At Summit, Change Is Norm for Soccer Managers ; Both Manchester Clubs and Bayern Munich Start Season with New Coaches

By Borden, Sam | International New York Times, August 4, 2016 | Go to article overview

At Summit, Change Is Norm for Soccer Managers ; Both Manchester Clubs and Bayern Munich Start Season with New Coaches


Borden, Sam, International New York Times


Carlo Ancelotti is adjusting to life as Bayern Munich's new manager after a short tenure with Real Madrid, and he is not alone being a new coach at a top club.

Javier Martinez is about to begin his fifth season with Bayern Munich, the German juggernaut that has won 26 Bundesliga titles, 18 German Cup titles and five European titles. In every one of his first four seasons, Martinez helped the club raise the German league trophy.

Despite that success, Martinez will soon play for his third different manager at Munich. He is hardly alone in arriving at a top club and having to endure an immediate (and ongoing) round of manager roulette. Gareth Bale joined Real Madrid in 2013, has won two Champions League trophies since then and is playing for his third manager. Eden Hazard signed with Chelsea in 2012 and is on his fifth manager. Marouane Fellaini moved to Manchester United in 2013 and is on his fourth (Ryan Giggs being a monthlong interim).

While continuity is often held as a critical component of success at the highest levels of soccer -- continuity of lineup, continuity of tactics, continuity of training techniques -- there seems to be little hesitation among the biggest clubs when it comes to making changes to their primary leaders. So when Carlo Ancelotti shakes hands with Zinedine Zidane after Wednesday's match at the Meadowlands between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, it will be Zidane -- who won the Champions League with Madrid last season despite having taken over the team as late as January -- who will be the longest tenured among the pair.

Ancelotti, meanwhile, who also won a Champions League title with Madrid (in 2014, only to be fired a year later), is trying to feel his way through a fractured preseason with Munich after taking over for Pep Guardiola, who departed for Manchester City.

Sitting at the team's hotel before a training session, Martinez, a tough defensive midfielder, considered the challenge that a new coach faces and the difficulty it raises for players who, like many professional athletes, crave routine.

"This is like the mode now, it's more often and everywhere -- lots of changes," he said. "In many cases, I think it is because there are a lot of younger coaches, maybe younger than coaches were years ago. And so clubs are more concerned with being right, and also the coaches want to move more quickly, too. They want to have experiences in different places to help them grow faster."

Guardiola, 45, seems to fit that model. Generally regarded as one of the best managers in the sport, he left Barcelona after a stunning four-year run, took over Bayern Munich for three seasons and, after having domestic success but failing to win the Champions League, moved in July to Manchester City, where he is testing the rigors of the English Premier League.

Jose Mourinho, 53, has not been as fortunate in terms of willfully leaving each of his clubs. He has been fired plenty of times, but the self-described "Special One" spent two years at Porto, three years at Chelsea, two years at Inter Milan, three years at Real Madrid, two more years at Chelsea, and is about to begin what should be a fascinating stretch of soccer in northern England as he takes over across town from Guardiola at Manchester United. …

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