A plethora of big decisions face a manager on the eve of a Champions League final. Pressing strategy or counterattack? Man marking or zonal defence? And it doesn’t stop on the pitch, because a global audience of around 400 million means your sartorial approach will be scrutinised. Social media users flag up a questionable overcoat as quickly as they notice a struggling false nine.
Traditionally there are two options: smart suit or comfy tracksuit and trainers. If you like coaches who get stuck in on the training ground, you’ll appreciate the Jürgen Klopp method. The 2019 Champions League winner is seemingly welded into sportswear, including a baseball cap. It goes well with his informal vibe and irreverent character. In one TV interview the German confesses, “My problem is that I have no space or resources to think about what I wear before a game. I just fall into the game with other things to do, and then I have to put my tie on? That just doesn’t work for me. Plus the club delivers the tracksuit, it’s already in the dressing room.” Interestingly, selecting the same work uniform to preserve mental energy is why Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg never strays from his grey T-shirt and jeans. Herr Klopp is in good company.
Remarkably only four coaches have lifted Europe’s ultimate prize in training gear, and 50% of them represented Liverpool. They were Klopp in 2019 and Joe Fagan in 1984. Ljubo Petrović of Crvena zvezda in 1991 and Ajax maestro Stefan Kovács in 1973 are the other two to resemble PE teachers. Continuing the educational theme, in 1980 Brian Clough looked every bit the history teacher supervising a school football match, putting a bright red tracksuit top over his casual attire. Some believe the tracksuit (or its shiny modern younger brother the shellsuit) is relatable and makes the boss one of the boys. Others find it a bit scruffy. Conversely, many fans love the gaffer in a suit and grown-up shoes. Maybe with good reason because a mammoth 54 out of 67 winning bosses have donned a jacket and tie. Carlo Ancelotti was the latest example in Paris in May. It’s a way to look professional and serious but still reveal some of your personality. If you are in good shape you can go slim-fit – at times Zinédine Zidane’s trousers were so tight they looked sprayed on during Real Madrid’s three-in-a-row run from 2016 to 2018. For the 2012 final Chelsea’s Roberto Di Matteo wore possibly the skinniest tie in history, which resembled a burnt French fry hanging from his neck.
Double-breasted garments are rarer these days but can help the larger gentleman display a svelte figure while barking instructions. And there’s that tiny yet crucial indicator of mood or character: your top button. If you want to show you can let your hair down, don’t fasten your shirt to the Adam’s apple and yank your tie down a bit. In 2006 Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard, one of modern football’s coolest men, didn’t even bother with a tie. That made him the only winning manager between 1991 and 2019 to allow his throat some space.