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Wayne Rooney was sacked by Birmingham City in January 2024 after a terrible run of form.

13 football legends that became terrible managers: Rooney, Maradona, Pirlo…

Football management is a completely different beast from playing, as some of the greatest footballers to kick a ball found out after retirement.

While the likes of Carlo Ancelotti, Pep Guardiola and Johan Cruyff broke the mould, many successful players have struggled to become great managers for a myriad of reasons.

We’ve identified 13 bonafide footballing legends who couldn’t transfer their playing success into the dugout.

Wayne Rooney

Rooney was sacked by Championship outfit Birmingham City in January 2024 after a horrendous run of form.

The loss consigned the club to 20th position in the Championship table, having been sixth when the former England striker took charge in October.

In all, Rooney won just two of his 15 matches in the Midlands and he failed to win over supporters with his ill-suited tactics and uninspiring press conferences.

After spells at Derby County and D.C. United failed to scale the heights, the trajectory of Rooney’s managerial career feels irreversibly downwards.

Steven Gerrard

Once tipped to replace Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, Gerrard flopped at Aston Villa and was made to look silly by Unai Emery replacing him and elevating an underachieving squad into the upper echelons of the Premier League.

Now in Saudi Arabia with Al-Ettifaq, the former England captain has Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, Demarai Gray and former Lyon striker Moussa Dembele at his disposal but one league win since mid-September.

His early success at Rangers feels increasingly down to Michael Beale’s influence.

Former Liverpool player Steven Gerrard ahead of the Champions League round of 16 match at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture date: Tuesday February 21, 2023.

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Diego Maradona

Widely considered one of the greatest players of all time, Maradona failed to inspire the brilliance he so often produced as a player during his two years in charge of the Argentina national team.

With Maradona in charge, the South American giants narrowly qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, where they suffered a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Germany in the quarter-finals.

Many fans in Argentina criticised his decision to leave Esteban Cambiasso and Javier Zanetti, fresh from winning the treble with Inter Milan, out of the squad. His contract with the Argentine Football Association was not renewed after the World Cup.

Fourteen months later, he took charge of United Arab Emirates side Al Wasl, guiding the team to an eighth-place finish in his one season. That didn’t stop speculation he’d take charge at Spurs though…

Hristo Stoichkov

Winner of the 1994 Ballon d’Or after finishing joint-top scorer at the World Cup in America, Stoichkov would have hoped to repeat his international success from his playing days as a manager when he took charge of Bulgaria in 2004.

Failure to reach both the 2006 World Cup and UEFA Euro 2008 was greeted as failure, despite Bulgaria not threatening to qualify for a single tournament since.

Stoichkov then presided over a disastrous spell as manager of Celta Vigo, which saw the Spanish club relegated from La Liga in 2007.

Stints as manager of Mamelodi Sundowns, Litex Lovech and CSKA Sofia followed with no great success.

The former striker once famously declared that he didn’t believe in tactics. One glance at his managerial record would confirm that assessment.

Gary Neville

One of Britain’s leading football pundits, Neville’s one managerial role was a case study in abjectness.

The former Manchester United and England defender was appointed by Valencia in December 2015, despite not speaking Spanish or possessing any experience as a manager.

He failed to win any of his first nine La Liga games, before suffering a humiliating 7-0 defeat to Barcelona in the Copa del Rey.

“That 7-0 was a defining moment. No manager could come out of that unscathed,” said Valencia-based reporter Paco Polit.

“After speaking to some of the players in the following days, a number of them said they expected a big, angry reaction from Gary, and it just didn’t happen.

“It goes along with the idea that Gary was too nice of a guy to be a coach in Valencia. He was too close to the players because I think deep down he still felt like one of them.”

Five straight defeats in La Liga sealed his fate. Neville hasn’t dared return to the dugout since, choosing to stay with Sky Sports instead.

“That man treated the opportunity to coach Valencia as a joke,” former goalkeeper Santiago Canizares said. “He is not worthy of my opinion, nor any of my respect.”

Alan Shearer

Shearer was trusted with the unenviable task of saving Newcastle from Premier League relegation when he took over with eight games remaining of the 2008-09 season.

