The following was originally published on Blueprint for Football Extra. Make sure you get your free copy.
Given the nature and controversy surrounding Gus Poyet’s dismissal as manager of Brighton, the announcement of his successor’s name passed by without too many people noticing.
Yet again, Brighton went for a left-field, adventurous appointment in the form of forty year old Spaniard Oscar Garcia, an unknown in England but someone who, despite his young age, has quite a bit of history behind him.
Last summer, Garcia was appointed as manager at Maccabi Tel Aviv, a job that he got thanks to his former team-mate at Barcelona Jordi Cruyyf, the Israeli side’s director of football, who had been impressed by the job that he had done at Barcelona B. Justifiably so, as it turned out: in his one and only season in Israel Garcia won the league title ending the club’s ten year wait for a championship.
What’s interesting, however, isn’t how he did in Israel but rather the fact that he took that job. As the man who had had led Barcelona’s famed B side, Oscar could easily have gotten a job at a high level in Spain but instead he took the risky decision of moving abroad to a league which doesn’t get a lot of attention.
It is undeniably hard for a manager to move abroad and work in a culture that is completely alien to him. If he wants to properly communicate with his players he’ll have to learn the local language just as he will have to get a better feel of the mentality of his new charges if he wants to drive them to achieve what he wants to achieve. Neither of those is an easy task
But perhaps the biggest difficulty is the risk that such a move poses. Unfortunately, once a manager spends some time abroad it is easy for him to be forgotten. Unless he’s managing at one of the top leagues there’s every possibility that whatever success he manages to achieve gets dismissed as being irrelevant.
Yet if you really want to test yourself and maximise how much you learn, such an experience can be vital if you want to get to the top. Pep Guardiola’s thoughts on coaching were very much influenced by his experience as a player at Brescia whilst Rafa Benitez spent a year touring Europe, watching how the continent’s finest managers coached their teams. Jose Mourinho got his first experience by being an assistant to Bobby Robson and Luis Van Gaal at Barcelona.
Today it is easier than ever before to see how the finest sides from all over the world play; to analyse the way that they are set up tactically. And that is a crucial element in the preparation of a coach.
But the real knowledge comes from playing against different teams with different systems. It comes from experiencing directly how players are developed; what kind of coaching they get. That kind of immersion in an alien culture can be invaluable in the development of a coach.