How Leadership Styles and Motivational Theories Affect the Success and Failure of the Football Clubs

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Manchester City
  • Manchester United
  • Real Madrid
  • Barcelona
  • Analysis of the findings
  • 1.Manchester City
    2.Manchester United
    3.Real Madrid


Success in football is how a club grows over time and how many trophies the club starts to win over a period of time. Does the management of football club directly relate to its success is a question many people cannot answer. In order to obtain this information, extensive in depth research will be done on the following clubs: Manchester City, Manchester United, F.C Barcelona and Real Madrid. Management of a club and management of a business are two completely different things “For example, in a corporate team if someone is off sick there a usually people who have the ability to take on their role easily and if someone isn’t well mannered or is generally difficult to handle, they can easily be gotten rid of because they are not well known in the media In football, it is not so simple. We need to nurture our stars and keep them on board,” This essay will be discussing to what extent is the manager's role in a club influential. To aid with this a technique of bootstrapping will be used to in my research to analyse the managers and their performance.

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‘Bootstrapping is when an entrepreneur is given little capital to start up the business.‘ The essay will identify whether the number of points per game secured by the manager is due to the characteristics of the team or managerial skill. When used in a recursive window, the bootstrap can be used to examine whether a manager's performance is improving or weakening, and hence, we can determine whether he is ‘significantly weak’ and should therefore be fired.’ Also it will entail how the different clubs have coped with and without a manager, how does a manager perform if they are given a lump sum of money to spend to build a team versus a manager who has to build a team from scratch with no monetary involvements and how do different managers perform under pressure whereas if the team is consistently losing or the players are not gelling with one another or the players are not gelling with one another. This particular topic was picked because because many people may feel that managing a football club is effortless but in reality it's not and this essay shows why. We will see that top clubs have only kept a manager for a season and if they fail to perform they will get sacked. We also see clubs where a manager wins trophies, but it is not performing to the boards expectations and thus the manager may yet get sacked. Here the question arises that is it solely culpable on the manager, is it only his fault that the team is not gelling well together and not performing to their standards or does this have to do with the players who are actually playing the game and simply following the instructions of a manager. The manager could have the best intentions and best game plan for his team, but if the team fails to go out there and execute the plan then whose fault is it? Is it the managers fault for having high expectations or the players fault for not following instructions well and being able to perform well.

So, does the management of a football club determine its success/failure. This is very important question to answer. If it is true and the manager does contribute to its success then he can be commended and also be offered a new contract with a new pay rise or he may even get offers from other clubs because he is making a reputable name for himself. But if the manager is contributing to its failure then really there is only one real option and that is to sack the manager or fire him and find a replacement that will be capable of doing the job that the previous manager was not able to do. The research being done is interesting and valuable to the audience for many reasons such as if the audience ever feel like becoming a manager of a football club then they can at least experience how difficult of a task it can be and they can even learn maybe what needs to be done to try and prevent the team from failing and what needs to be done to make the team be successful. Further in this essay, it will speak about the methods that managers use and can use to be successful in their era as a manager because a football club is different from any other business entity. The stakeholders, in this case are the fans. The investment of the fans is their support, while all the team has to do is go out and play their game of football, be it through chasing promotion, chasing a title or surviving relegation. So lots of thought, effort, time and dedication need to be instilled in the eyes of a manager before he decides to become successful. “Success is not gained overnight, it comes in installments; you get a little bit today, a little bit tomorrow until the whole package is given out”.

Manchester City

Manchester City’s manager Pep Guardiola signed for them in the 2016/2017 season. He is arguably the most renowned manager in the history of football and he is considered a footballing genius. Pep Guardiola has won 26 trophies in his managerial career with three different clubs, Manchester City being his most recent success. Pep Guardiola style of managing is one that is different compared to any other manager in the football industry, his philosophy of football is simply something very peculiar. When he first came to Manchester City, ‘People said that Pep could not play his way in England but now he is bossing it.’In his first season, he was described as a major flop for Manchester City because he won no titles. In just his second season as a manager in England, he basically had the Premier League Title wrapped up after 16 games, his side were so far ahead of everyone that the most competitive league which lasted 38 games was ‘done before half way through.’ He led Manchester City to a record breaking season in which they broke 11 records in the Premier League in one season. Quite astonishing. Pep is described as a brave manger and his motto is to attack till the very last minute of the game and play beautiful possession football. He will stick to his principles despite not ending up on the side with the better results. He is very adamant when it comes to his style of play. His style of play is pass pass pass until there comes an opening to go on and make an opportunity to score. This type of play gets the best out of his players especially because they see that his ultimate goal is to win the game by playing beautiful football.

