For the love of football: A look at managers who were once players

  • Prerna Madan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: May 27, 2016 15:03 IST
The Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will be held at the San Siro stadium on Saturday. (AP Photo)

A lone figure sitting in a dug-out surrounded by a team of coaches or a restless man pacing the sidelines. I call him ‘lone’ because it is he who bears it all: the weight of defeat is singularly his but he moves into the shadows as his boys shine in the limelight of victory. He is the tactician, the strategist, the mentor and the decision-maker -- he is the manager.

So what does it take for great football players to move into managerial roles? Why do legends hang up their boots (or neon studs!) and put on the black coats – though these days some prefer sharply cut suits – lined heavily with responsibilities? The romantic would believe it’s their love of the game. The pragmatic would argue it’s to extend their career after the body fails them.

But, there is no doubt that players love to be the puppet-master after retiring. Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs and Arsenal great Thierry Henry are flirting with coaching and there every move is being followed closely. On the Spanish side, Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid play the Uefa Champions League final on Saturday in his first season with the Galacticos. Challenging Zidane’s side and taking a shot at history will be Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.

Combination image of Diego Simeone and Zinedine Zidane.

Here’s a look at players-turned-managers – those who touched new heights and those who crashed and burnt:

1) He has a turn named after him. He pioneered a style of play that came to be known as Total Football. Add to the list, a heap of titles and you may have some measure of this Dutch great. It was he who catapulted once-obscure Barcelona to the European centre stage before his pupil, Pep Guardiola, took over the reins at Camp Nou. It was again he who pushed Ajax to new heights, engineering a formation that won the Amsterdam club the Champions League in 1995. Legions of fans across the world were left heartbroken when one of the game’s greatest players lost a hard-fought battle with lung cancer on March 24.

Answer: Johan Cruyff

Dutch football great Johan Cruyff died on March 24 in Barcelona. He was 68. (AP File Photo)

Dutch forward Johan Cruyff jumps to hit the ball into the net for his team's second goal against Brazil in their World Cup football match played at Dortmund, West Germany on July 4, 1974. Cruyff revolutionised the game with the concept of 'Total Football'. (AP File Photo)

2) This Scottish forward has ‘King’ prefixed to his name, courtesy Liverpool fans. He is one of the 100 players who “shook the Kop” and won 22 trophies as a player with the Scousers, scoring 118 goals for them. His managerial career spanned from Liverpool to Liverpool, managing Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United and his former club Celtic on the way. His first stint at the Beatles-backed club won them a row of titles but the second one ended in just over a year even though Reds bagged their first silverware in six years -- 2012 Football League Cup.

Answer: Kenny Dalglish aka ‘King Kenny’

Kenny Dalglish in the stands at Anfield stadium, Liverpool. (Reuters Photo)

3) The foot wasn’t enough, so he used his hand. (#Nuffsaid?)

More hints: He shares the Fifa’s Player of the 20th century honour with Pele and captained Argentina to 1986 World Cup win. There are not enough words to describe the genius whose honest statements match his legendary dribbling skills. Unfortunately, ‘The Golden Boy’ didn’t glitter much in head coach’s jersey. He oversaw one of Argentina’s worst defeats (6-1) against Bolivia in a WC qualifying match and a year later, the South American nation was painfully tossed aside by Germany in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinal. He took over as the ‘spiritual coach’ of Argentine club Deportivo Riestra in 2013.

Answer: Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona at the Twickenham Stadium in London. (Reuters File Photo)

Napoli's supporters wave flags with pictures of former players Diego Armando Maradona and Gonzalo Higuain. (Reuters Photo)

4) He is ‘Captain Marvel’ who broke his leg thrice, recovered and evolved into a voracious midfielder. Starting out at West Bromwich Albion, this Manchester United captain led the Red Devils to three FA Cup wins -- 1983, 1985 and 1990. He won 90 caps for England and scored the second fastest goal of the tournament against France in the 1982 World Cup, striking just 27 seconds into the game.

But his managerial skills were questioned – several times -- at West Bromwich Albion, Bradford City and Sheffield United even though he began his career by guiding Middlesbrough to a Premier League promotion.

Answer: Bryan Robson

Former Manchester United player Bryan Robson is seen during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Newcastle United at Old Trafford on August 22, 2015 in Manchester, England. (Getty Images)

Read | Ronaldo will be ready for Champions League final: Zidane

5) Never a player, always a teacher.

“Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one.”

Outspoken, controversial, stern and candid, this Byron-esque figure incites passions. Appointed as Manchester United’s manager, the “Special One” studied physical education and learned the ropes working as a translator in Barcelona. The Portuguese’s success story is the stuff that biopics are made of. He is, after all, the manager who has never been a professional footballer.

Answer: Jose Mourinho

Former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho during a match between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Chelsea in Haifa, Israel. (Reuters File Photo)

Uefa Champions league. Managers

Read | My time at Bayern was a failure: Guardiola after Champions League exit

The author tweets as @prernamadan1794

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