On April 22 2012, Josep “Pep” Guardiola announced to the world that he would be stepping down as manager of FC Barcelona. That declaration was made by a forty-one year old man who had guided his club to thirteen titles in four years (two of those titles were UEFA Champions League trophies).
Guardiola wasn’t leaving Barcelona for another club. He was taking a sabbatical. By his own admission, he was burnt out. He was quoted as saying, “It’s been football, football, football but in life there are other things.” He went on to say, “Talking to you (the media) and the players for four years is very demanding.”
Weeks of cup ties and Champions League matches bring to light some of the challenges faced by European football managers. Their job is the toughest, most demanding job in the world of professional sports. Not only is the manager responsible for squad rotations prior to mid-week matches, he is accountable for every day to day decision at the club and his every move is dissected by the media and supporters. In the larger European markets (such as Spain, Italy, and England), expectations from the owner and supporters are propelled by the various media outlets and cast a searing light on the manager.
Sports fans will contend that this pressure is something all professional coaches/managers deal with. Why is the strain greater for football managers than it is for a coach/manager of a NFL, NBA, MLB or any other professional team?
Let’s take a look at the day to day responsibilities of a football manager at a typical European club. For the following example, I’ve used the example of a Premier League club.
The First Team
First off, the manager has to deal with the selection and training of his first team. Most first teams consist of 25 players. On match day, the manager can only select 11 starters and 7 substitutes. This leaves seven players who don’t make the cut. Players’ disappointment in not being named to the match day squad is significant. That’s why relationship building and man management are something the boss needs to be well versed in.
Team selection can be straight forward if your club is playing once every six or seven days. But in the case of the mid-week cup tie (Carling Cup, FA Cup, Champions League, Europa League, UEFA Super Cup), this adds a level of importance to team selection. He also has to deal with international players coming and going from their respective national teams. Although the boss is managing professionals, these athletes are still human. Their bodies break down and need time to recover from match days and travel.