The number of former players entering the dugout as managers has been increasing ever more with time. Steven Gerrard is at Aston Villa with his former England teammate at Everton just to name a few. Barcelona welcomed back Xavi to much fanfare. Success has been more varied when one considers the total pool.
Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Man Utd) and Andrea Pirlo (Juventus) all failed to live up to their playing standards somewhat while Zinedine Zidane and Pep Guardiola have set the blueprint. In the present day itself, there are examples of several players who look destined to seamlessly transition into the role of managers and elevate the tactical side of their teams.
FootTheBall looks at 10 of them who are more than likely to become masterminds as coaches after hanging up their playing boots.
One of the greatest, if not the best, defensive midfielders of the times. Busquets has been the rock for Barcelona for well past a decade now, alongside playing with some of the most world-class players ever. He is highly regarded as an extremely calm passer of the ball who likes to set the tempo for his team.
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 26, 2019
Busquets’ tactical nous allows him to stay back and cover for his attack-minded teammates, more often winning the ball back quickly once the ball breaks loose. He is not one to have shots at goal or play the flashy passes but his genius lies in his simplicity of getting the basics done most efficiently.
How to: Play in Tight Spaces ⚽️
• 1-2 Touch Max
• Spacial Awareness
• Quality & Weight of Passes
• Right Foot, Left Foot
• First Touch & Tight Control
• Body Shape
By: Sergio Busquets 🇪🇸
— Coaches Plan PRO (@CoachesPlanPRO) November 10, 2021
Having taken over the current Blaugrana squad as a mentor and captain, Busquets is certainly making his presence felt in trying to lead the next generation of players to success on the pitch. Furthermore, he remains a vital cog for the Spanish national team under Luis Enrique where he plays a very similar role. Reported to be leaving Barcelona at the end of the season, his transition into manager could start soon.
Busquets’ rival at Real Madrid, the Croatian, is adept at the opposite end of the spectrum. Modric is universally heralded for his supreme work rate and ability to run all over the pitch, either to receive the ball or with the ball. He makes the tough passes look easy and has a penchant for set-pieces as well. Modric formed one of the most formidable trios in recent times with Toni Kroos and Casemiro as they led Los Blancos to multiple UCLs and league titles.
1 – Luka Modrić was the midfielder with the most passes attempted (484), the most touches (624) and the most recoveries (56) at the 2018 World Cup. Stellar. pic.twitter.com/IsBVU11qlx
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) August 3, 2018
His effectiveness in progressive passing along with moving forward when the chances arise shows how he will be setting up his teams in the future. Moreover, Modric is also someone who does not shy away from doing the dirty work of tracking back or even putting in some hard challenges in order to win the ball. Nowadays, with speed a factor, he has taken to a role of orchestrating the play and supplying balls over the top or cross which are most often on the money.
A good mix of going forward alongside doing the midfield work, Gundogan has emerged as one of the most credible scorers in Manchester City. He was top scorer for the Cityzens last season and though the goals quota has been taken over by a certain Erling Haaland, his impact on the team cannot be understated. Though Bernardo Silva has been lapping up the plaudits, in the absence of Kevin De Bruyne, it is the German who provides the connection between the front three and the backline.
15 – Ilkay Gündogan has scored 15 non-penalty goals in 37 Premier League appearances since the start of last season; the most of any midfielder, ahead of Bruno Fernandes in second place (13 in 49 apps). Fox. pic.twitter.com/tHpQOcHOMi
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 28, 2021
Gundogan has an uncanny ability to time his runs into the penalty box to perfection as well, which allows him to have more shots unopposed while also carrying the ball over long distances. Pep Guardiola has certainly instilled in him what he needs to stay at the peak of his powers and his central role in the national team also helps in furthering his game as an all-round destroyer.
Mr Versatile, the man for any position, worker supreme…these are just a few monikers that fit Milner perfectly. Indeed, he can do whatever the team demands of him. Having started his career as an adventurous winger, he has played in the central midfield, central defence, left back and right back.
Bet James Milner is a dream for Klopp. Keeps himself in perfect condition always; has the experience and awareness and intellect to adapt to any role he is assigned; a motivator and leader by example; an excellent player.
He is going to be really missed when he finally goes.
— The Tactical Times (@Tactical_Times) July 29, 2021
The three-time Premier League winner is lauded for his extreme work rate and the fact that he has no complaints no matter the position his manager puts him in. Milner is always ready to give his 200% and work for the team, with little recognition. At Liverpool, he has developed the reputation of a crisis solver, who can come off the bench and provide the final impetus to will the team to victory.
Positions James Milner has started a game in throughout his career:
Mr. Versatile deserves all the praise he can get. The man is a MACHINE.pic.twitter.com/afvPYmKzSj
— Ball Street (@BallStreet) October 9, 2019
Jurgen Klopp has immense faith in Milner who is a senior statesman and also helps settle the nerves of several of Liverpool’s youngsters.
Imagine a young Milner but with more natural ability and flair who brings silkiness. That in a nutshell is Kimmich. He is arguably one of Bayern Munich’s three most important players in the past few years along with Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller. What makes Kimmich even more stupendous is how well he excels in a variety of roles regularly.
Joshua Kimmich Assist map for Bayern Munich. A good mix of some DeBruyne-esque halfspace crossing, long-range passing & deadly set-piece-taking. pic.twitter.com/8CCsddidWz
— Marius Fischer (@Gegenpressing91) January 19, 2021
He was the Bavarians’ next great hope after the retirement of Philip Lahm, having started his predecessor’s right-back role. Over time, Kimmich has developed into an action-packed midfielder who can score from supreme strikes, cross effortlessly and win balls through tackles.
