Football is an incredible thing isn’t it? On 17th December 2015, José Mourinho joined an elite club of managers who have been sacked twice by the same club, 3 years after he was brought back from the abyss. Most recent cases pre-José will point to Liverpool icon Kenny Dalglish. Football is often a debate in comparisons, comparing both managers’ second tenure from their first shows a clear contrast. Where their first tenures were full of promise, excitement & sorrow when they ended, the homecoming wasn’t quite the romantic fairy-tale. José Mourinho was brought back by Chelsea with the full hope he would be there to guide the Blues to unprecedented levels of success while building a dynasty lasting over the normal 3-4 years.
Roman Abramovich and Chelsea’s “revolving door” policy has been well highlighted in the last decade, with the Blues going through no little than 8 managerial appointments in a little under 10 years since the oligarch bought the club from Ken Bates. After years of rekindling a damaged relationship, Abramovich thought he’d finally found a solution to the constant, tedious task of finding a new manager after 1-3 seasons. Only 1 manager, under the current Abramovich era, has lasted longer than 2 years at Chelsea and that’s Mourinho.
As a result, Chelsea have been vilified for having an unsustainable model. Critics often citing Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson as case studies of why long-term managers yields long-term success. Yet, there’s no arguing that in the time Chelsea have hired and fired Mourinho twice, Chelsea have managed to win more titles (domestic and European) than Wenger has in his tenure. Which brings us to the question at hand, is longevity the myth that keeps on breathing?
On the evidence, it seems so. The last standing long-term manager left in the current game is Arsene Wenger, following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013. The Frenchman’s tenure now stretches over 19 years, approaching 20 in 2016. In that time, Wenger has won 3 Premier League titles, 6 FA Cups and 6 Community Shields. However, their last Premier League title came in 2003-04. Since then the emergence of both Manchester City and Chelsea have meant the success of Arsenal under Wenger has been curtailed.
With Louis Van Gaal expected to leave in 2017, it would mean the Dutch manager’s tenure would have lasted 3 years. Manchester United will be looking for their 3rd manager in 4 seasons by this point, something that would’ve never happened in the Sir Alex era. Currently after Wenger, the longest serving manager in the Premier League is Eddie Howe (3) of a Bournemouth team placed 14th in the League, followed by Mark Hughes (2) of a 10th placed Stoke City. In fact, in the last 20 years, only 7/20 clubs have made 10 or less managerial changes, suggesting the myth of longevity is on the decline within the Premier League.
But what about outside of the Premier League, does longevity prevail amongst the most successful teams? The answer, unsurprisingly, is no.
2010: Inter Milan (Mourinho 2 years)
2011: Barcelona (Guardiola 4 years)
2012: Chelsea (Di Matteo <1 year)
2013: Real Madrid (Ancelotti 2 years)
2014: Barcelona (Enrique 1 year*)
Indeed, from the last 5 Champions league winning teams, only Guardiola has lasted longer than 3 years. This comes as no surprise either, upon winning the cup with Barcelona in 2011, Pep Guardiola said of his decision to leave FC Barcelona,
“The day I see the light go out of my players’ eyes, I’ll know it’s time to go.”
New managers bring about fresh approaches. Longevity worked for Sir Alex, because he was always able to get into the minds of his players and make sure his influence wasn’t diminishing. However, in the modern game not many managers can boast this feat. Certainly, José Mourinho’s second sacking by Chelsea has highlighted this. Reports of a ‘rat’ in the dressing room emerging in October seemed to have given insight into this. Subsequent behavioural problems by Costa and reports of an unhappy Fabregas proved to be the end of Mourinho, whether these claims are proven true or not. This author is firm in the belief that we will, one day, hear what went wrong from Jose himself.