Quest for honours

Are trophies still the key measure for success for top managers?

In terms of trophies won, Maurizio Sarri is one of the most under qualified Chelsea managers of the Abramovich era. The Italian, now fifty-nine years old has won precisely zero major honours in his career

For a club that has made A-lister managerial appointments for pretty much the entirety of the stewardship of Roman Abramovich, this is a touch surprising to say the least. And yet Sarri is a man hugely admired by his peers and despite a lack of honours has done enough to get the Chelsea job.

This surely begs the question as to whether major honours are still the key indication of a manager’s success. With an emergence of quality coaches doing good work at club’s in hyper competitive leagues, is it unfair to write off these men for a sparse medal haul?

Show us your medals

Sarri has had the purists purring for a few years now. His fellow managers have cued up to pay him praise. Pep Gaurdiola no less went on record to compliment the fine work done by the Italian:

I love many, many things about a Sarri team. For me, they are one of the three best teams right now in Europe at playing football.”

His commitment to playing to ball saw his Napoli team achieve the best ball renetention and pass completion stats in Serie A last season. And yet they were runners up to Juventus.

Despite their smooth play and eye catching quality, Sarri was without a winners medal. In contrast, Diego Simeone with his chissled veterans like Diego Godin and Costa registered another tournament win with a much more abrasive style.

The football may be a touch cynical, but it’s got them honours at Atleico. This however, is not to say that men like Sarri are failures or unsuccessful because they cannot produce an array of titles and cups.

Sarri is not alone here. There a few men in Europe now doing a fine job without the medals to show it.


Managers like Pochettino at Spurs and Eddie Howe at Bournemouth have done great work at their clubs. Spurs play some lovely stuff under Pochettino and have become a regular in The Champions League.

Despite the dramatic improvement and consistency the Argentine has shown in his four years at Tottenham, he is often criticised for not winning a major honour. It’s not an unfair comment, but an observation that tells only half of the story.

For a club as big as Spurs, they will want to see trophies won. But this argument also risks being hugely dismissive to the Argentine and the great coaching work he has done in a decade.

If you are going to use this argument and this argument only as a measure for real success, then you are also righting off men like Marcelo Bielsa. The current Leeds boss is a goliath of a coach.

His teams are dedicated to his pressing game and he is a stickler for detail and hard graft. In terms of influence, there are few coaches in the world who are more influential than Bielsa. And yet his European haul is dotted with runners up medals and nearly stories. Does this deminish his legacy?

Hollow honours

When discussing trophies and honours it’s also very important to remember where they were won. For instance Brendan Rodgers is one of the most successful managers in the game right now. He has won more trophies then Sarri, Pochettino, Klopp and Pellegrini have managed combined in the European game.

A succession of honours at Celtic have been achieved his era at Celtic Park. However in a league bereft of competition and real quality, his honours do feel cheapened when looked at in this context.

It will also be interesting to see what happens with Tomas Tuschel’s medal haul now he is at PSG. If he goes on to win four trophies in two years, no doubt it will be a great achievement. However he would have to translate that success in a superior league for us to get a true measure of his abilities.

Hard to gauge

Ultimately, there will always be those who count success only in trophies won. Men like Guardiola and Mourinho are seasoned winners. Their sack full of trophies is testament to this.

A trophy win is also a lasting indentation of a manager’s greatness. Clough’s successive European Cup wins at Forrest is an achievement still unmatched in terms of who it was won by and where they are today. It is his legacy and it’s a bloody good one.

Ultimately there will always be men who fall just behind this category of greatness. Their achievements are nevertheless still memorable and impressive.

The improvement at Spurs under Pochettino or Liverpool under Klopp cannot and must not be simply shrugged off due to a lack of major honours. Given time and patience these sbould come, sadly there isn’t too much of that in rich supply these days.

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