Three years to win the league

Three years to win the league

When asked about the dismissal at Leicester City of the incumbent FIFA Coach of the Year and Premier League winner, Claudio Ranieri, Luis Enrique shrugged his shoulders and said, “This is our job. I do not remember how things worked before, but now it’s like that. If you do not agree, you can leave the trade; otherwise you have to accept it.”

He should know what he is talking about, plying his trade in a league where the average tenure of a title winning manager over the last 10 years has been 2 seasons. The season and a half afforded to Ranieri must have seemed about par for the course to Enrique. In 2006, Real Madrid hired Fabio Capello to win the league title after a 3 year drought, which he duly delivered on in his first season, and was immediately sacked. The reason – the football was too pragmatic. Enter Bernd Schuster. Attacking football returned to the Santiago Bernabeu, and Madrid won the title again in his first season, with a then La Liga points record to boot. He lasted a few more months, leaving midway through the next season.

Football has always been a results business, more so for the best teams. You could say that Roman Abramovich ushered in a new era in the Premier League with his success at any cost approach, but teams in the continent, especially in Spain and Italy, have been doing it for longer. These teams have always looked for ways in which success can be achieved within shorter time frames, much like a fan diving online to use their Casino promo codes 02017 in order to get more bang for their buck.

In the decade since Jose Mourinho brought league success to Chelsea in his first two seasons in charge, 32 managers have delivered league success to various teams in Europe’s top 5 leagues. These managers have won their first league titles with their respective clubs at an average of 1.47 seasons, i.e. within a season and a half at the club. The average tenure of these managers at these clubs has been 2.71 seasons, i.e. less than three seasons. It is not for nothing that they say we will never see the likes of Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson at a single club anymore.

Title winning managers (2007-2016)

First Title Tenure
La Liga 1.29 2.10
Premier League 1.40 2.60
Ligue 1 1.63 2.81
Bundesliga 1.57 2.86
Serie A 1.40 3.13

*Alex Ferguson was into his 20th full season at Manchester United in 2006-07, and hence, has been excluded from all calculations.

*Diego Simeone, Luis Enrique and Massimiliano Allegri are still at their respective clubs and have not been included while calculating tenure.

*Roberto Mancini’s title win in 2005-06 after Juventus and Milan were stripped of points for corruption in the previous season has not been included.

*For any manager who took or left his job mid-season, his tenure for that season has been taken as 0.5.

*Only full seasons at the club have been included while calculating for the first title winning season.

66% of these managers won the title in their first season, 22% in their second and 12% in their third. The four managers who won the title in their third season were Rudi Garcia at Lille, Rene Girard at Montpellier, Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund, and Roberto Mancini at Inter Milan, clubs which at the time were looking at building for the future, reflected in these managers averaging 5 years at their clubs.

So, to recap, most successful managers in the top leagues win the title by their second season at most. No one takes more than 3 seasons to win the title. And that’s about as long a manager is going to remain with the club.

What does all this mean for teams like Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur who have not won the league in a long time?

The 2016 Forbes list of the world’s most valuable football teams had 10 teams valued at $1 billion or more. Six of these 10 teams are English, the others being Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus. These valuations are fueled by television agreements, shirt and kit deals, sponsors, revenue from the Champions League and intangible ‘market’ forces. These market forces play a big role in determining value.

For example, Arsenal generated $524 million in revenue during 2014-15 and is valued at $2.02 billion while Manchester City generated $558 million in revenue and is valued lesser at $1.92 billion. Manchester City have clearly been the more successful team in the past few years but Arsenal have a market advantage in being located at London, and I believe, having a distinct footballing identity with Arsene Wenger.  Similarly, Liverpool’s market value derives from its heritage and the Spurs from, again, being located in London.

These three teams are the only ones in the top 10 not to have won a league title this decade. A dependence on intangibles is high on risk. At the end of the day, nothing drives value more than success. Manchester City has discovered that. As fan bases get older, Liverpool run the risk of being left behind if they do not win the title soon, however illustrious their past. Just ask Nottingham Forest and Leeds United.

As revenues from television rights become more equal for all teams, Arsenal and Tottenham also run the risk of being just ‘another’ London team if they do not win the title soon. The Bundesliga and La Liga have also recently closed the gap on the Premier League on television money and these teams might find themselves fighting for European relevance too.

Roman Abramovich at Chelsea was a visionary in terms of identifying early how the business of football would evolve. Fifteen trophies, including 4 league titles is testament to that. His approach of providing different managers with specific short term objectives has paid off.

Manchester City, and lately Manchester United, have followed suit. United have realized that the reason why they initially passed over Mourinho after Ferguson retired should have been the reason to hire him in the first place. He might not stay at a club for long, but he delivers league titles.

Mauricio Pochettino is in his third season at Tottenham.  Recent history suggests that he might have missed his chance last year. They’re 10 points off Chelsea this year with 12 games to go. Surely, this year has gone too. Or will he buck the recent trend and win the league in his fourth or fifth year? Will he be allowed that long?

Have Arsenal finally realized that if Wenger hasn’t won the title in 13 years, it is highly unlikely he will win it anytime soon? He does provide the intangible ‘market’ value I mentioned earlier, but it has diminished in recent years and a blemish on his Champions League qualification record this season would blight it further.

Liverpool, in theory, has just the manager in place. He is one of the 32 managers who have delivered league success this past decade, having done so at Borussia Dortmund. But if he does not deliver the league title by his third year, what happens then?

As their fans are painfully aware, me being one of them, nobody remembers who came second. The business of winning ensures that.