A Guide to Soccer Manager Style

What can hopeful coaches of today learn from the style choices of their predecessors?

With tactics, statistics, and heat maps dominating the discourse about soccer, everybody still blames or praises the coach after a game. If his team lost, then his team selection sucked. Or, perhaps, he played too offensively, unless he played too defensively. A win is often attributed to the performances of the players, not the coach. In a game with only 3 substitutions and one break in play, a soccer coach can’t really do much.

But there is one thing he can control: just how damn good he looks on the sidelines and in the post-game press conference. After all, if coaches are the scarecrows upon which we project our fears and angst, they can at least look dapper. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that the most successful coaches were often the ones who seemed to put the least amount of effort into dressing themselves. Herewith, a survey of Cup-winning coaches going back to 1990—men who led their teams to victory but often struggled to match their belts with their shoes.

Franz Beckenbauer of West Germany

Franz Beckenbauer / Germany 1990

You could call the German style continental asterisk or continental but. Franz Beckenbauer looked like a high school chemistry teacher aspiring to be confused with a college professor while waiting in line at Panera. His black jacket was nice enough and well tailored, but the tie suggests a non-tenure track lecturer, and his usual baby blue dress shirt and khakis reek of periodic tables and hormonal adolescents. Germany won on a penalty kick, and Der Kaiser somehow escaped being cautioned for his uninspired attire.

Brazil Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira

Carlos Alberto Perreira / Brazil 1994

For all the talk of “Brazilian style,” in reality they enjoy a pretty laid back approach to loose-fitting attire comparable to the U.S. Carlos Alberto Perreira’s baggy blue track pants recall the days when Arsenio Hall owned the night and shook his fist with authority. Perreira’s white polo shirt was a bit more formal but often sufficiently wrinkled to the point that you have to ask: did the Ramada Inn just outside Pasadena where they presumably lodged not provide irons to guests? His white tennis shoes were blandly nondescript but also possibly orthopedic, so no jokes here.

Aime Jacquet

Aime Jacquet / France 1998

We often assume that continental Europeans are sophisticated in the way they dress. Aime Jacquet, the manager of France, bucked that trend. However, a close read of his superficially casual polo and track pants combo reveals a certain brilliance. First, he coordinated the colors of both the polo and the track pants, white with a handsome navy blue. Second, his polo shirt had dark blue sleeves—absolutely essential to keep underarm sweat stains out of eye sight. His 4–3–2–1 may have bored us to tears, but the man can pick a starting lineup in the closet.

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari celebrates with Rivaldo

Phil Scolari / Brazil 2002

Phil Scolari’s clothing was maddeningly consistent. While some managers alternate between suits and athletic attire, one imagines Big Phil woke up each morning to a closet full of white polo shirts, windbreakers, and sweatpants, hanging in together in a neat row and carefully organized by wash-date. I am categorically, 100% against sweatpants in each and every situation, except this one. Managing Brazil is a stressful job, and if you are going to sweat and sweat profusely, then they are the pants for you. Maybe.

Final Italy v France - World Cup 2006

Marcello Lippi / Italy 2006

As an Italian manager with Serie A experience, Marcello Lippi has worn some pretty elegant suits. However, for the World Cup final, he sent a calming message of casualness to his players by donning the polo shirt/track pants combo. It worked. The Italians held their nerve and won on spot kicks. In some pictures, random stains are visible—I do hope that they are the result of celebratory bubbly and not isolated hamlets of hair that held his sweat. Just dwell on that possibility for a moment.

Italy v Spain - International Friendly

Vicente del Bosque / Spain 2010

Spain won three titles with a distinct style, but don’t let the manager know. Vicente del Bosque’s suit and tie combination screams “public defender.” You could imagine him with that red tie and grey jacket sitting alongside some delinquent in a holding cell at midnight, swearing he’d totally go to trial with him, but his daughter’s best friend’s bat mitzvah conflicts and the plea deal is pretty decent. And the over-sized sports watch with a suit/tie combo? No way Señorrrrrrrr!

Turns out you don’t have to dress well to manage a World Cup winner. Your team just has to play better than the opposition or be incredibly lucky. Which is why you will not see Pep Guardiola trying his hand at international soccer any time soon.