Lothar Matthaus has protested that he had an agreement with the Bulgarian Football Union to extend his time as Bulgaria coach, but yesterday he was sacked from his post following a disappointing Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.
Former Germany captain Matthaus has now coached in Austria (Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg), Serbia (Partizan Belgrade), Hungary (national team), Brazil (Atletico Paranaense), Israel (Maccabi Netanya) and Bulgaria, all without seeing out a contract.
Crucially, despite his public declarations of intent, Matthaus has not coached in his own country. He claims his Bayern Munich connections have held him back from being offered jobs by other Bundesliga clubs. To call him the German Bryan Robson would unfair to Robson, who has at least held a number of jobs in the English top flight.
Matthaus is arguably Germany’s greatest footballer since Franz Beckenbauer (he has certainly claimed the title of Germany’s second greatest player) and yet his record as a manager is at best mediocre. However, his post-playing experience is by no means unique; you can count the number of great players who have become great managers on the fingers of one hand. Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff are the most obvious examples – the exceptions that prove the rule.
In 1999, World Soccer published a readers’ poll of the 100 greatest players of the 20th century. Matthaus was 31st on the list; very few of the other 99 went on to enjoy successful coaching careers. Other than Cruyff and Beckenbauer, Dino Zoff (47th) was the only other player from the list to enjoy continental success as a coach, winning the 1990 UEFA Cup with Juventus and taking Italy to the Final of Euro 2000.
Kenny Dalglish (22nd) is probably the next most successful, but his successes have been confined to England.
Other have shown promise, such as Marco Van Basten (9th), Frank Rijkaard (54th) and Michael Laudrup (59th) but their coaching achievements have come nowhere near the triumphs of their playing careers.
A more interesting observation is that more great players have gone on to enjoy important roles in football administration than in coaching. Michel Platini (5th) is the most obvious example, along with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (35th). Could it be that their leadership and natural competitive instincts are better suited to the boardroom rather than the dugout?