editors

Top Videos