UEFA and Europe's leading club coaches have met for two days of intense discussions in which they have examined developments in European club football and exchanged ideas, with the coaches giving invaluable input to UEFA for consideration.
A star-studded lineup was present at the House of European Football in Nyon for the latest edition of the UEFA Elite Club Coaches Forum, which first took place in 1999. The gathering – chaired this week by UEFA coaching ambassador Sir Alex Ferguson – provides coaches with the chance to discuss current European football issues and swap ideas away from the dugout and their high-pressure environments.
Tactical trends, competition matters and refereeing were some of the issues that were debated. No concrete decisions were made at the meeting, but UEFA now takes away a bulging notebook of views expressed and proposals made for its future decision-making processes.
Coaches present were: Arsène Wenger (Arsenal FC), Luis Enrique (FC Barcelona), Josep Guardiola (FC Bayern München), José Mourinho (Chelsea FC), Jürgen Klopp (Borussia Dortmund), Roger Schmidt (Bayer 04 Leverkusen), Manuel Pellegrini (Manchester City FC), Filippo Inzaghi (AC Milan), Míchel (Olympiacos FC), Carlo Ancelotti (Real Madrid CF), Laurent Blanc (Paris Saint-Germain), Jens Keller (FC Schalke 04), André Villas-Boas (FC Zenit), Jorge Jesus (SL Benfica), Massimiliano Allegri (Juventus), Mircea Lucescu (FC Shakhtar Donetsk), Unai Emery (Sevilla FC), Nuno Espírito Santo (Valencia CF) and Rafael Benítez (SSC Napoli).
The coaches relish the opportunity to 'talk shop' with each other at the UEFA forum, and once more, they welcomed the chance to engage in dialogue with European football's governing body. "You feel excited when you come back," said the coach of Russian outfit Zenit, André Villas-Boas. "You meet your colleagues in a more open environment out of competition. You get to share different ideas from these meetings. You always come up with suggestions that might influence UEFA one day, when they get together with the Executive Committee and with the clubs, regarding suggestions that arise.
"I think throughout time, we've seen some impact from things that we have discussed here," Villas-Boas added, "and I think we will continue to see it. So it is always positive and good for us to be part of this decision-making."
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini agreed. "I believe it's very important for all coaches to come together like this, and discuss various themes, various problems that they see in their field every year," he reflected. "And, apart from [being] a work reunion, it's also [about] spending time together, whereby we talk about different things; that's always very useful for the development of each of us."
"It's an opportunity for the coaches to express their opinions about the trends of the game, tactical trends, issues involving coaches on the touchline," was Sir Alex Ferguson's view. "[Discussions] were lively, and that's encouraging, because it's important that we hear the opinions of the coaches to make improvements where we see that it's necessary."
The event gives younger coaches in particular the chance to learn from experienced colleagues – and to get to know other club coaches in a special setting. "It brings a lot to me, because I haven't been coaching for a long time at this level," said Leverkusen boss Roger Schmidt. "It's good to hear the views of other coaches who have more experience – it is very valuable to me. That's why I am happy to be here."
"Today, what I've seen is really important to me," said Sir Alex. "To be able to get all the coaches together. And particularly, all the younger coaches, because they're the future. They were able to experience [the forum], listen to the older coaches, express themselves on their opinions on the game. For me, that was fantastic."
Tactical matters were a talking point in Nyon, with, as an example, one of the topics being the crucial development of counterattacking in the modern-day game to outwit opponents' defensive organisation. "Thirty years ago, counterattacking was maybe only one or two players," said Sir Alex. "Today, in counterattacks, you have players flooding forward in fives and sixes, really positive, quick passing. The state of the pitches has helped – the pitches are fantastic nowadays – so coming out of defence with passes is much easier than it was 30 years ago.
"I don't think there have been great tactical changes," the former Manchester United FC manager continued. "There is always a consistent formation: 4-2-3-1. I think that's an obvious [show of the time]. And then there are little changes, but not great tactical changes. I think the consistency of the UEFA Champions League is that the pitches are still great. That's very important. The standard has been excellent over the past few years. We saw a great [UEFA Champions League] final again [in 2014], a really intense [game], a real derby final. There were a great [number] of positives about last year."
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