By TSG’s coffee and Serie A expert, but not taco expert: Eric Giardini
This past month or so has seen the firings of two high profile managers from two high profile positions in the greater European soccer community.
André Villas-Boas fired on March 4th from Chelsea, one month shy of celebrating his one-year anniversary.
The firing was not a surprise as club owner Roman Abramovich has shown a lack of patience in keeping managers. For those counting at home, Abramovich and his mini-giraffe have now shown the door to nine during his nine-year tenure as owner (Ranieri, Mourinho, Grant, Scolari, Wilkins, Hiddink, Ancelotti, Villas-Boas, now Di Matteo). Former New York Yankee owner great George Steinbrenner would have identified nicely with Abramovich.
Not to be outdone in Serie A, Inter Milan cut the chord (and seemingly the parachute too) on its second manger of the season when it, pardon me, booted Claudio Ranieri.
This move–while also not a surprise given Inter’s struggles since the calendar turned to 2012–incredulously was expected for some time.
Andrea Stramaccioni, who the day before his appointment had led the Inter youth team to the inaugural NextGen tournament championship, replaced Ranieri.
Why is this? Both team’s have similar Champion’s League stature for lack of a better qualifier and the press in both locales have field days every day?
The answer appears to lie deep and more subtlety within the heart of the cultures of England and Italy–specifically the way managers are viewed.
In Italy, results are paramount.
It isn’t important how results are achieved, just as long as they come.
If a club goes through a bad streak, someone is at fault. Since an owner cannot fire an entire team, unfortunately it is the manager who must pay the price. He gets the sack and it’s on to the next one. Fans and owners–on average and on the whole–are not overly concerned about long-term development and building for the future.
English managers, on the other hand, are given just a wee bit more security in this respect. Clubs are more willing to let a season play out instead of firing someone midseason.
For example, the 2011-2012 season shows a drastic disparity between the two leagues and numbers of managers fired midseason. Four managers have been fired in England while 14 already have faced the axe in Italy. Oddly enough, five clubs in Italy have made two firings this season. Inter, Palermo, Novara, Cagliari, and Cesena have all made changes twice – with Novara firing their manager January 30 and bringing him back on March 6.
The itchy trigger finger in Italy isn’t the only thing that separates the two nations in terms of their respective managerial cultures. The more interesting contrasts between the two involve coaching licenses, experience before landing a top-flight job, and the recycling of managers amongst the top clubs.
Even, the formal education of managers in the two nations is also drastically different.
While there is no formal “university” in England for managers to go to get their certification to become a manager, Italy has the famed Coverciano. Located in Florence, Coverciano is home to the FIGC (the Italian Football Association) as well the coaching school that all managers must pass to become a manger in either Serie A or B.
In Italy, it is accepted that managing a soccer team is a profession, and like any other profession, schooling is needed. Since opening its doors over 50 years ago, some of the world’s greatest managers have graduated from the coaching course and have had success all over the world. The curriculum at Coverciano covers a wide range of topics covering fitness, tactics, psychology, and even nutrition. An example of this is the current class at Coverciano, including the infamous Roberto Baggio, has been spending time at Roma learning tactics from Luis Enrique.
Marcello Lippi, winner of five league titles, one Champions League, and one World Cup, had this to say about this time at Coverciano:
“My very first course was back in 1975. Within two weeks I began to view everything differently. Things as varied as sports medicine and equipment, they began to make sense to me. I started to understand why as players you were asked to do certain things. It was an eye-opener because it encouraged me to question and evaluate all the things we take for granted in football.”
The time spent at Coverciano lays the framework that managers need in order to, hopefully, be successful. This set up isn’t the same in England. It wasn’t until 2003 when, due to constant prodding from UEFA, England finally required mandatory coaching requirements, also known as “badges”, for all Premier League managers.
This, of course, was met with resistance with coaching veterans questioning the need for these courses. The popular opinion was that if they didn’t need a badge prior to 2003, why was one suddenly needed? The popular examples of Sir Bobby Robson and Alf Ramsey prominently noted for not having badges and being successful – examples that formal education was not needed. Unfortunately, the greatest manager that the Premier League has seen points to his formal education as instrumental to his success. Sir Alex Ferguson said this regarding his education, “I had my full coaching badge when I was twenty-four. To me it’s the most important thing. It’s quite right that you should have your full badge to coach.”
In England, the predilection is to take on young mangers before they have had a chance to gain much in terms of match experience. Looking at the list of current Premier League managers shows a significant amount of “big league” (England, France, Spain, Germany, Italy) inexperience before being handed these positions.
