Sir Alex Ferguson

Can a Football Manager Manage Club & Country at the Same Time?

If you thought your work-life balance was out-of-kilter, spare a thought for Fernando Diniz. He is the head coach of Fluminense, the Brazilian football club that won the Copa Libertadores – a sort of South American version of the Champions League – in 2023. It was the fifth trophy of his managerial career, which allied to an attractive playing style marked Diniz out as a head coach of some repute.

That hadn’t gone unnoticed with the Brazilian FA, who were seeking a new manager after Tite stepped down from the role following Brazil’s quarter-final defeat at the 2022 World Cup. So, who did they turn to? None other than Diniz, who would now somehow have to balance his day job as Fluminense head coach with the occasional demands of managing Brazil in their friendlies, Copa America and World Cup qualifiers. One managerial job in football is stressful enough. But two? Diniz must have a masochistic streak…

Why Don’t Football Managers Manage Club & Country?

As we will discover later in this article, the examples of individuals that have managed club and country at the same time are thin on the ground – Diniz is very much the exception to the rule. The most pertinent reason that more don’t attempt to combine the two roles is the time required to make both a success. It would be very difficult for a manager to take their club hat off and put their international one on, particularly given how all-consuming the football calendar is these days.

Time

Remember too that the international break is a vital time for club managers, who get to work closely with their players – at least those not called up for national duty, anyway. Whether they work on tactical systems or an individual player’s game, these pauses in the club football schedule are vital….especially when there’s not a game to prepare for.

Diniz, for example, will have to leave Fluminense behind for the best part of two weeks while he’s off with Brazil, with his day job making it difficult for him to prepare effectively for the national team. The poor results Brazil have had under his reign – including a first-ever World Cup qualification defeat at the Maracana Stadium – are, to some extent, not surprising.

Bias

There is also a question of bias: be it conscious or unconscious. Would Diniz be more inclined to pick Fluminense players in his Brazil squad? He has called up Nino and Andre for his squads already, leaving out some players that ply their trade in one of Europe’s big five leagues.

And, how about this for a question of integrity: what if a manager picked an international squad of players permed from his club side’s rivals – therefore depriving them of a rest during the domestic hiatus? That would be a lack of integrity that, sadly, wouldn’t surprise anyone in the modern game.

Managers That Have Managed Club & Country

Dick Advocaat
Dick Advocaat (Ronnie Macdonald / Wikipedia.org)

So which managers have been confident/crazy enough to manage both a club side and a country at the same time?

Sir Alex Ferguson

Incredibly, and a little known fact, Sir Alex Ferguson would take on the club-country sandwich before his legendary reign at Manchester United got underway. He enjoyed a successful spell in charge of Aberdeen, establishing the Dons as the pre-eminent team in Scotland with three title wins in the early 1980s. In 1985, the Scotland manager Jock Stein tragically died, which left a void that needed to be filled with the World Cup on the horizon.

Ferguson stepped up to the plate, taking charge of the Scottish national team in ten games, all told. He appointed Archie Knox as his temporary co-manager at Aberdeen to lighten the load, although Scotland’s premature exit from the World Cup meant that Fergie stepped down as national team head coach in the summer of 1986.

Guus Hiddink

A jovial, likable sort of man, it is no wonder that Guus Hiddink has thrived as a football manager – both at club and international level. Between 2002 and 2006, Hiddink guided Dutch side PSV to one of the most successful periods in their history, with a stack of Eredivisie titles and a Champions League semi-final appearance.

He already had experience as an international boss with the Netherlands and South Korea, and in 2005 was tempted back to the national stage with Australia – combining that with his duties at PSV. Hiddink guided the Socceroos to the last 16 of the 2006 World Cup, where a heartbreaking goal six seconds from the end of the game by Italy ended his reign in charge – albeit in glorious fashion.

Leonid Slutsky

Although little known outside of the country, Leonid Slutsky is a football legend in Russia. He won three Russian Premier Division titles with CSKA Moscow, while being asked to coach the national team in 2015 – while still in charge of CSKA. He took them to Euro 2016, but a poor performance there saw Slutsky step down – six months later, he resigned from CSKA too before later emerging at Championship side Hull City.

Peter Taylor

You could say that Peter Taylor is the most impressive club-and-country manager on this list – he achieved the feat twice! Taylor was the manager of Leicester City in the year 2000 when England came calling for a caretaker head coach. He took the reins for a single game against Italy, famously naming David Beckham as captain and calling up a host of young players to his squad, including Emile Heskey and Jamie Carragher.

By 2004, Taylor was the manager of Hull City – again getting the international call, this time to guide England’s Under-21s. He ran both jobs simultaneously for two years, taking the Tigers back to the second tier of English football and leading England to the semi-finals of Euro 2006.

Dick Advocaat

A man not afraid of taking on more than a single job at a time was Dick Advocaat, who in 2008 was the head coach of Dutch side AZ and the Belgian national team – before quitting Belgium to become the manager of Russia.

Confused? So was Advocaat, who resigned as AZ boss in 2010 to go it alone with the Russians, before returning to AZ and managing the Serbian national team, by whom he was sacked after just four months in charge.