Football player-managers: What happened to the once common practice?

There was a time in football that a team’s manager was also one of its star players. The likes of Kenny Dalglish, Glenn Hoddle, and Graeme Souness were all successful player-managers. Not only were they likely to select their own names for a match but they were also potential match-winners once on the pitch.

However, something happened around the turn of the century. The common practice of hiring a player to also manage a club was phased out. Now, player-managers are a dying breed with few left in the game at the professional level.

Player-Managers: A dying a breed

Former Manager Vincent Kompany is one of the only player-managers currently. He joined Anderlecht in the offseason and is in charge of both the team and the defence.

But why has the football player-manager role died? The simplest reason to explain it has to do with the evolution of football. The game is much faster and changes quickly. A player on the pitch cannot manage the team tactically while playing. Players become too wrapped up in the game to see other aspects of what is occurring. A manager on the sidelines can dictate the way the game is unfolding and take things in far better.

In addition, managers patrolling the sidelines can also prepare substitutions and take care of other issues off the pitch. While this doesn’t sound significant, try managing a children’s team or local team at the park on a weekend and soon you will find out how difficult it is to be on top of everything. This is magnified to an unprecedented level at the professional level.

Player-Managers: Fast-paced action

If Jurgen Klopp had been on the pitch for Liverpool against Barcelona during their insane comeback in the Champions League semifinal second leg last season, would he have been able to keep his head and make the necessary managerial moves needed? It is doubtful.

Football is far more complex than it once was. Having a person devoted to the managing of a team rather than playing and coaching makes life easier for everyone at the club. In addition, players don’t have the annoying aspect of the manager always playing even though they may be past their prime.

With football being results-driven, managers have to be focused on the team, the league, and everything in between. Will we see an increase in player-managers in professional football again? It is doubtful as football becomes even more of a cauldron for managers that players take on both roles.

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