Footballers And Coaches – Do They Always Come Hand-In-Hand?

Football management is one of the most tasking and thankless jobs in the world. Managers sometimes have the most challenging jobs of being in charge of their players and taking the fall for their players’ failures.

This is quite different from the job security players have in their professional careers, and it makes it quite surprising to see players venture into management in large numbers.

It could be quite intriguing for video game lovers and football fans to see an ex-player like Mikel Arteta on Arsenal’s bench. These individuals played at the highest level and are aware of the risks that come with working as a manager, but they still choose to do it

Here’s what you need to know about the relationship between footballers and coaches.

Why do footballers become coaches?

Football management can be incredibly tasking. A football manager/coach has an array of variables at play, many of which are not 100% dependent on them. It is quite normal for players who have been in the system to go on and become coaches at the end of their playing days.

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Despite knowing the risks and uncertainty that coaches live with, many players turn to coaching as a job after the conclusion of their playing careers.

However, football management is not the only job ex-players take up at the end of their careers. Admittedly, many ex-players go on to become football pundits, such as Rio Ferdinand, Owen Hargreaves, and Joe Cole.

Furthermore, some become agents, such as Deco and Yakubu Aiyegbeni.

Of all these roles, succeeding as a coach is the hardest because of the immense pressure that comes with the job. Despite this, the number of players that go on to become coaches is increasing.

Here are some of the reasons why players decide to become coaches after their playing careers:

#1 Passion for football

Football is a wholesome sport that sort of draws one in once they begin participating in it. Many of the world’s most famous coaches chose the management path because of their love for the game

For example, Jose Mourinho played 94 games in his career and realised that he wasn’t good enough to make it as a top-level footballer. Upon realising, the Portuguese manager moved into management due to his passion for football and unwillingness to leave the sport. 

Also, as a 13-year-old playing in La Masia, Pep Guardiola began to understand that there was more to football than he possibly knew. The then-La Masia head Oriol Tort instructed him to play as a false winger, a role he had never heard about.

Guardiola excelled in this role, which spurred him to further lean towards the tactical side of the game, fuelling his passion for football.

#2 Unwillingness to stay away from football

Imagine doing a thing every day for roughly two decades, and you realise that you will have to leave that thing for good one day!

The thought alone pushes many players to turn towards management. It is not unheard of for players to start taking coaching courses from when they turn 30.

This gives them enough time to learn about the game while their playing career progresses toward its end. 

Today, we have players like Ilkay Gundogan combining their daily training with attending courses in a bid to get a coaching license.

The same style was employed by Arsenal manager Arteta, who started with his coaching badges while a player. Also, cases like that of Julian Nagelsmann, whose career was cut very short by injury, fall here. He went straight into management because of his unwillingness to do anything other than football.

#3 Interest in the tactical aspect of the game

Often, players who constantly question their manager about tactics and show a great deal of attention to detail in training become managers. For example, in his time as Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger pointed out that Arteta had the right temperament to go on and become a manager due to his attention to detail and interest in tactics

Similarly, Xavi could be seen during his time as a player for FC Barcelona, coaching his teammates during matches. This kind of behaviour set him up to become the football coach he is today. 

Most times, those kinds of players feel like they can give back to the game they love without being on the pitch. They then rely on their tactical knowledge and understanding of the game to transition into management after their playing career.

Do football managers always have to be ex-players?

It is known for a fact that you need to have a very high level of football knowledge even to make it as a manager. Playing professionally gives you that kind of knowledge, making it very easy for professional players to transition to coaching. 

However, you should note that some who have never kicked a ball professionally have gone on to become great managers in many instances

Just as non-footballers who became successful managers exist, successful players who failed at management also exist. We have proven that having a previous playing career gives many managers an edge, but this is not always the case.

There are examples of managers such as Manchester United legends Gary Neville and Paul Scholes, both of whom managed teams very briefly without any semblance of success. 

Neville had a brief stint as Valencia manager but lasted only three months in charge before the club sacked him in March 2016

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Meanwhile, Scholes managed Oldham Athletic for one month in 2019 and resigned after picking up only one win in seven matches

Which football managers were not players previously?

Today, a manager does not necessarily need a glittering career as a player to be a skilled coach. However, apart from Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti, Antonio Conte and Xavi, presently, not many former players are at the top of their games as managers.

On the other hand, managers such as Thomas Tuchel, Jurgen Klopp, and Jose Mourinho had little to no impact during their time as professional players but have had great success as managers. 

Currently, many managers who did not play a single professional game exist in top-level football. Some examples of managers who did not play professional football include Arrigo Sacchi, Maurizio Sarri, Leonardo Jardim, Domenico Tedesco, Andre Villas-Boas etc. 

Sacchi was a salesman before he chose to go into football management, thanks to his love for football. 

Sarri was an investment banker who left his career in the banking industry to become a football manager in Italy’s lower leagues. 

In addition, Jardim, Tedesco, and Vilas-Boas started their journey into football management quite early despite never featuring for any team professionally.

As a result, they learned a great deal about the game from the outside, which helped them reach the pinnacle of coaching.

As a result of their involvement in coaching, each of them has had a different kind of impact on football. Jardim won the French Ligue 1 with AS Monaco, and Sacchi redefined Italian football with his progressive style. Sarri led the best Napoli side ever.

Moreover, Villas-Boas enjoyed great success with FC Porto, and Tedesco has just led RB Leipzig to the semifinals of the UEFA Europa League. 


Football players and managers go hand-in-hand because their jobs are linked in several ways.

The goal of many football players at the end of their careers is to become managers, and this is quite common today.

However, there have been many managers who didn’t play football but had a great deal of success as a manager.

As such, it is possible for both players and non-players can become managers!

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