Football (soccer) Managers

Growing up on American sports, I find it interesting that European football managers typically make all team decisions, from soup to nuts. They select players, manage the player budget, buy players, set strategy and determine the lineup. They often even scout players on off days. While it’s logical that having one individual doing everything keeps everything consistent, it seems a lot to handle for one person.

American teams typically divy up responsibilities, with some exceptions. Have any soccer teams tried the American model of team management structure? Would it work? It’s rare that the European model has success here - with Belichick at NE being a notable exception.

This is not exactly true. The manager makes decisions about the starting line up and strategy, although they even have assistants for these things. The budget is rarely if ever managed by the ‘manager’ and there are plenty of other scouts; the manager will only go check on players if there are many positive scout reports. Buying players is not done by managers either, although they’ll obviously be consulted.

There is also a difference between countries. In the UK it is more common to have a manager that is widely involved, while on the continent there is often also a ‘director of football’, who is more concerned with signing players and the like.

Until recently when he resigned after a dispute with the club’s owner, Southampton had an extremely effective manager who took care of the big personnel decisions. It will be interesting to see if the Saints will function as well without him.

One of the most endearing qualities of the sport is how much of a players’ game it is. Things aren’t being held up every 20 seconds for the coach to set up the next sequence. The authors of Soccernomics devoted a section to analyzing just how important coaches even were in the big picture. Their conclusion – only a few were.

I see. I guess when the press refers to Wenger, Ferguson or Guardiola “buying a player”, I assumed it was literal. Or is this type of individual power only prevalent in the larger high-budget clubs?

No you’re not really that far off. Certainly in England it is the norm for the manager to be very involved in the transfer process. For example Harry Redknapp currently at QPR is famous for his wheelings and dealings in the transfer market. Though it is usual also for the chairman/board to have oversight over everything finanical and to be actively involved in the transfer process.

This applies to big and small clubs and in fact at smaller clubs the manager might not have as much staff to support them so direct involvement in may be more of necessity than a decision.

The reason why IMO it works best when the manager has a large degree of control over a wide-range of the clubs policies and especially their transfer policy, is that the tactics must fit the players and the players must fit the tactics. The problem you quite often see when a club has a Director of Football or an interfering chairman who chooses which players to bring in is that you see players who are unsuitable for the way a team plays and players who can’t easily be integrated into the team.