Coaches or managers: In football, what’s the difference?


Football managers and head coaches are essential figures with distinct responsibilities. Some clubs have a head coach who focuses on the game’s technical and tactical parts and ensures the players perform at their best. In comparison, others have a manager who plays a significant role in running a club or national team. The variation in titles and roles is down to each club’s unique approach to defining its leadership position’s responsibilities and focuses. However, depending on the club’s job description, managers may take over some of the coaches’ duties, and coaches may also be responsible for managers’ duties.

The two positions are different in many ways, according to Pedro Mendonca, a football coach for UEFA.

“The main difference between the coach and the manager is that the head coach’s main focus is always on the team, in the game, developing the tactical and technical aspects of the game. The coach develops the training strategy and studies of the opponent. It’s more focused on the game and how to win the next game.” Pedro told Football Now.

“The manager is more focused on developing the team. Developing the aspect of the training, but also the facilities, the scouting process, and the negotiation with the players. They have a broader role than the coach.” explains Pedro.

Football managers have more responsibilities than coaches, according to UEFA coach Pedro Menconca

This distinction is crucial because the day-to-day roles of managers and head coaches can vary across Europe. For instance, Spanish club Real Madrid chairman Florentino Perez takes charge of transfer policies. Because of this, the manager is relieved of some of the responsibilities, and the coach can concentrate on the tactics. In contrast, legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United was responsible for overseeing all areas of the club management, including the on-field strategies.

With age and experience, coaches naturally transition towards a managerial role, focusing more on the overall organisation of the club.

“All coaches start with the training, like the head coach, and at the end of the career, they become a manager. Like Jose Mourinho, in the beginning, he was responsible for doing the warm-up and the main parts. But then he evolved, and with age, he started delegating more, the training aspects,” Pedro continues.

As a result of this transition from coach to manager, the duties that were previously focused on training only have expanded to include, among other things, control over transfers and negotiations.

Senior management can also feel the increasing financial pressures in modern football. German club Red Bull Leipzig underwent a similar leadership structure transformation, with successful managers transitioning into roles such as sporting director. This move allowed for the delegation of responsibilities and the introduction of new perspectives. This innovative tactical approach within the club led to sustained success on the pitch.

“Things happened at the club that had a very big domino effect on football tactics,” says German football expert Jasmin Baba. “The way football is played there is different. Many coaches have gone through the ‘Red Bull’ school of thought and play within the same parameters and philosophy,” she explains.

The ‘Red Bull’ school of thought is now known for high active pressing football. “They use very quick transitions. They go from defence to attack, attack to defence. It’s very entertaining,” Jasin adds.

Many Red Bull Leipzig managers have followed the ‘Red Bull’ philosophy, according to German football analyst Jasmin Baba.

The future of football leadership appears to favour this collaborative and adaptable management style. Andy Mangan, a former Bristol Rovers Interim Manager, explains that this type of transformation goes hand in hand with modern football.

“Football has changed. Now we have a sports science department, nutritionists, and analytical departments. says Andy.

Undoubtedly, football is the most popular sport in the world, and the face of it is changing. Many popular football clubs are now big brands with a hierarchy in place to make for smoother running.

Roles and positions have been expanded to include managers and directors, sports science, trainers, and analysis teams, not forgetting the commercial side of the business that looks at cost and revenue. Football leaders continue to adapt and innovate amid these changes, impacting the game’s future.

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