Barca’s 96/97 phenomenon: The coaching generation

SPAIN - FEBRUARY 06:  FUSSBALL: Spanischer Pokal Real Madrid - CF Barcelona 1:1 06.02.97, TEAM CF-BARCELONA  (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Bongarts/Getty Images)
SPAIN – FEBRUARY 06: FUSSBALL: Spanischer Pokal Real Madrid – CF Barcelona 1:1 06.02.97, TEAM CF-BARCELONA (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Many football players turn to coaching after their playing careers, but what Barcelona’s 96/97 generation did can be considered as a true phenomenon. Sir Bobby Robson was at the helm of the Catalan team that year, assisted by Jose Mourinho.

The two of them led Blaugrana to the Copa del Rey, the Cup Winners’ Cup, and the Spanish Super Cup – not one of the brighter seasons by Barca’s high standards. However, 23 of the 27 players that were in the team that season become coaches. Four of them took their current teams to the quarterfinals of last season’s Champions League.

The most successful among them are Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique – the two have won the Champions League as both players and coaches. Guardiola is the most successful coach in the history of Barcelona, but Enrique threw his hat in the ring for that title with a treble in his first season at Camp Nou. The third famous coach out of the pick is Laurent Blanc, three-time champion of France and three-time Ligue 1 Manager of the Year. We know all about them – but what about the others?

Albert Ferrer played as a right back for Barcelona and Chelsea. He started out as a manager in 2010 with Vitesse. In 2014 Ferrer was appointed at Segunda Division club Cordoba CF. After finishing the season in seventh place, the club defeated UD Las Palmas in the play-off final to return to the top flight for the first time in 42 years. Ferrer is currently the coach of RCD Mallorca.

26 Nov 1997:  Guillermo Amor (centre) of Barcelona is supported by team mate Albert Ferrer as Alessandro Pistone of Newcastle United moves in to tackle during the Champions League match at the Nou Camp Stadium in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona won the match1-0.  Mandatory Credit: Mark  Thompson/Allsport
26 Nov 1997: Guillermo Amor (centre) of Barcelona is supported by team mate Albert Ferrer as Alessandro Pistone of Newcastle United moves in to tackle during the Champions League match at the Nou Camp Stadium in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona won the match1-0. Mandatory Credit: Mark Thompson/Allsport

Abelardo Fernandez is the man responsible for Sporting Gijon’s return to La Liga. With the former defender in charge, Sporting gained promotion to the top flight by beating Real Betis on the final day of the season, while Girona dropped points against Lugo. In their first game back up they held Real Madrid to a goalless draw.

Jose Mari Bakero, Blaugrana’s captain back in the day, started his coaching career at Puebla. The Goizueta-born moved to Málaga CF’s B-side in January 2005 and helped the team narrowly escape relegation from the second division. After that he went to Poland where he led Polonia Warsaw and Lech Poznan.

Hristo Stoichkov’s first job was as coach of the Bulgarian national team. His managing career got off to a bad start with him failing to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. He soon had bust ups with some of the team’s best players, resulting in captain Stiliyan Petrov’s announcement that he would not play for Bulgaria as long as Stoichkov was manager. After a disappointing Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, the Bulgarian Football Union announced they had accepted the resignation of Stoichkov. He spent a year in South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns before being appointed as coach of Bulgarian side Litex. In May 2013, Stoichkov was recognized as the A PFG manager of the season following a vote by the professional footballers in the Bulgarian league. In June 2013, Stoichkov was named the manager of CSKA Sofia, but quit one month later after he lost faith in the troubled club.

Sergi Barjuan was appointed as a manager of UD Almeria in April, but suffered a hard 4:0 defeat from his former club Barcelona in his first game in charge. Oscar Garcia left his mark in Maccabi Tel Aviv, Brighton & Hove Albion and Watford, where he took part in an outstanding season which saw four different managers helping the club get promoted to Premier League.

Robert Prosinecki kicked his new career off as Slaven Bilic’s assistant at Croatia’s national team. Later on he spent 20 back at his former club Red Star Belgrade where he was idolized by the fans, but had tough time dealing with club’s board. Having failed to end the dominance of bitter city rivals Partizan, Prosinecki left Red Star in 2012. He then moved to Turkey with Kayzerispor, where his first season was huge success, but poor results followed and he was released. The blond playmaker is the current national team coach of Azerbaijan. His team is still unbeaten in four competitive games, earning three clean sheets in the process.

Juan Antonio Pizzi is best known for having coached Valencia, but he had spells at seven different clubs – Colon Santa Fe, Universidad San Martin, Santiago Morning, Universidad Catolica, Rosario Central, San Lorenzo and Leon. In 2010, the Argentinian led Universidad Catolica to Chilean title, and did the same with San Lorenzo in his native Argentina three years later.

SPAIN - FEBRUARY 06:  FUSSBALL: SPANISCHER POKAL REAL MADRID - FC BARCELONA 1:1 06.02.97, Luis FIGO/BARCELONA, Clarence SEEDORF/MADRID, Josep GUARDIOLA/BARCELONA  (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Bongarts/Getty Images)
SPAIN – FEBRUARY 06: FUSSBALL: SPANISCHER POKAL REAL MADRID – FC BARCELONA 1:1 06.02.97, Luis FIGO/BARCELONA, Clarence SEEDORF/MADRID, Josep GUARDIOLA/BARCELONA (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Albert Celades, former defensive midfielder for both Barcelona and Real Madrid, has been chosen by the RFEF as the man to replace Julen Lopetegui as a U21 national team manager. Lopetegui took charge of Porto in 2014, but had previously won the 2012 UEFA European Under-19 Championship and the 2013 European Under-21 Championship. In his first season at Porto, with the club’s biggest budget ever, Lotopegui led the team to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Giovanni Silva de Oliveira is currently a scout for Olympiacos, Guillermo Amor is in Adelaide United while Fernando Couto was assistant coach at S.C.Braga for two years. Francesc Arnau worked as youth coach at Malaga. Angel Cuellar manages UD Payosaco in lower level Galician league, after winning third division with CCD Cerceda.

Emmanuel Amunike managed two local clubs before he took Under-17 national team of Nigeria. Roger Garcia Junyuent was famous for his sturdy shot but he didn’t manage to have significant coaching career. Roger was assistant coach at Sabadell and the Catalan national football team.

Miguel Angel Nadal is the uncle of Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal and ex assistant coach of Michael Laudrup at RCD Mallorca. Carles Busquets works as youth goalkeeping coach at La Masia. His son Sergio has been one of the key players for the club since being promoted to first team by Guardiola.

Ivan De La Pena was for a short time assistant to Luis Enrique, while he managed AS Roma, but since then he’s become a football agent.

Only four team members decided not to take up coaching, but all of them stayed in football nevertheless. Ronaldo owns an NASL club in Florida, while Vitor Baia works as FC Porto ambassador. Gheorghe Popescu was set to become Romanian FA president, before getting convicted for corruption. Last but certainly not least – Luis Figo will run for FIFA president.

And that was just the 1996/97 season. In three years preceding that season Barcelona’s shirt was worn by the likes of Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup, or Gheorghe Hagi. As we mentioned at the beginning, winning three trophies in a season was not considered success at Camp Nou, so Robson made way for Louis van Gaal, who in turn began the “Dutch revolution”, bringing the likes of Patrik Kluyvert, his assistant at last year’s World Cup and current Curacao manager, and Philip Cocu, current Dutch champion with PSV, who met his former coach in Champions League earlier this week. We can go on and on, you get the idea, Barca is truly Mes que un club.

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