Granit Xhaka during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Arsenal at London Stadium, London, April 2023.

6 current players already doing their coaching badges: Xhaka, Mata…

Both current and past players from Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United are busy balancing their careers as professional footballers and studying for their coaching badges.

Having spent their entire lives in the football industry, it’s only natural that scores of players become coaches once their legs and minds are exhausted from playing the game.

We’ve identified six current players that are busy gaining their coaching badges with an eye on their post-career prospects.

Granit Xhaka

Somebody close to the Arsenal squad has suggested Xhaka’s remarkable resurgence is down, in part, to his experiences in the dugout.

“You take this as a player as well on the pitch,” the Switzerland international told the PFA during one coaching session. “Because you see a bigger picture, from the outside.

“If you start to do your badges and you’re still playing, it changes two things in your mind. You see the vision from the coach. And now when you enter the field, you enter as a player and a coach.”

Xhaka has seen the benefits of reviewing training sessions, working under Mikel Arteta and ‘coach educators’ at the FA and PFA, and has worked closely with Arsenal wonderkid Ethan Nwaneri.

Don’t bet against seeing him in a Premier League dug-out in the future.

Oleksandr Zinchenko

Xhaka isn’t the only Arsenal squad member currently earning their coaching badges: Cedric Soares, Mohamed Elneny and Rob Holding all completed their UEFA B Licence last year.

And Zinchenko, aged just 26, is also putting out cones and devising elaborate warm-up routines in the name of gaining his coaching qualifications.

The Ukraine international earnt his Category B diploma in football coaching last year, as per reports in his home country.

According to Ukrainian news outlet Sports Arena, Zinchenko’s qualification allows him to work as a head coach of a Ukrainian Second League team (Druha Liha) and as an assistant in the Ukrainian First League (Persha Liha). Fair play.

Juan Mata

Mata started taking his coaching badges while at Manchester United as he looks to cement his post-career path.

“I’m starting to do some courses. I’m doing a management course and also coaching badges,” the attacking midfielder told club media. “It’s nice to do things in your time off, when you become over 30 it’s important for football players to start thinking about what to do next.

“Of course, I want to play for as long as I can because there’s nothing better than playing football but you have to start to be ready and do something.”

Now in Turkey with Galatasaray, Mata would certainly be an interesting presence on the touchline if he becomes a coach.

Thiago Silva

Still a classy defender at the age of 38, Silva is nevertheless looking to the near future and has been studying for his coaching qualifications since joining Chelsea in 2020.

“He will be a good coach,” former Brazil manager Tite said. “And he’s bad for football. Do you know why he’s bad for football? Because he makes things so easy and they’re hard as hell. He manages to make the clearest, most lucid, transparent decisions with impressive technical performance.”

Gael Clichy

Yes, we were surprised Clichy is still playing too; the former Arsenal and Manchester City defender is currently seeing out his career as a professional footballer in Switzerland with Servette.

And Clichy has been working towards his badges for a number of years now, speaking of his desire to step into coaching in an interview with The Guardian in July 2021.

“The idea is to become a manager,” Clichy said. “But I do not know if I will be good or if I will like it, so the first step is to learn. I am talking to the coaches, I am going to start my badges and from that moment I will see if I have that feeling and desire to do it.

“I want to give it a go because when you have been in an industry for 20 years it is very difficult to see yourself do something else and I really do love football, and the closest thing to playing is being a manager and I want to be on a coaching staff and learn. Who knows where this will take me?”

Having worked under both Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola, Clichy will certainly have picked up a thing or two.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Maitland-Niles is still in his mid-20s, but revealed he already has a number of coaching badges in an impressive admission of far-sightedness.

“I’d be doing something in sport, definitely,” the Southampton man said when asked what he’d be doing if he hadn’t become a footballer in a 2021 Twitch interview.

2I have a few of my coaching badges already, I don’t know if I will end up going into coaching, but it’s food for thought and it’s there if I need to. But something in sport maybe, being around players and helping them mentally prepare for their next steps.”

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