He failed to do so, winning only once as the Magpies dropped out of the top division for the first time since 1993.

The Premier League’s all-time leading goalscorer hasn’t returned to management since, instead forging a reputation for speaking terse generalities while dressed as a security guard on Match of the Day.

Lothar Matthaus

Germany’s record cap holder struggled to cut it as a manager with a range of clubs, including Partizan Belgrade, Atletico Paranaense and Red Bull Salzburg.

He also attempted two stints as an international coach, but failed to lead either Hungary or Bulgaria into a major tournament.

“At the moment you can’t see him getting a job here [in Germany],” Philipp Selldorf, football correspondent of Munich’s Suddeutsche Zeitung, suggested in 2011.

“Time has passed him by and now there is a new generation of younger managers.”

Andrea Pirlo

The epitome of cool during his playing days, Pirlo has struggled to transmit such authority from the touchline.

His one season in charge of Juventus saw the side fail to win Serie A for the first time in nine years, finishing fourth in 2020-21. Winning the Coppa Italia has hardly likely to save him from the chop, especially after flopping in the Champions League.

Pirlo’s next role was in Turkey with Fatih Karagumruk and he only lasted a single season there too. Reports that he allowed his players to smoke at half-time hardly painted the World Cup-winner as a disciplinarian to fear.

The former midfielder is now in Serie B with Sampdoria, who have won one of their nine matches to date.

Frank Lampard

After reaching the play-off final with Derby, Lampard did well to guide a young Chelsea squad to Champions League qualification in 2020.

But concerns over a lack of defensive nous were exacerbated as Chelsea slid towards mid-table the following season. He was sacked in January 2021 with the club in ninth and Thomas Tuchel leading that same side to Champions League glory reflected poorly on Lampard’s managerial acumen.

His time at Everton was similarly bittersweet, saving them from relegation in 2022 only to be sacked the following January with the Toffees looking like certainties for the drop.

Lampard returned to Chelsea on an interim basis in April 2023 and won just one of his 11 matches in charge. He’s shown little sign of learning from his previous mistakes and has been reduced to meme status.

We’re sure he’ll get another job, but there’s little to indicate Lampard will make a success of it.

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard celebrates a win v Tottenham at Stamford Bridge, London. Febraury 2020.-Chelsea-manager

READ: ‘I try and be myself’: 13 quotes to explain Frank Lampard’s philosophy

Sir Bobby Charlton

Arguably England’s greatest-ever player, the late Charlton’s managerial career was brief and unsuccessful.

The 1966 World Cup winner and scorer of 49 international goals took over as manager of Preston North End in 1973, but he oversaw the club’s relegation from the Second Division that season.

He resumed playing but left the following year, making three appearances for Waterford United in 1976.

After a brief role as caretaker manager at Wigan Athletic, Charlton joined the Manchester United board in 1984, where he remained until the late 2010s.

Tony Adams

Great player, but Adams’ managerial career is probably best remembered for this.

John Barnes

As spectacular as his playing career was, Barnes’ managerial career was definitely a disaster.

He joined Celtic alongside fellow Liverpool Legend Kenny Dalglish in 1999, but his stint at Parkhead was a wholehearted failure as it took only a few games and poor results for the Celtic fans to go seek his dismissal.

The axe eventually fell after an infamous Scottish Cup defeat to Inverness, inspiring the peerless headline ‘Super Cally go ballistic, Celtic are atrocious’.

Spells with Tranmere and the Jamaica national team weren’t much better. Stick to rapping, Barnesy.

Bryan Robson

Manchester United and England’s ‘Captain Marvel’ throughout the 1980s, Robson seemed destined to become a top manager after hanging up his boots.

The reality was very different. None of his managerial stints seemed to possess even an ounce of the very inspiration he embodied as a player, except for perhaps his promotion-winning first season at Middlesbrough.

His remaining time on Teeside was inconsistent as heavy-spending Boro bounced between the top two divisions.

Spells at Bradford, West Brom (the Great Escape of 2005 counter-balanced by relegation 12 months later) and Sheffield United were uninspired and Robson also briefly managed the Thailand national team.

He’s no longer considered a manager, which says it all really.


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