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South American Managers In The Modern Game

South American players flood European football in this day and age, but it is quite a different story for managers from the same continent.

By on Oct 01, 2013   4299 views   0 comments
Football Views - South American Managers In The Modern Game
European football is flooded with a wealth of South American footballers. Lionel Messi, David Luiz and Radamel Falcao are just some of the names that spring to mind. But if there are so many South American players earning a living in Europe, then why are there sufficiently lower numbers of South American managers plying their trade in the best footballing continent in the world?

No doubt, there are many great South American managers who forged a career in Europe. The great Helenio Herrera spent the majority of a thirty-year managerial career in Europe, making his name at Inter, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Belenenses and many other top flight European teams. Mind you, that was in the middle of the twentieth century, and football has come a long way since those days.

Today the amount of South American managers has declined to the extent where it is rare to find one in Europe. This is especially the case with Brazil, the last really notable Brazilian manager to manage in Europe was Luiz Felipe Scolari. His time at Chelsea was cut shorter when Russian owner Roman Abramovich decided to part ways with the manager who led Portugal to the Euro 2004 finals. Now, Felipão is the manager of Brazil after a failed stint with Palmeiras in his homeland.

Nowadays, it is scarce to see a South American coach as the top dog at one of Europe's elite. This is why it is such a surprise that former Newell's Old Boys manager Gerardo 'Tata' Martino got the job. It was such a surprise to most people, that they thought that it was a strategy from the Blaugrana hierarchy to keep their prized asset and four time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi happy. He has hinted towards returning to that same club, telling Argentinian TV channel TyC Sports that he wants his son Thiago to go to school there.

In addition, since Scolari at Chelsea, South Americans managers in the Premier League has become something of a rarity. Mauricio Pochettino and Manuel Pellegrini are the only South American managers currently in the top division of English football after Pochettino controversially replaced popular predecessor Nigel Adkins at St. Mary's, joining from La Liga outfit Espanyol. And Manuel Pellegrini switched the sky blue of Malaga for the sky blue of Manchester during the off season. So why are those two the only ones of their kind? The language barrier is a good argument. Clubs may look to English managers because the communication between coach and player would be more improved compared to having a South American boss. But in today's footballing society, dressing rooms and more multicultural than ever, with a major host of those players being from South America. Pellegrini has Aguero, Navas and Negredo who all speak his language.

Almost all South American countries - bar Brazil - speak Spanish as well as the native tongue. Surely this would make it easier for South American managers. Well it hasn't. At the current time of writing, there are only two South American managers employed in Spain, in the shape of Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid and Martino at Barca. (This doesn't include Espanyol's Mexican manager Javier Aguirre). Although, last season Manuel Pellegrini and Mauricio Pochettino were at Malaga and Espanyol respectively, taking the total to six, a much more respectable total. But what happened to the other four managers? Former Rafa Benitez assistant Mauricio Pellegrino was sacked by Valencia early on, Marcelo Bielsa called time on his Bilbao career and Manuel Pellegrini and Pocchetino moved on to England.

The situation was even worse in Italy, where you will find a solitary South American manager. That being head coach of Cagliari, Diego Lopez. For a league that is normally full to the tip with South American players, this is a surprising total. The season before in 2012-13, there were none. Yes, none. I guess I shouldn't be so surprised looking at the other statistics in Europe. In a country heavily influenced by the influx of Brazilian talent, Portugal's Primeira Liga holds no South American managers. I can admit that I was relatively shocked to see those statistics. There were none the season before, too.

Is it the language barrier? Is it the jump of quality between the leagues? To be honest, I am not quite sure. From what we have seen of Pellegrini, Bielsa, Martino, Pochettino and Simeone, I think we can all agree that it is not anything to do with ability. Pochettino, Pellegrini and Martino have all got their teams playing some fluid, free flowing football. Bielsa's tactics may be tough and hard on the players, but it certaintly gets the best out of them. Meanwhile, Simeone has won a Europa League with the little club from Madrid and managed to upset the duopoly of the Spanish La Liga last season by beating city rivals Real to second spot. And it isn't like the English coaching system is that good, either. I am not implying that there is no good English manager, but the system is certainly far worse than that of Germany's. So why is no one looking to South America? Tite won the Club World Cup with Corinthians who beat Chelsea in the final. It remains to be seen whether this will change, or like many, South American managers will rarely get to take charge of a European club, ever.

Walter's avatar
About Walter

Football is my life, whether it be practising my penalties or hunched over my laptop playing FM. I am an avid follower of South American football with a heavy interest in the Brazilian leagues.

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