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Top managers have become a mercenary class in world soccer

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It has long been said, in every major sport around the world, that it’s easier to replace a manager than to replace the whole team. But is it? In a year where we’ve seen some high profile managers sacked, shockingly so at times, we need to ask ourselves what defines a world-class manager, and what is the responsibility of our club’s owners and players when it comes to the appointment of team’s next boss.

In the past year, Jose Mourinho, the Special One, has seen the door, Carlo Ancelotti was let go from Real Madrid in the summer, Pep Guardiola has announced he’ll leave Bayern, Louis van Gaal seems to have one foot out the door, Rafa Benitez may have well been gone from the moment he was hired. We as fans are left with the incessant media talk of which manager will take over, when they usually brandy about the same names from above as the favorites for the job. Why? Well, because these managers are the best in the world, of course, and when you fire a world-class manager, only the appointment of another world-class manager will do.

We label today’s players and managers as world-class in order to separate the best from the really good. We use the term as a way to identify, and when it comes to managers, it’s clear that there is a trend. Long gone are the days of managers like Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. The best managers in the world are mercenaries, and clearly it’s partly their own choice, (with a little help from their clubs, of course). What does this mean for the future of the world sport?

SEE MORE: Man City should reconsider ditching Pellegrini for Guardiola.

We constantly berate players, sometimes rightfully so, for not having any loyalty to a badge; that they follow the money wherever their agents can sniff it. How can we expect the best players in the world to stick with a club and honor the history within if the managers, the father figures of the dressing room, would just as soon be out the door for the next project?

The Mercenary Manager comes in to world-class clubs with enormous amounts of money to spend and generally a top team already in place. They pick up a few pieces of silverware then leave, only to be replaced by yet another mercenary.

Is this the definition of a world-class manager? It seems so. The biggest clubs in the world tell us so. The media, and fans everywhere say so. But for me, this is not necessarily the case. We’ve seen managers without pedigrees take over rich clubs and bring them titles only to be easily dismissed, the trophies regarded by fans of all teams as lucky. If an average manager can win silverware with the rich clubs, aren’t also world class? Or maybe the title of world-class is just hype.

Managers are defined by more facets than any other position at a club. They are responsible for the style of play on the pitch; the way a team wins is important (see Manchester United). They’re responsible for the players they bring in, the scouting system, and the players it produces. They’re responsible for way the team trains. If they don’t have the right training programs in place then injuries begin to rot the team. Sometimes they’re the brains behind a new training ground. They help decide where funds need to be spent. Clearly man-management is important, and the way they handle the media is also judged. Just ask Jose Mourinho. These guys, in most cases, are even responsible for a club’s transfer policy.

SEE MORE: Why Jose Mourinho is absolutely the wrong choice at Manchester United.

If we accept these points as what defines a great manager, why do we talk about mercenaries, people who are at clubs for short periods of time, as world-class? It’s a little like getting into one of those self-driving Google vehicles, putting in a destination, and then pretending you engineered the entire car when it completes its trip. In most cases, these elites leave the vehicle dirty, and in need of some repair. How then are they the best? That’s what you’d expect from an interim manager – winning silverware on the players laurels.

What of the players? It’s been said before, and it’s clear when looking at Chelsea, that players control managers’ future. Shouldn’t serious questions be asked of players who under-perform, or complain until a manager is forced out? If I’m an owner of any company, I would wonder about the makeup of my employees if there is a constant disagreement with management, especially when it results in a loss of production. Management would probably tell you it’s their job to find these personalities and weed them out. However, with a constantly revolving door in management, where does that responsibility fall? It gets lost by the owner, blinded by the glimmering light of the shiny new toys, which all the fans clamor for.

What of the fans? Would Benitez be out of a job if his team hadn’t been booed off the field over and over again? You don’t have to be a genius businessman to realize that the potential to lose money is greater with an upset fanbase than a happy one. Certainly, we as fans play a part in how the business is conducted. We want victory, we want it to happen with a certain style of play, we want it regularly, and we want it now! Consistency is key in a long season, and the most even keeled teams win more often than. But in the lifespan of a manager, more and more are coming in with a bang, winning, then dying under the pressure of rash press conferences and horrible losses on the field. And all in a matter of months. This is the modern term of a manager, and the amount of silverware won during that time determines the success by us fans, with agents left the potential winners as they find their clients new wage packets and jobs.

And what of the agents? They may just be symptoms of bigger issues, especially when you consider the massive amounts of money to be made. But this is the culture within the sport, and I wonder just who is responsible for that culture. You could easily point to the fans, the players, the managers, the owners, all of them together at the same time. You would probably be right to do so, but don’t forget about the men behind the scenes, the ones who find new doors to open and help determine the value of a player or manager. They also have something to gain for a player signing a new contract, usually a move away produces a bigger fee. They wouldn’t be doing their jobs properly if they didn’t bend their client’s ear hoping for a bigger contract, which ultimately means more money in their own pockets.

At some point, the merry-go-round will cease to function. An owner and a management team will come together and say we need to show a united front, be on the same page with each other, and have the desire to take the team in a particular direction. This is how a team should function, they’ll say, and when they find some success and notoriety, the fans will love them. All the top clubs in the world will see this success and follow suit. That will last, of course, until the agents and media find a new scheme to bring to the clubs in order to make their money.

For now, we’re left to wonder if this is the most beneficial system for our beloved teams. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves if the drama of the big club soap opera is worth it. Until these larger-than-life teams take control and stop trying to appease the outside sources, we’ll have to sit and watch the drama unfold.

And maybe this is what we want to see. This is what we’ve created. It doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. So sit back get your popcorn and cross your fingers that your favorite club doesn’t appoint a world-class mercenary.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Matt

    January 10, 2016 at 7:05 am

    This article right here is why I love Arsenal so much. They are one the few teams in modern football who refuse to play in managerial merry-go-round. Yes, they may not win major trophies every year, and they may not buy the worlds top players much to the chagrin of the majority of fans. But I happily give that all up for a team with stability, an ethos and a backbone. Oh, and we still have Ozil.

    Every year I listen to an increasing majority of fans go on about “Wenger out” after a short run of losses or a few injuries. And every year I shake my head, wondering why so many people are so desperate for Arsenal to become like every other team, with their mercenary managers, short sighted reactionary decisions and unabashed spending. I cringe to think of what Arsenal will become without Arsene, whom set the standard for success at the club. Will they still have a playing style or a manger that will last longer than a year or two? Will they still groom and promote the youth prospects we all love to watch? Will they still consistently achieve a spot in the Champions League? All questions that will someday have to be answered regardless, but until Arsene is ready to call it a day, I say lets continue to be the one team that does it differently. That operates with pride, with foresight, and with a manger at the helm that isn’t just looking for their next pay day.

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