Celta Vigo sacked Rafa Benitez on Tuesday, and the Champions League winner is out of a job again. Since having domestic success with Valencia and continental triumphs with Liverpool, the Spanish manager has constantly rotated jobs. Since departing Liverpool at the end of the 2009/10 season, Benitez has worked as manager of eight clubs. That includes stops at Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Newcastle, Everton, Napoli and Chelsea. Each of those clubs wanted to capitalize on Benitez’s past success. However, they succumbed to overly high expectations and early dismissals.

Benitez is yet another example of a club looking too closely at past successes rather than seeing how a manager adapts to the modern game. Rafael Benitez will always be an iconic manager. He led Liverpool to one of the most historic nights in the history of the UEFA Champions League with a squad that balked at the talent of Milan. That success earned him jobs for the next 10 years. Brief success with Chelsea, where he won the Europa League as the interim manager in 2012/13, eventually led him to disastrous spells at Real Madrid, Everton and now Celta Vigo.

Several factors connect managers and their age with success, or lack thereof, on the pitch. Oftentimes, managers retain their tactics throughout their careers. New managers and coaches develop tactics to counter those philosophies. For example, Rafael Benitez will play more defensively against strong opposition. Dependency on wingers to hit out on the counter in these games proved a strong tactic early on in his career. Despite managing elite players at top clubs, the shift of successful clubs transferred to attacking styles like Jurgen Klopp or possession-laden tactics like Pep Guardiola.

Benitez is not alone as other managers fade with age

This same fall from stardom as a manager is not exclusive to Rafa Benitez. Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal have struggled to maintain previous successes despite regular stops at other clubs or national teams. Jose Mourinho is one of the best examples of this. A treble-winner with both Porto and Inter Milan, Mourinho is indisputably one of the greatest managers of all time. However, his dated antics have curtailed his brilliant career. He propped Manchester United to success. Yet, his recent spells with Tottenham and Roma have had isolated instances of triumph. His time with Spurs ended just before his best chance to bring a trophy to the north London club. At Roma, Mourinho won the inaugural Europa Conference League. League struggles led to his dismissal in the 2023/24 season.

Analyzing what went wrong with Mourinho, and it is another issue that has come with the developing game. Man-management has become more of a focus for managers, especially at a club like Manchester United or Tottenham. That is what Pep Guardiola has done well compared to other coaches that fall by the wayside. He understands his players and knows how to get the most out of them.

Oftentimes, coaches can be too set on their ideals to modernize tactics. Louis van Gaal is a great tactician, but he is unwilling to compromise. Many managers, as they age, will not adapt to fit the standards of soccer. Louis van Gaal had sensational success with Ajax by winning the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup and multiple domestic trophies. Manchester United wanted to recapture some of that at Old Trafford by bringing in the then-63-year-old Dutchman. Disappointing finishes in the league were saved by the FA Cup. Yet, Manchester United realized the error in its way when it sacked van Gaal after winning the FA Cup. Ironically, Jose Mourinho replaced van Gaal.