Every club wants to unearth their own Pep Guardiola. Barcelona started something when they appointed their former midfielder as coach in 2008 despite having just 12 months experience in charge of their B team.
It was a gamble but it paid off for the Catalans. Spectacularly.
Under Guardiola’s watch, Barça claimed 14 trophies in four years. Not only did he win three consecutive LaLiga titles, he added two Champions Leagues to the Camp Nou trophy cabinet.
That single appointment changed modern-day football.
Not only did teams look to adopt Barcelona’s style of play, owners started to take risks by appointing club legends. In previous decades this sort of thing was the norm but the game evolved.
Guardiola’s success meant owners weren’t as reluctant to take the chance. And it’s becoming increasingly common with teams looking to gain whatever advantage they can on their rivals.
Vincent Kompany is the latest player to be afforded an opportunity as a manager because of his career as a player. Anderlecht, wanting to get back to the top of the Belgian game, appointed the former Manchester City captain as player-manager in May.
While they aren’t one of Europe’s elite, the Purple & White have a rich history in their homeland. No team has won the Belgian title more times than them so appointing an inexperienced manager wasn’t the norm. Not for a club used to winning.
Four games into the new campaign and Anderlecht are yet to register a victory. After the 4-2 loss to Kortrijk, a game in which they conceded four second-half goals with Kompany in defence, the manager took the decision to be a full-time player during match days. He also appointed himself as the new club captain.
Vincent Kompany will no longer act as a player-manager for Anderlecht on match days, after just four games in charge
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) August 22, 2019
Simon Davies, Kompany’s assistant, will take charge of matches.
“Kompany must be more a player during the match,” said Davies, who was previously head of academy coaching at City before the summer move to Belgium.
“He must be able to really lead the team on the field. Of course, no one doubts that he can, but it is important that he is merely one of the players during the match.”
To further complicate matters, Kompany is still part of the Belgium squad and during the upcoming international break, he’s expected to be involved against San Marino and Scotland before returning to Manchester City for his testimonial match.
For a new manager, the September international break is a chance to really refine tactics and strategy. It’s an opportunity to get players up to speed with the demands. Yet Kompany won’t be there.
As soon as he was appointed manager of Anderlecht he should have retired from international duty to concentrate on club matters. His reputation means all of these managerial faux pas are overlooked.
It also highlights just how inexperienced he is for such a big role. Anderlecht aren’t the only club to make such a bold appointment.
Rangers turned to Steven Gerrard, a man with a single year of management under his belt at under-18 level. Frank Lampard made a wise decision to start with Derby County but after 12 months was fast-tracked into the Chelsea job. Without his playing reputation, there’s not a chance he would’ve been considered good enough for the manager’s role at Stamford Bridge.
Lampard: "We need more time" pic.twitter.com/pwvwWrgMT5
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) August 19, 2019
Ole Gunnar Solskjær has experience but not enough to qualify him to manage a club like Manchester United.
Monaco turned to Thierry Henry last season in an attempt to save their season and his spell with the principality club was a disaster. That isn’t to say the Arsenal legend won’t someday be a great manager, but he needs experience. That, and a clear philosophy, is ultimately what helps shape a manager. They also need patience from fans and the owners to ensure they’re able to implement their plans.
The latter is often overlooked. Guardiola’s immediate success has set the bar incredibly high when countless legends have failed. The Catalan is a massive outlier in that regard.
Guardiola struck gold when he walked into a team containing Andrés Iniesta, Xavi and Lionel Messi. He worked wonders to get the best out of the trio but he was fortunate in the sense they all fitted in with what he was trying to do.
It was the perfect storm and though it should be applauded, owners expect a repeat every time they try to replicate it. To do so would be virtually impossible and it’s setting standards even the most experienced managers would struggle to meet.
Legends can be brilliant managers. There’s no need to try to speed the process along. These appointments risk ruining legacies. Fans are fickle and, ultimately, what you did as a player won’t save you from the sack when your team is underperforming.