Eight of the 20 current Premier League managers lacked any experience in the upper leagues of Europe before taking their current position: Alex McLeish (Aston Villa), Steve Kean (Blackburn), David Moyes (Everton), Alex Ferguson (Manchester United), Paul Lambert (Norwich City), Brendan Rodgers (Swansea City), Roberto Martínez (Wigan), and Terry Connor (Wolves). Serie A, on the other hand, employs only four managers who lacked top flight management prior to their appointment: Andrea Stramaccioni (Inter Milan), Emiliano Mondonico (Novara), Luis Enrique (Roma), and Giuseppe Sannino (Siena).
While not having this experience is not an automatic indication of how successful a manager will be, it shows that Italian owners and clubs are looking for someone with experience. Managers at Italian clubs are also more experienced overall in terms of the numbers of years experience they have under their belts. Currently, the average managerial experience for the 20 managers in Serie A is at 15.75 years. This spans time ranging from Serie C all the way up to the top flight. Managers in Italy are expected to put their time in the lower leagues within Italy prior to being rewarded with the top-flight jobs.
While their English counterparts average 15.1 years experience, a lot of this has to do with the managerial experience of Sir Alex Ferguson and Harry Redknapp. If we remove the managers in both nations with over 30 years experience, the average drops down to 13.94 years in Italy and 12.7 in England. While one year may not seem like a large amount on the surface, that’s usually an extra year toiling in the lower division earning your stripes and learning what works and what doesn’t in the same country and culture of the top-flight job you aspire to reach. While having experience in the highest level in Scotland and Portugal is surely beneficial, those lessons learned my not necessarily transfer over to England as well as Serie B does to Serie A.
Another fundamental difference between the two leagues is the so-called “recycling” of managers in Italy when compared to England. In Serie A, it is commonplace to see the same manager work for multiple big clubs despite being fired from one of them. In England, this rarely happens. A quick look at the recent fired managers of the larger clubs in England (Chelsea, Manchester City, and Liverpool) shows that none of them have moved between the clubs.
Claudio Ranieri – Valencia, Parma, Juventus, Roma, Inter Milan
José Mourinho – Inter Milan, Real Madrid
Avram Grant – Portsmouth, West Ham, Partizan
Luiz Felipe Scolari – Bunyodkor, Palmeiras
Carlo Ancelotti – PSG
André Villas-Boas – ?
Kevin Keegan – Newcastle
Stuart Pearce – England U-21, Great Britain Olympics
Sven-Göran Eriksson – Mexico, Côte d’Ivoire, Leicester City
Mark Hughes – Fulham, QPR
Gérard Houllier – Lyon, Aston Villa
Rafa Benítez – Inter Milan
Roy Hodgson – West Brom
*Only a big club recently, using them as a club that has changed managers frequently recently
The point is, if you get one of these “big” jobs in England, and you get the axe, chances are you aren’t getting another big job. I think the only person on this list who has a chance at another big time job is Mourinho.
Sorry AVB, I think your future lies on the continent.
The big clubs in Italy, on the other hand, pass managers around like baseball cards. A look at the managerial histories of AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, and Roma shows a number of familiar faces.
Carlo Ancelotti – Juventus, AC Milan
Fabio Capello – AC Milan, Roma, Juventus
Luigi Delneri – Roma, Juventus
Leonardo – AC Milan, Inter
Marcello Lippi – Juventus, Inter, back to Juventus
Claudio Ranieri – Juventus, Roma
Giovanni Trappattoni – AC Milan, Juventus, Inter, back to Juventus
Alberto Zaccheroni – AC Milan, Inter, Juventus
And this is just in recent years! There are multiple managers that have managed three of the four biggest clubs in Italy – something that is completely unheard of in England. The real question is why?
The reuse of managers in Italy is seen by Italians as the “intelligent” way to do it. Fabio Capello has critiqued the English on their lack of providing second chances to managers. He says the “English are wrong with their attitude…You screw up once and that’s it, you’re gone. What about the experience you gain?…It Italy, we have a lot of flaws, but at least I think we judge managers on their merit not simply on their recent record.”
Capello, and Serie A club owners may be on to something. The above group of managers, between them, has 21 league titles, 5 Coppa Italias, and 5 European Cups/Champions League titles. That doesn’t even mention Lippi’s World Cup he won in 2006. That’s an impressive haul of silverware and in that context it is a little easier to see why this group gets passed around the big clubs – they know how to win.
The differences between how the two nations approach manager may also shed light into the seemingly gulf in success the managers from each nation has. It could be suggested that by having a coaching “university”, giving managers multiple chances at big clubs, and by having a larger résumé of coaching experience, Italian managers are better equipped to succeed – not only in Italy but around the world. Their English counterparts lack the same infrastructure and faith from the big clubs, and, as a result, have found limited success. Is this a trend that cannot be reversed? Of course not, but currently, it appears that the English have a long way to go to catch the Italians.