The 19th UEFA Elite Coaches Forum at the House of European Football in Nyon on Wednesday brought UEFA together with the crème de la crème of this continent’s club coaches to exchange views, ideas and opinions.
The meeting was chaired by UEFA coaching ambassador, former Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson. Coaches invited to the forum by UEFA have more than 100 UEFA Champions League appearances under their belt, or are coaches of clubs that participated in last season’s UEFA Champions League round of 16 and beyond, or that took part in last season’s UEFA Europa League semi-finals or final.
Talks centred on major issues of interest for European club football. Topics on the agenda included trends and key success factors in UEFA’s two major club competitions, the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League – in particular, the refreshing return to attacking football which brought 380 goals in last season’s Champions League, an record average of 3.04 goals per game.
Refereeing matters and the Laws of the Game were debated, including the issue of actual playing time and the current video assistant referee trials, as well as how coach and player behaviour can be improved, the length of the transfer window and the role of player agents.
The coaches make proposals that may benefit the European game – while UEFA listens, puts forward its own viewpoint and takes on board the coaches’ ideas for further debate within its various bodies.
“I think there’s no one better at understanding the mechanics of a game than from the position on the side of the pitch,” said Sir Alex Ferguson.
“Through these meetings, we look for advice from the rest of the coaches. We look for their experiences of things that are happening in their role as a coach, and where we can improve the game.”
“Coaches want to see better football,” Sir Alex added. “They want the game played in the right way, they’re really serious professionals.”
The glittering line-up of coaches who came to Nyon included Massimiliano Allegri (Juventus), Rafael Benítez (Newcastle United), Eduardo Berizzo (Sevilla), Sergio Conceição (Porto), Unai Emery (Paris Saint-Germain), Leonardo Jardim (Monaco), José Mourinho (Manchester United), Ernesto Valverde (Barcelona), eminent Dutch coach Louis van Gaal, Rui Vitória (Benfica) and Zinédine Zidane (Real Madrid).
The coaches themselves welcome the chance to come to UEFA each year, to meet and talk in a relaxed, informal setting away from the everyday pressures of their high-profile job.
"There are always things to learn from these meetings,” was the view of Massimiliano Allegri. “Because there are coaches who have made history in their clubs, and who have made history in football by winning many trophies.”
Alongside the coaches’ forum, a star-studded and vastly experienced group of former players attended a round-table discussion in Nyon on Wednesday, chaired by UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin.
Those present included Xabi Alonso, Leonardo, Peter Schmeichel, Clarence Seedorf, Dejan Stanković, David Trezeguet and Javier Zanetti. The meeting focussed, among other things, on competition rules, the Laws of the Game and football promotion.
“There was a lot of expertise in the room,” said Stanković, the former Serbian captain who is now working for UEFA as a football development advisor. “UEFA wishes to hear what such players have to say. We shared opinions to be able to give UEFA the benefit of a great amount of experience.”