Manchester United

A club on the decline. They are managed by Jose Mourinho. He is claimed as one of the greatest managers in football history, but it has come to a standstill while managing one of the most ‘prestigious club’ in the history of football. Before becoming the manager of Manchester United he had won a numerous amount of titles in different leagues and even in the Premier League, but while managing another team. So the question arises here, who is it to blame, the manager or the team? ‘Mourinho’s coaching style is known for being heavily influenced by psychology. A coach must be everything: a tactician, motivator, leader, methodologist, psychologist.’ Jose certainly possesses all those qualities of a manager: He inspires confidence in his players, he smartly recruits players and trusts his players. He is known to get the best out of his players, he knows how to motivate them and he likes to give the youngsters an opportunity to shine and show their potential to be a star. ‘One of Mourinho’s strengths is his ability to unite his team, and he achieves this by communicating his vision for the team and setting expectations for their behavior and conduct.’ Apart from all his managing qualities, he surely does have some drawbacks. He is the manager known for having conflicts with his players.

Another one is his style of play as he is known as the manager who ‘parks the bus’, this means that as soon as his team score one goal, they stop playing attacking football and defend for the rest of the match and simply waits for the opposing team to make a mistake and punish them. ‘Fans of the biggest clubs are no longer satisfied by clinching three points; they demand their side puts on a show in the process.’ Jose’s team does not impress their fans as very recently they have a lot of their fans turning against the team and the manager.

Real Madrid

Europe's most dominant football club, they have won thirteen Champions League titles, the most renown trophy a club can achieve on a yearly basis. Real Madrid have the most by any club and in doing so, they have won three back to back titles. Zinedine Zidane was the first manager to ever accomplish this achievement as he was appointed their manager in the 2015/2016 season. Zidane is best known for his ability to win, not his tactics nor his style. ‘Zidane doesn't fit into any conventional managerial bracket. He’s no visionary like Pep Guardiola, no cynic like Jose Mourinho, no disciplinarian like Sir Alex Ferguson.’ Zidane is known as a manager who makes the best out of what he is given. He analyses the set of players he has and according to their strengths and weaknesses, he adjusts his team. ‘I'm on the players' side. I listen to them," the Frenchman said, His managerial style is highly underrated and goes unnoticed by many. His systems are very simple in contrast to many managers, he allows his player to play with freedom and show their talent on the field. He is also honest with himself as he says "I'm not the best coach, and I will always say that I am not the best coach tactically.’’ He’s led Real Madrid to be one of the most successful clubs in Europe and he will surely not be forgotten as he has made history with them on numerous occasions and he will always be known as the manager who does his job in silence. He will be remembered as one of Real Madrid’s top coach if not the best.


After their previous manager Luis Enrique, brought the hunger and desire back to F.C Barcelona in his reign of winning nine trophies in three seasons came their new manager Ernesto Valverde. He started managing the team at a time of crisis, especially when one of their best stars, Neymar left the club for a record fee. Could he be replaced was the question many were asking? He is surely getting results out of his team despite not playing the prettiest football. He is a manager who looks to showcase young talent and nurture their upbringing in the game. Valverde has come to Barcelona and tweaked the team to his liking: he has made the defense stronger, he liked to maintain possession and high press, which has led to success. Some fans dislike him because they claim he was the reason to Barcelona’s only defeat in the whole of their LaLiga competition last season, the game in which he rested Lionel Messi, a very bold move. A Barcelona manager needs to comply with certain needs. It’s not just football he needs to be ready to be with the players every day, to deal with the media, to understand his role. It’s not just management, it’s a lot of other things, and if he can’t cope with those then we’ve got problems. But Ernesto is man with common sense, who has demonstrated how much he knows at other clubs and in other leagues. They knew that Ernesto was the man for the job after Luis Enrique stepped down from his role. He is known as being a specialist who can turn bad situations around.

