Womenforfootball.com – “Like a good wine, we get better with age”; This is a common belief among many people, and strongly believed among professional football club management. Therefore, it has always been a norm among football community to bring an experienced and middle-aged coach to the team, and path to success would be assumed as guaranteed. Although this is more than a mere myth, and in a lot of cases a middle-aged coach’s many years of experience does lead to club’s success, but there is no direct correlation with the success rate. And reversely, letting young coach take charge of the team, does not necessarily end up in failure or high risk.
In fact, opposite were proven true, when for instance France Ligue 1 club, Monaco bet on- back then 34 years old- Didier Deschamp to take on the team with no previous coaching experience but with many years of playing experience with France National team and different European club teams; It turns out, in his 3rd season in charge, he won French League Cup trophy and later leading the team to their first ever Champions League Final. Other success stories of teams with young managers are Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp, Chelsea’s Roberto Di Matteo, and of course the legendary but young manager of Barcelona and Bayern Munich’s Pep Guardiola.
So in this research article, I have gathered all coaches’ ages working in any of the clubs at top 5 European leagues(Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie-A, France’s Ligue 1, Spain’s La Liga and English Premier League) from season 2011 and onward, including the upcoming season 2013-2014. Also I recorded team managers’ ages during 2003-2004 season to make a 10-year comparison as well.
The age range format is shown below:
-Group A: 30 to 49 years of age. We can call them “young coaches”.
-Group B: 50 to 69 years of age. We can call them “middle-aged/experienced coaches”.
-Group C: 70 years of age or older. We can call them “old coaches”.
Now that all club teams have secured their managers for upcoming season, lets look at the findings from 2011-onward:
Ages of coaches in Seasons 2011-2012, 2012-2013 and 2013-2014
- Germany’s Bundesliga leads other top leagues with highest total number of coaches between 30-49 years of age. Number of young coaches in Germany has increased from 13 in 2011-2012 to 15 in 2013-2014(or %15 increase).
- In contrary, total number of young coaches in Italy, has decreased from 11 to 9(or %18 decrease).
- The League having the oldest coach was EPL, Manchester United’s Ferguson, up until 2013-2014.
- Season 2011-2012, marked the highest number of employed young coaches with %56 of all coaches in top 5 leagues. Upcoming season marks the second highest share of young coaches(between ages of 30-49).
- Germany and Spain lead other leagues with majority of young coaches. In upcoming season, 2013-2014, the highest number of middle-aged(50-69yrs) coaches will feature at English Premier League.
- In terms of Average Age, upcoming season will set a record of the lowest average age of the past 3 seasons. In more granular view, in upcoming season Germany will have the lowest average age among top 5 leagues, with 45.72 years of age for coaches there. The average age in Germany is declining towards young age with over %3 decrease over 3 seasons. French league, Ligue 1, currently has the highest average age of coaches among top 5 leagues with average age of 51.7 years of age.
Looking back: Comparing season 2003-2004 versus season 2013-2014
Comparing two seasons in span of 10 years, percentage of 30-49 years old coaches in charge of teams among top 5 leagues have increased by %4. As expected, employing young coaches came at the expense of middle-aged coaches; The percentage of employed coaches aged 50-69 declined by the same 4% in the same time period.
- The steepest decline of average age, or in other words, the highest tendency towards younger coaches happened in Germany and Spain with 4% or 2 full years younger average age, comparing only 2003-2004 season to 2013-2014 season.
- In reverse, sharpest increase of average age, or highest tendency towards middle-age or older coaches happened in France, with 6 full years increase of average age, or %6 increase.
At the end, the findings and the trend analysis is consistent with the assumption that considering the successful reigns of young coaches, such as Guardiola, Kloppe, Deschamp, Conte, among examples, Top 5 leagues are becoming increasingly invested/more trustful towards coaches between age of 30-49, hence breaking the previous myth of “fine wine and old age”, at least amongst coaches!