Of the relative importance of football coaches (1 Viewer)

Dec 27, 2003
“That coach is a mastermind!” I’ve lost the count of the number of times that I have heard fans attributing their team’s achievements to their coach.

I for one have always maintained that, although he can sometimes play a relevant role in a team's failure, a coach is responsible for at best 10% of a team's success. Indeed, it's the players on the pitch, and most importantly their quality, that in my opinion will actually make the difference. I shall exemplify my argument with a few historic examples, so those of you who skipped football history classes in school should not bother reading what follows.

For most of the post WW II period, successful serie A coaches from Helenio Herrera and Nereo Rocco to Trapattoni were known for their defensive philosophy, based on stringent man-marking and counter-attacks. Oftentimes this cautious style of play would degenerate into the infamous “catenaccio”. That was until the “Sacchian Revolution” broke out.

Arrigo Sacchi, the manager of the stellar Milan of the late 80's/early 90's, that unequalled team capable of asphyxiating its opponents in their penalty area for the whole 90 minutes, was described by many as the new prophet of zone football, so much that everybody back then would try to copy his "visionary" 4-4-2 formation. It was as if all that had been done before Sacchi belonged to prehistory, and even Trapattoni, who after all did win a scudetto hands down with Inter in those years and who remained Italy’s most successful coach by far, was considered as too much “last year”.

Now, there is one episode in Sacchi's Milanese adventure that has been unduly forgotten : in the 1988-89 CL 1/8 final against Red Star Belgrade, Milan was losing 1-0 in the return match after drawing at home, when a sudden and thick mist invaded the pitch, forcing the referee to stop the game and replay it the next day. The score of the re-match was 1-1 and Milan qualified by winning the penalty lottery. Had Sacchi lost that game, Berlusconi would have sacked him without appeal, and no one today would remember the "accountant from Fusignano", as Arrigo was nicknamed. There is no doubt, however, that that Milan team would still have made history.

Indeed, how could it not have, relying as it was on one of the best defensive lines ever assembled (Tassotti-Baresi-Costacurta-Maldini), on that class act Ancelotti who was in his prime, on the best Italian winger since Bruno Conti (Donadoni), and of course on the three legendary Dutchmen? Clearly, there was not one team in the world at the time that could even dream to come close to that Milan in terms of individual quality. Berlusconi was very well aware of that fact, and when Sacchi irremediably fell apart with Van Basten and confronted the Cavaliere with the "it's either him or me" dilemma, the latter did not need much time to respond : "Sorry Arrigo, but it's gotta be you." So one single player (granted, it was HM the Swan of Utrecht himself) was enough to make the coach redundant.

But Sacchi's reputation as the architect of the football of the future was well established by then, and the Italian Federation promptly enlisted him ahead of World Cup '94. Although it did reach the final of that tournament by an incredible stroke of luck (and thanks to Roby Baggio's magic), Sacchi's Italy will also be remembered – with the exception of a spectacular Italy-Holland friendly won 3-2 by Italy after being 0-2 down - as one of the poorest and most negative Italy's ever. Forget the implacable zone pressing and the "champagne football" à la Milan : that team played an ultra-conservative sort of catenaccio that would have made Hector Cuper proud. But why, you will ask? Simple : because it did not have the adequate players to do otherwise.

After exiting Euro '96 in the first round, Sacchi was sacked and exiled to Atletico Madrid, which under his brief reign might as well have been re-named "Patetico” Madrid. His much heralded return to Milan also had to come to a sudden end, as it became apparent that Jesper Blomqvist and Florin Raducioiou were not exactly the natural heirs of Gullit and Van Basten. In the meantime though, Sacchi had made many emulators, one of the most remarkable of whom has to be Inter’s Corrado Orrico, who professed that football revolves around “the Idea”, even if the person entrusted with materializing said Idea on the pitch is named Darko Pancev. Interestingly, Ancelotti, who is another Sacchian disciple, promptly dropped that holy 4-4-2 formation that saw placing a playmaker behind the strikers as sacrilege (and which was the reason for Zola’s exile from Parma) as soon as he got Rui Costa, Kakà and Pirlo in his squad, going as far as to put in two playmakers simultaneously!

