World Cup Coaches: A Short-Term Investment

As the 2014 World Cup nears, a great amount of attention will be directed towards standout players such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, and Neymar.  Can Messi check off the last milestone needed to toss his name into the ring as the greatest to ever play the sport?  Can Ronaldo continue his great form for club and country and lift Portugal’s first title? Can Rooney turn England’s notoriously poor international performances into a tournament of which the country can be proud?  Can Neymar help host nation Brazil momentarily forget the social troubles and protests that have occurred over the past three years?

All eyes are firmly focused on the players.  It is standard to highlight these plotlines in a tournament with constantly developing twists and turns; the month-long tournament is the highest profile tournament in the world after all.  These stories may live on for years to come but what may be forgotten after the tournament is over is the coaches of these players.  What happens to some of them may surprise you.

Many who follow the international game know that World Cup success is based on several factors: the twenty-three players selected to compete for each nation, the travel between venues, the weather, officiating, luck, and occasionally, the “Hand of God”.  The coach of the team and how they use their players can be equally as important as the performance of the players themselves.

Coaches of World Cup squads face enormous pressure to succeed.  They bear the brunt of the criticism for a team’s failure at a World Cup.  The high turnover rate of coaches of World Cup teams is compelling.  There are twenty-four nations that will return to the 2014 World Cup after competing in the 2010 World Cup.  Of these twenty-four teams, only four coaches have kept their posts for these two tournaments.  2010 champion Vincente del Bosque, Germany’s Joachim Loew, Switzerland’s Ottmar Hitzfeld, and Uruguay’s Oscar Washington Tabarez are the four returning coaches.

Bert van Marwijk, coach of Netherlands, the runners-up to the 2010 World Cup, quit after Netherlands flopped in the Euro 2012 tournament.  Loew and Tabarez kept their positions for 2014 after leading their teams to third and fourth place finishes respectively in 2010.  Hitzfeld of Switzerland remains coach of Switzerland after beating Spain in the group stage of the 2010 World Cup, despite failing to make it out of the group stage.

These four coaches have been skillful (or fortunate) enough to retain their jobs as international coaches.  However, they are a small minority as 83% of coaches lost their positions between 2010 and 2014.  This kind of turnover rate for coaches is incredibly high for a group who is for the most part, competent and successful.  But the dismissal rate is taken in stride by players, football associations (FAs), and fans.  There were eighteen teams that qualified for both 2006 and 2010.  Only France’s Raymond Domenech and Italy’s Marcelo Lippi (the two finalists of the 2006 World Cup) went on to manage the same team in the 2010 World Cup, a turnover rate of 89%.  Even after making it to the finals in 2006, sub-par performances from Italy and France in 2010 cost Domenech and Lippi their jobs after the 2010 tournament.

The financial impact of this turnover for the FAs of each World Cup nation is not necessarily seen.  A 2009 report of the annual salaries of each of the 2010 World Cup coaches shows that Fabio Capello of England earned the highest annual salary of all coaches with $11.9 million (€8.8 million).  Marcelo Lippi coached Italy to win the 2006 World Cup and earned second most with $4 million (€3 million).  The median annual salary for a 2010 World Cup coach was $952,000 (€700,000).

For many FAs, the amount of money they spend on a coach’s salary is relatively low compared to other costs associated with running their organization.  The large number of coaches who lasted only one World Cup cycle indicates that FAs typically do not invest a great deal of money into their coaches.  FAs would rather invest money into their developmental programs in the hopes of improving their talent on the field rather than a coach that, more than likely, will not bring home the World Cup.

Jurgen Klinsmann, US national team coach and technical director, is fortunate to have a guaranteed contract through the 2018 World Cup.  As for the other 2014 World Cup managers, more than likely they will be released or quit after 2014, despite advancing past the group stage or even finishing third or fourth overall.  The coaching carousel will start up again in 2015.  The best strategy for a World Cup coach?  Rent, don’t buy.


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Reporting on the business side of the world's game.