Europe’s top leagues have got a lot of things in common. It seems there’s a platform they’ve all followed regarding matters off the field which contrast the glaring differences on the field. One of the most unspoken parallels in Europe’s big 5 leagues (England, France, Germany, Italy & Spain) is regarding the managers of football clubs. A common denominator between all the managers at most of the clubs around Europe, especially in the “big 5” is the fact that the large majority (with the obvious exceptions of some, such as Mourinho and Villas-Boas) have almost all, at some point in their lives, been professional footballers. Rarely have we seen managers with a good pedigree that don’t have some sort of playing experience on a professional level to back up their status – so to all the dreamers out there like myself, we’re going to need much more than luck if we really aspire to become managers.
There have already been some discussions about the lack of black managers in Europe’s top leagues (there are very, very, few if not any at all, unless I’m mistaken – which speaks for itself about the selection process of hiring managers) but there is something that has been lacking almost as much as black managers and probably less evidently; it is the lack of managers that used to be goalkeepers during their playing careers. Are they given a fair shot at managerial openings?
I’ve gone through all the backgrounds of every single manager of all of Europe’s big 5 leagues and I’ve found that out of the 98 clubs in the top tiers, there are only 3 managers who used to play between the sticks (please correct me if I'm wrong): Philippe Montanier at Real Sociedad, Abel Resino at Granada and Alain Casanova at Toulouse. 3 out of 98! That number is about the same as the number of managers at those 98 clubs who were never professional footballers at any point! What does that say about ex-goalkeepers as managers? Is their background as important as someone who never even played the game when it comes to managerial know-how?
There must be some reasons behind this. One of them might probably be the longevity of a goalkeeper’s career. Given that most of them play on well into their thirties and close to their forties, this probably means that while most of their outfield retired team-mates will be working on their coaching badges to become licensed managers, goalkeepers will probably still be playing the game, hence giving them a back foot when clubs are hiring new managers. Another reason might also be that simply by numbers, there are a lot more outfield players than goalkeepers. Perhaps it could be the lack of confidence given to a man who was never shouldered the responsibility of running things on the pitch? Or maybe the egotistical footballers of today wouldn’t pay the same respect to an ex-goalkeeper as they would to a former striker for example? Whatever the reasons, it’s a strange fact which has been incredibly ignored – there aren’t enough ex-goalkeepers that go on to become managers.
Managers are the most important individuals within a club. They must possess certain characteristics that involve numerous mental qualities to ensure that they have control and a vision of the game that their players don’t. Being a leader with an outlook from afar, having the power and influence on how to organize the outfield players, taking responsibility for the errors of the players are only but a few aspects found in managers – but many of those traits can also be found in goalkeepers. Much more than in outfield players I believe.
These unsung heroes are isolated from the field of play for large chunks of the game and get involved on very few occasions, especially at top clubs that concede very few shots. However, I’m convinced that goalkeepers have got a higher level of concentration in comparison to their peers in other positions. Whereas defenders, midfielders and strikers are always on the run during the entire 90 minutes and sometimes become rather reactionary in terms of their actions on the pitch during a game, a goalkeeper's lack of activity and timely participation requires a concentration level that's extremely high – like an outside observer…like a manager. Few great goalkeepers have gone on to become great managers (Raymond Goethals with Marseille and Dino Zoff with Italy are good examples), so it begs the question once more: why aren’t there more ex-goalkeepers as managers?