Who are UEFA’s technical observers, and how do they help develop the game? We put these questions to UEFA technical director and former Romanian international Ioan Lupescu.
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Ioan, can you explain in simple terms who the technical observers are, and what their purpose is?
It’s the role of our observers to watch the games, to analyse them from a technical point of view and then to report back their findings. These reports then become part of the overall technical report, a document that analyses the competition from a technical and tactical point of view, making note of the important players, goals and moments. We produce the report itself for two main reasons – the first and most important is to provide education and information for our coaches throughout Europe. We have more than 200,000 coaches with UEFA-endorsed licences, and this gives them the chance to get information about the latest trends and tactics in Europe’s top club competitions. The second reason is, of course, the heritage – it’s important that we document the history of the competition for posterity.
The team contains a huge amount of experience. Is this the most important thing when you’re recruiting observers?
Experience is obviously crucial, but it’s also about balance. When we are choosing technical observers, I always try to have a mix of former coaches, former players, technical directors from the various national associations; people with experience who really like to speak about and analyse football. This year, I’ve also been trying to bring in some fresh blood like Ryan Giggs, who worked with us in the Champions League, while in the Europa League we had Cristian Chivu and Dejan Stanković on the team. Their recent experience as top players is helpful for us, especially when mixed with the views of the more experienced coaches in the group.
You mention Ryan Giggs. What specific qualities do you think he brought to the group this year?
Obviously he has huge experience of the Champions League as a player with Manchester United, and also as an assistant coach at the same club. He has also given us some very interesting insights, especially regarding the roles of wingers and full-backs, and the modern trend for wing-backs. When you have a guy like Ryan, who was one of the greatest wingers, making these comments, it becomes a highly valuable insight.
As someone who has played at the highest level yourself, and as someone who analyses the game from a technical point of view, which coaches stand out from your time watching football?
There are lot of coaches that I admire and who have had incredible success but for me, since when I started watching and understanding football, there are two or three coaches who really left their mark on the game. I remember the AC Milan of Arrigo Sacchi who played a very high pressing game and a high defensive line, that was a really fantastic team. Then there was Johan Cruyff with Barcelona - he changed the club around completely, installing a philosophy, and is responsible in many ways for laying down the foundations of the hugely successful club we see today. And then there’s Cruyff’s protégé, Pep Guardiola, who came to Barcelona and won 14 titles in four years, with a possession-oriented style of playing which was something totally new. I think these were, for me, three coaches with unique philosophies who have been hugely successful.
Which 18 players did the technical observers select in their UEFA Champions League squad of the season?
Watch the ten best UEFA Champions League goals, as selected by the technical observers.
UEFA Technical Observers in Cardiff
Sir Alex Ferguson, Ryan Giggs, Fabio Capello, Roy Hodgson, Peter Rudbæk, Mixu Paatelainen, Ginés Meléndez, Thomas Schaaf, Ioan Lupescu.