03.11.2021 - A soccer team is only as good as its manager. And Alex Ferguson (Scotland), Mircea Lucescu (Romania), Valeri Lobanovski (Ukraine), and Luis Felipe Scolari (Brazil) are proud bearers of this distinction.They may not have degrees in sports management, but they all have one common denominator in their respective careers – all were former topnotch soccer players with a strong resolve to win. They represent the best of the best, and are looked up to by today’s young team managers, and even those into fantasy soccer or manager games and soccer-related sports betting online.
Alex Ferguson, the “winningest” of them all with 49 championship titles to his name, mostly from Manchester United FC, started playing the game at 16 for Queen’s Park. He scored a remarkable 20 goals in 31 games during his stint with Queen’s Park, yet this wasn’t enough to earn him a regular spot on the team, leaving him totally shaken and heartbroken.
Disappointed, he moved from one football club to another to find a football home he could belong to. He found it in St Johnstone and, later with the Rangers, where he played as a pro.
His experience as a player in and out of the playing field taught him the importance of motivation and discipline to extract the best from players like himself.
This was what he did for Manchester United when he was invited to manage the team after its former manager was sacked for his failure to stop a losing streak. Within the same season, Ferguson steered the team back on course, scoring just enough victories to shore back his team’s sagging morale. He managed to score a comeback in the succeeding season mainly through the infusion of more skillful and better disciplined players.
In the course of 27 years, Ferguson won for Manchester United 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, and two UEFA Champions League crowns. In 1999, he was rewarded with a Knighthood by Queen Elizabeth for his services to the game.
Mircea Lucescu was also a talented soccer player during his youth.
During a playing career that spanned many years, Lucescu won six Romanian league titles for Dinamo București. He was also a mainstay of the Romanian soccer team with 70 appearances, including the prestigious FIFA 1970 World Cup held in Mexico.
Lucescu also has a sterling coaching career. His championship victories as a coach in Romania has earned him six “coach of the year” awards (2004, 2010, 2012 and 2014). He also coached for various clubs in Italy, Turkey, Ukraine and Russia, but he is best known for his 12-year stint as coach of Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine, where he won eight Premier League titles, six Ukrainian Cups, seven Ukrainian Super Cups, and the annual UEFA Cup (2008-2009). His achievements in Ukraine earned him the Ukrainian Coach of the Year Award.
The march to football greatness did not end with Lucescu’s impressive coaching career. In 2013, he was given the Manager of the Decade award in Romania, and two years later he became the fifth person to have the honor to coach in the 100 UEFA Champions League matches, along with Ferguson, Carlo Ancelotti, Arsene Wenger, and Jose Mourinho.
Another football star turned football manager was Valeriy Vasylyovych Lobanovskyi.
He is a hero, not just among football fans, but to the people of Ukraine who remember him as one of the top six Greatest Ukrainians.
At 187 cm, Lobanovskyi was relatively tall and had an unusual ability for dribbling and delivering a curled ball from the corner to hit the goal. He was compared to Brazilian player Didi, who displayed the same ability at the 1958 World Cup. But like most soccer team managers, his glorious career in football did not end with old age.
As team manager, Lobanovskyi turned FC Dynamo Kyiv into the most dominant team in Soviet football in the seventies and eighties, capturing the Soviet Top League title eight times and the Soviet Cup six times in a span of 16 years. With Lobanovskyi at the helm, the former USSR national team reached the finals of Euro 1988, losing the championship to the Netherlands, and winning the bronze medal at the 1976 Summer Olympic Games.
During his playing days, Luiz Felipe Scolari was called perna de pau, which literally means “wooden leg” or slang for a bad player.
He was not a bad player in a literal sense. He was just fierce and intense on the playing field, a mindset that would serve him well on his way to become one of Brazil’s greatest football managers.
His biggest achievement as team manager was when he steered the Brazilian team to a World Cup title in 2002, when the Brazilm was considered an underdog after almost failing to make it in the qualifying round.
After losing to Uruguay during the first round, the unfancied Brazilians quickly recovered to sneak victories over Turkey, China, Costa, Belgium, England, and Turkey to make it to the finals, where they defeated Germany 2-0 to win their FIFA World Cup.
An understanding of the role of a team manager to the team owner and to the players is important to win the games. Team owners will always want to win games, while players always need to be motivated. A good team manager makes both happen.