Analysis of the findings

1.Manchester City

Whether you are the manager of a business entity or a football club, there are functions of management that are displayed by the manager. Pep Guardiola plans every possible situation is his head before a match. He organizes his thoughts and ideas and then presents his gameplan to the whole team. He coordinates and controls every action by each member of the team and staff to make sure everything is under his control. In doing all this is he is very successful as his team usually comes out on the winning side. Pep has manages City for 83 Premier League games, winning 61, drawing 14 and losing only 8. His team has also scored 207 goals in that period of time, demonstrating his mentality of attacking play. The most by any team since Pep arrived at City. His leadership style can be described as an autocratic and paternalistic leader. An autocratic leader is one who makes all the decisions and prefers not to delegate any responsibility. He simply states the game plan to the team and they have the role of carrying it out, whether they do that successfully is up to them, but his job is to practice that game plan in training so it works in the game. He is very keen when it comes on to leading his group from the front. He does not like when players turn up late for training, ‘Pep Guardiola has introduced a ban on mobile phones 'in working spaces' at Manchester City.’ The move is with a view to safeguarding any risk of standards dropping after their record-breaking season. He banned the uses of phones last season so they players could concentrate more on the game. He has banned the drinking of sodas and eating of pizzas to keep the players fit and healthy. He can be described as a paternalistic leader because he treats his cohort like a family, he is always showing the players ways to improve their weaknesses. He likes to mentor the younger professionals who he sees have a huge amount of talent within them, but simply need the help to unlock their true potential and he rightly does so. He likes to guide his team to glory as one unit, where everyone is on the same team and the morale of the club is high because all the players and the staff have a very good working relationship. The players love him as a manager and he loves working with players who like to cooperate and improve different aspects of their game. Together they look like an unstoppable force in England.

2.Manchester United

Jose Mourinho’s leadership style can be described as autocratic, he has his own ideas of how he wants his team to play. He consults with no one and he instills a very poor morale in the players mind which is to defend and defend then play on the counterattack. Players and fans fans from all around the world feel as if he should change his tactics and make the players play freely. Despite getting onto the worst start in a Premier League season, only getting 10 points from 7 games, Mourinho still feels he is right in his tactics. This is the kind of manager where youth cannot excel under, when they are restricted to play in a certain way which they are not used to. “Man Utd need to 'attack, attack, attack' at home.” says Paul Pogba after Wolves draw.

Paul Pogba, Manchester United’s most expensive signing does not have a good relationship with the manager as they have had 3-4 fallouts with each other already and ‘José Mourinho has told Paul Pogba he will never captain Manchester United again.’ Does the manager not think to himself how demotivated a player would feel, when your manger publicly states that you can never captain the club again. Is this what a good manager does? Does he expect good performances from his most expensive player who is constantly criticized? There is no motivation from the manger to any of his players. This is a manager that is destined to fail at the club and it is only a matter of time before he gets sacked or he is asked to step down by the board of directors.

3.Real Madrid

Zinedine Zidane who was manager of Real Madrid for 3 successful season worked in silence making his results speak. In his time seasons he won the most renown title, the Champions League all three times. Some may say it was luck the first time, the second time, but the third surely cannot be luck. It was all a matter of management and how he led the team to glory. His leadership style was a democratic one. He had already been through his footballing career and won every title there was to possibly win, so the players respected him even more as a manager because of how talented and gifted he was as a player in his days. He would take into account the views of the players and how they feel about themselves in that position. He would consult with his assistants and staff if there should be any tweaks to his style of play. He liked to work with everyone at the club and have a very good manager player and manager staff relationship. He wanted to see the club strive and in being such an adept and versatile manager he got the results he deserved.His motivational theory used was Equity theory, he would base his team selection on fairness, often he would drop players who have a ‘big name’ around them and play players who he feels are suitable for the position and who are in good form. This kind of mentality would encourage all the players that they have a chance no matter what as long as they can prove themselves to him and be consistent. When he was manager of their B team, the Real Madrid Castilla “He would often drop Martin Odegaard to the bench, despite the buzz around the wonderkid. This was done so that he could play players who were suited to the team and also based on their form. This shows how he doesn’t feel the necessity of playing a big name just for the sake of the buy.”

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