🗣️ Joshua Kimmich: "My role model was always Xavi Hernández. He had an eye for the game, passing and technique. He was always trying to put others in the limelight – that's what I want to do too."#UCL pic.twitter.com/Fy0S3KVx52
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) March 31, 2021
Furthermore, he is also one of Bayern’s foremost goal threats and the fact that he can do all of these simultaneously makes him ripe for his role in management in later years. Kimmich’s know-how in all these areas of the pitch will be instrumental in imparting the same learnings to the next era.
Much like Busquets, the Brazilian offers many of the same attributes. What makes him stand out for our purposes is more mobility and adaptability on the pitch. Fernandinho has played as a centre-back and sometimes, even finds himself as the furthest midfielder on the pitch during attacks. His calming attributes and impeccable timing of tackles make him an extremely difficult player to get past, especially if one has to do it in tight spaces.
📅 On This Day In 2013
Man City signed Fernandinho ✍️
🏟 350 Appearances
⚽️ 24 Goals
🏆 6 League Cups
🏆 4 Premier League Titles
🏆 1 FA Cup
What a signing!
— EPL Statman (@EPLStatman) June 6, 2021
Fernandinho also knows the importance of being fast in thinking what the opponent wants to do so his interceptions are most often on point. Having left Man City to go back to Brazil with Atletico Paranaense this season, his coaching career could be about to begin soon.
Italy winning Euro 2020 further reinforced what most fans knew about Chiellini already- the man hates losing and his mentality to win is unmatched. Chiellini is an ace defender, one of the best of his times and age certainly has not slowed down his appetite. He remains constantly involved in shouting and barking instructions to his teammates on the pitch, putting his body on the line time and again to deny opponents as well as being an aerial threat to score himself.
‘We need to have a better mentality, a tie for Juventus is a loss. Put that in your heads’
“That was the day I understood what it meant to play for Juventus”
– Giorgio Chiellini ⚪️⚫️
— Italian Football TV (@IFTVofficial) December 27, 2020
Many believed Chiellini had joined MLS side LAFC to relax and enjoy the last years of his career. Fast forward, and LAFC sit atop the MLS standings and Chiellini has made 10 appearances, becoming a leader instantly. His leadership qualities make it likely that he becomes an ace manager in the future.
Whether he was deserving of his third-place finish in the Ballon d’Or rankings is up for much debate which will carry on for years. What cannot be debated is his ability to pass and move and elevate the game around him. Jorginho’s calm demeanour and sharp reading of the play enable him to dictate the flow of the games. Though he cannot be construed as an out-and-out defensive midfielder, the Italian does know how to break up attacks and foil opponents’ plans.
Jorginho finishes in 3rd at the Ballon D’Or ranking
Congrats to our boy. Very proud of him
In the end he won what mattered: EURO 2020 & UCL 🏆🇮🇹 pic.twitter.com/XVSVJNmKNx
— Italian Football TV (@IFTVofficial) November 29, 2021
On the offensive side of things, Jorginho is a regular in joining attacks which is aided by his unerring passing. Having Thomas Tuchel, Roberto Mancini and Maurizio Sarri as your coaches certainly does not hurt.
One of the greatest “Raumdeuters” of modern times, whose genius is often taken for granted or goes under the radar. Muller is a constant threat, with goals and assists galore for Bayern Munich but what makes his game truly unique is his anticipation.
Bayern’s equaliser vs Dortmund is a great example of Müller’s ability to sense pressing triggers & act. He sees Can shaping up to pass backwards,then immediately sets off to press Hummels & recovers the ball. He allows Bayern to be in a deeper block then suddenly trigger a press. pic.twitter.com/DACC9aEmPx
— Premier League Panel (@PremLeaguePanel) December 4, 2021
His experience and guile allows him to predict, mostly successfully, what the opposing defenders are going to do and take steps to foil their plans. Muller plays all over the pitch in the final third and can drop deep to link up play, deliver set-pieces with aplomb and score regularly. Needless to say that his tactical profile will be one of the most complete and nuanced when he does move into coaching.
Thomas Muller at Bayern Munich 🤯
Assists: 200 pic.twitter.com/dkyMHHoDv6
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 6, 2020
He has learned his craft under some of the finest managers of the time including Jupp Heynckes, Pep Guardiola, and Joachim Loew. Though his play is often overshadowed by those around him, there is no doubt that Muller has been the linchpin to Bayern’s dominance of the past years.
West Ham United’s longest-serving player and skipper, Noble is another veteran leader on this list who exemplifies hard work, grit, and dedication to the cause. Though he mostly serves as the team leader and calming presence nowadays, back in his prime Noble was a combative force to be reckoned with. He would fearlessly dive into challenges and win the ball for his side, along with launching attacks from deep.
Declan Rice celebrates his goal with Mark Noble! 😍⚒ pic.twitter.com/3mTXRFuWJ7
— Uber West Ham (@UberWestHam) September 30, 2021
Never the quickest of runners, he would instead drop the ball off to his teammates and take positions around the penalty box or a little further back to stop the opponents from attacking quickly. Also, Noble has been instrumental in providing Declan Rice a steady platform to build his skills that sees him now be one of the best players in the Premier League.