As players get old, an obvious next step is to transition into management.
Not just in football, but in other sports as well. Just think about cricket, where Rahul Dravid is now coaching India or Steve Kerr in basketball.
It is quite common in football as well. They put down their boots, and put on their black coats, substituting the field for the sidelines. However, becoming a good manager is no simple undertaking.
It’s risky to assume that great players will become great managers. Many people who were regarded as among the finest when they were playing are unable to handle the nuances of the job.
The same is true, though, for footballers who didn’t have the best playing careers but went on to become some of the best managers the sport has ever seen.
Jurgen Klopp, who played for a second-division team in Germany, once said that he felt more suited to a managerial role than a player.
He described himself by saying “I had fourth-division feet and a first-division head”. The first-division head is still an understatement for all that he has achieved now with Liverpool and Dortmund.
Then there are players who were great on the pitch, and great on the sidelines as well. Two managers embody this double role better than any other – Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane.
Guardiola was one of the greatest CDMs to ever play for Barcelona and went on to be one of the greatest managers to ever grace the sport.
Zidane is arguably one of the greatest midfielders in footballing history, but also one of the most successful managers Real Madrid has had.
That leaves us with one last section of players, those who were great at the sport, but couldn’t quite crack it at the managerial level.
Think Gary Neville and his infamous stint at Valencia. Thierry Henry is part of this group as well.
The Frenchman was the manager of AS Monaco for only 20 games, out of which he won just 4. It’s easy to see this was not working out, and he dutifully got the sack.
He then went on to manage MLS outfit Montreal Impact for a little while, but then left after a season citing family issues. So it is safe to say his managerial career has not been great.
Why has it not worked out for him?
In a recent interview with GOAL, which featured Bradley Wright Phillips, Henry was seen talking about his expectations for his teammates.
In the video, Henry starts off by saying he does not expect them to do what he does, but Phillips pointed out an incident from their NYRB days which revealed the opposite.
The anecdote reveals how Henry showed everyone that since he could play through a midfield set-up, everyone else should be able to too.
The mentality of an athlete to demand the most from his teammates translates to great results on the pitch, as we have seen countless times in history.
Players like Michael Jordan, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Henry, have always been successful because of this push to be the best.
Michael Jordan, though, was infamous for being irrationally strict with his teammates. Not everyone can perform at the level of the GOAT, and anyone who couldn’t satisfy his demands was pushed further and further.
And, just like how Jordan’s managerial career has not panned out very well, Henry’s hasn’t either.
One reason we can see why is because this mentality which works well for a teammate, does not work well for a coach.
By asking their players to perform at the level these legends themselves performed at, they create unrealistic expectations. Sure, some need that push, but most just give up because it is simply not possible.
The same can be seen in this Glenn Hoddle video, who was also an incredible player with a rocky managerial career. By asking the player, who isn’t at Glenn’s level, to perform at that high level, he was probably just destroying the player’s confidence.
Here is another video, where Henry is managing Montreal Impact. He can be seen being sarcastic or passive-aggressive with his players who aren’t performing well enough.
Aggression is something most coaches use, and a lot of the time it brings success. Sir Alex was known for his aggressive halftime team talks.
But when this aggression is accompanied by arrogance, it tends to not work as intended.
Henry lost the locker room in Monaco in a very similar fashion, according to anonymous Monaco sources who reported this to GFFN.
His players overheard him say things like, “He is supposed to be worth €10m?”, which was clearly scary to hear from a manager during a game. Others said that he would not consider others’ opinions or even speak badly about players.
Similar reports did not come from Montreal Impact, where, to his credit, he did successfully manage to qualify for the playoffs.
Everyone learns, but sometimes a job is just not cut out for someone.
Managers like Henry and Hoddle just could not understand why their players can’t play like them. It isn’t arrogance, but rather ignorance, about individual differences.
As can be seen in the interview, Henry still can’t articulate how he could just do things, so how could he teach it to someone else?
Their major issues are that they aren’t skilled at clearly expressing their thoughts or empathically conveying them to players.
However, when given a specific role, like an assistant coach, they can work very effectively with outstanding players.
Henry makes for a good assistant coach for the Belgian national team because of this reason.
While the manager can handle communication, empathy, and tactics, Henry can show everybody how it’s done.
At the end of the video, Henry elaborates by saying that he worked very hard to be as skilled as he was, and that’s why he expected others to do so too.
But the key point here is that despite working as hard as him, barely anyone could ever be as good as him. That’s what he fails to understand.