Anyway, Sacchi’s Milan was then taken over by Fabio Capello. It is often said of Don Fabio – and his list of achievements seems to acknowledge this - that wherever he goes, he wins. However, let us re-examine his curriculum a bit. When he took over from Sacchi at Milan in ‘92, Capello inherited a team that was at the peak of its glory and maturity, a team that had remained pretty much unchanged for the previous 4 years and whose players knew their respective role on the pitch by heart. Furthermore, he could afford the luxurious choice of leaving newly arrived world stars such as Papin, Savicevic, Boban or De Napoli on the bench. He also bought Dessailly from Marseille, who until then was considered as just a good defender, and who he admittedly had the bright idea of initially re-inventing as a defensive midfielder (yes, coaches can have good intuitions). With so much variety (and appropriate subs for determined positions, unlike, say, Inter), is it really that surprising that Milan won 3 leagues in a row and played 3 successive CL finals under Capello?

After his first spell with Milan, Capello flew to Madrid where he immediately won the Liga, and once again newspapers were all praising the Italian master for his ability to breathe that winning spirit and rigorous tactics they were so badly lacking into the Real players. Not that the arrival of Roberto Carlos, Seedorf, Mijatovic and Suker that same year had anything to do with it…But at the end of the season Capello left Madrid, as he had the ambition of resurrecting the glory Milan had lost in the meantime. Unfortunately, just like in Sacchi’s case, his return with the rossoneri did not translate into the expected success, and Don Fabio resigned after a few months. But he wasn’t going to quit just there, and a littl later he became Roma’s coach, setting his sights to realizing what looked as an impossible dream : winning in Rome. As we know the miracle took place, although only after a 3 seasons’ wait (and Samuel, Emerson and Batistuta’s arrivals).

The other coach that shared much of the praise in the post-Sacchi era is, of course, Marcello Lippi. Lippi arrived at Juventus from Napoli, which he had led to an excellent 4th place in the serie A the year before. But since this is a Juventus forum and you all know (or are supposed to know) the story already, and since you probably got my point by now (players win games, not coaches), and since I realize I am somewhat bored on this Friday night, I will now leave the door open for a reply.

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Kaiser Franco
Dec 27, 2003
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread Starter #4
    *shakes hands*

    You know Kaiser, I think anyone with a decent knowledge of football would have achieved just as much as Sacchi had he been Milan's coach in those years.


    Senior Member
    Apr 22, 2003
    whoa, when the heck did u write this man? i totally missed it :embarass:

    I'll have a read when I have an minute or seven to spare ;)


    Senior Member
    Apr 22, 2003
    you guys sound like you're having an interesting conversation; should I leave you three alone??


    Senior Member
    Jun 9, 2003
    TBH, I cant be bothered reading all of that, but if you're trying to say that coaches have less influence in results than we think, then, yes, I somewhat agree. :)


    Senior Member
    Apr 22, 2003
    libero, get some sleep dude, and drink a lot of water if you don't want a nasty hangover tomorrow


    Senior Member
    Jun 15, 2004
    Although i know pretty much nothing about the coaches youve spoken off :D I agree.

    Coaches are way over-rated these days, if you want the best modern day example go with Sven :D. Payed an unreal amount, does nothing, even other coaches have said what exactly does he do.

    England midfield werent happy with his tactics so they tell him and he says yeah ok lets do it your way :wallbang:

    And hes so important he can even go discuss other jobs, cheat on his girlfriend, cheat on her again with an FA crew member in so ****ed up love triangle :D


    f(s+1)=3((s +1)-1=3s
    Jul 12, 2002
    Hmm... I don't think your history lesson backs up your point that much, first and foremost I think it shows that the game changes, coaches often doesn't.

    A manager will to me always be very important, as he is the one who best knows the players and team, and in his own way tries to get the most out of it. I also don't agree with River, Sven has been very important for England and certainly doesn't do nothing, if he hasn't had the England job in the Portugal match they would have won, IMO.

    I can't really respond more thorough now, I will return.


    "Top Economist"
    Mar 16, 2004
    So what you're basically saying Kaiser is that Juve will have a tough season this year because of the lack of star players? What about the brilliant Porto this season, with a side that was far from recognizable, becoming Champions of Europe? Could they have achieved such a success without a good coach? Could the select players of Deco, Maniche, Paulo Ferriera, Cavarlho, Derlei, or Nuno Valente have become the players they are today without the help of such a coach? Of course nobody can answer that. But coaches do play an important role in success (I should know because my coach led us scrubs to winning the State Title last year), as they provide technical assistence to those in play.

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