“An unlikely, pokey little broom cupboard” is how the Guardian newspaper once described the famous Anfield boot room in which Bill Shankly began turning Liverpool into one of football’s biggest beasts. The memory of that tight space made legendary by Shankly’s brain trust came to mind in Madrid on 1 June last year when Jürgen Klopp and his UEFA Champions League-winning squad were joined on the dais by some 20 members of the Liverpool manager’s backroom team. Unlike mobile phones, the staff at football clubs just gets bigger and bigger.
Few men have witnessed this evolution quite like Mircea Lucescu, whose four-decade coaching career ended with Turkey’s national team last year. In the year it began, 1979, Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough and his No 2 Peter Taylor could be seen sitting on a bench at the European Cup final beside two UEFA liaison officers and the Forest substitutes. Lucescu, 74, recalls something similar with his first club, Corvinual Hunedoara in Romania: “There weren’t a lot of us – me, my assistant coach and a goalkeeping coach.”
By the 1990s Lucescu was working in Italy, coaching Pisa, Brescia, Reggiana and Internazionale. He remembers doing all his own analysis. “I started to use videos for the first time in Italy and, at that time, I filmed training sessions. I also made profiles of players and analysed our opponents. Until then, we’d recorded all that on paper. That’s why I needed a TV specialist, who helped me a lot. So then it was the coach, the assistant coach, the fitness coach and the video specialists.”
And that was not the end of it. “Football became a little more globalised,” he adds.“ Then we started to need translators. Other needs cropped up, such as for specialists who organise the defence. Now there are specialists for set pieces, specialists organising the defence, specialists organising the attack.” Pep Guardiola, for instance, has brought both a full-time set-piece specialist and a set-piece analyst into Manchester City during the past 12 months.
Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso says that the game’s analytics revolution has brought the biggest change since his days as a Champions League-winning midfielder with AC Milan. “Twenty years ago we’d perhaps see 20 minutes of little clips,” he says. “But today there are cameras everywhere because we like to analyse the training sessions we do, not just the opponents. It’s become much more all-encompassing.”