Germany becomes the epicentre for leading coaches
Euro 2000 low set in motion the nation’s fresh philosophy English counterparts begin to show signs of following suit
Over the next 48 hours, three German managers will take charge of a Champions League semi-final. It is three more than the total number of English coaches to have overseen even one Champions League semi-final since the tournament was renamed 28 years ago.
The reigning Champions League and Premier League-winning manager is, of course, also German. No Englishman has achieved either feat since those competitions were rebranded in 1992. Indeed, you respectively have to go all the way back to Joe Fagan in 1983-84 and Howard Wilkinson in 1991-92 for the previous English coach to have won either the European Cup or old First Division.
It is an extraordinary contrast and, as Julian Nagelsmann, Thomas Tuchel and Hans-Dieter Flick prepare for the biggest matches of their managerial careers, one that poses awkward questions. Not just in terms of English coach education, but also some of the indirect impacts of creating the world’s richest and most global league.
Germany’s football system was overhauled after the nadir of the 2000 European Championship and has since followed a simple mantra: If we want to have the best players, we need the best coaches.
Huge investments were made in education and a condition of Bundesliga entry was that every club’s academy must have at least two coaches educated to the top Uefa Pro Licence qualification.
By 2013, there were 21,731 German coaches with the B Licence, 5,633 with the A Licence and 1,305 who had achieved the Pro Licence. The gap in numbers with England (respectively 9,548, 1,190 and 205) was evident, but widened noticeably at the most elite level.
All German managers must still achieve the equivalent of the Pro Licence – known as the FussballLehrer (Football teacher) – to work in any of their three professional leagues and the only place that can be obtained is at the Hennes Weisweiler Academy. Only 25 people are annually selected for this course and they must hold their A Licence, belong to a DFB club and have at least a year of training experience.
The Pro Licence takes a further 11 months of largely practical application and, while Uefa stipulates a course of at least 240 hours, the German model provides around 800. It was the path followed by Tuchel, Nagelsmann, Flick and Jurgen Klopp and, according to Oliver Bierhoff, who is now the national team director, this season’s managerial results represent a “wonderful moment for German football”.
It is the first time in Champions League history that three coaches from the same nation have reached the last four and, when you study their respective journeys, one constant is the extent to which they served a lengthy apprenticeship across multiple levels.
Having benefited from such varied experience, another striking feature is how major Bundesliga clubs have placed such faith in them. According to Harry Redknapp, the English manager with the best Champions League record, it is that opportunity which has been so lacking for his domestic colleagues. Redknapp’s Tottenham beat both Inter and AC Milan, before losing in a 2011 quarter-final to Real Madrid, but he remains one of only six English managers (with Frank Lampard, Gary Neville, Ray Harford, Sir Bobby Robson and Craig Shakespeare) to oversee a Champions League game. “People can cite lack of experience, but it’s a vicious cycle,” says Redknapp. “I don’t know how you get your chance for one of the big clubs if you are a manager like Sean Dyche or Steve Bruce, who has consistently delivered.” Having managed at most levels of the pyramid, Redknapp says people would be surprised at how little results would change if you swapped the managers of the biggest Premier League clubs with those at the bottom. “Put Sean Dyche in at Manchester City and see if he can’t win the league,” he says.
The wider issue has vexed the Football Association, but there is confidence that options, opportunities and education have improved. Gareth Southgate has become a figurehead for English coaches and the various age-group teams have achieved success over recent years.
Eddie Howe remains highly regarded by the FA, who are also enthused by the experience being gathered in high-profile environments by Lampard and Steven Gerrard. These are green shoots of hope, albeit overshadowed by the dugouts this week in Lisbon.
Approval: Oliver Bierhoff, Germany’s team director, praised his countrymen