Europe's top club coaches have met UEFA to talk about the state of the modern-day European game at the highest level – and have acknowledged that their job, and the demands placed on them, continue to evolve and change constantly.
The 13th UEFA Elite Club Coaches Forum at the House of European Football in Nyon gave all parties an invaluable opportunity to discuss the trends in the game, and exchange views on numerous issues that affect the coaches' everyday work. In addition, the coaches were able to gather away from the technical zone and speak together about topics that matter to them.
A star-studded list of Europe's leading coaches attended the forum – Josep Guardiola (FC Barcelona), Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United FC), André Villas-Boas (Chelsea FC), Arsène Wenger (Arsenal FC), Roy Hodgson (West Bromwich Albion FC), Rémi Garde (Olympique Lyonnais), Didier Deschamps (Olympique de Marseille), Massimiliano Allegri (AC Milan), Ralf Rangnick (FC Schalke 04), Thomas Schaaf (SV Werder Bremen), Frank de Boer (AFC Ajax), Jorge Jesus (SL Benfica), Felix Magath (VfL Wolfsburg), Vítor Pereira (FC Porto), Mircea Lucescu (FC Shakhtar Donetsk), Unai Emery (Valencia CF), Roland Nilsson (FC København), Thorsten Fink (FC Basel 1893) and Rudi Garcia (LOSC Lille Métropole).
Gérard Houllier, who has vast UEFA Champions League experience as a coach with Liverpool FC and Olympique Lyonnais, was present in his capacity as a UEFA technical observer.
Schaaf echoed the view of the coaches in welcoming the purpose of the forum. "It is always a great opportunity to come here, it's always special," he said after the event. "To be able to sit with colleagues at this level, to talk, and exchange views and ideas about things that directly concern us.
The extraordinary thing is the openness and clarity in the discussions – it's very intensive, no one is worried about giving anything away to other coaches; the main thing is that we all draw advantages from this meeting. We can gain experiences and become aware of things that will perhaps give us new stimulation."
Discussions ranged from tactical and technical developments in the UEFA Champions League to the importance of substitutions during matches, the impact of injuries to players in the top European club competitions, and the characteristics and profile required of today's elite coach.
"There are certainly differences from the past because of changes in the environment," UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh explained. "Twenty years ago it was easier for the coaches to say, 'Do it that way', and that was it, but today because of the players' profiles, and their fame and money and freedom, you have to be far better in terms of communication – you have to be able to convince players, the media and the board that what you are doing is the right thing. And it's all about results – you have to be able to adapt and react to losing."
Schaaf added: "You're responsible for a lot of things, but this responsibility now also involves a lot more areas in relation to some years ago. We have to deal with things that are not directly concerned with a football or the field. We talked here about how much time is available to do the work, and we ascertained that we actually don't have enough time – that a growing amount of time is taken away from us to do work on other things. Everyone is affected by this. There are no differences between Italy, France or England – we all notice that such factors affect everyone and have to be dealt with."
The wealth of ideas and proposals will now be assessed by UEFA – while, on the pitch, it was agreed that the UEFA Champions League continues to set the benchmark. "The general view," said Roxburgh, "was that the quality was very high in the UEFA Champions League last season. Thirty-five more goals were scored than in the previous season.
It was felt that more teams were taking the initiative and that this very fast, high-tempo, passing type of game was becoming more prominent. That was a nice reflection from a football point of view – but there is no complacency, the coaches would like to see even further improvement."
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