We hear how young players need to make the move to Europe to further their development. Patrick Vieira is beyond his playing years, but his coaching development could benefit from the same type of opportunity.
Vieira has taken his experience as a highly successful player, and turned them into a promising career as a manager. Currently in his third season as manager of NYCFC, the 41-year-old has continued to grow in his role. This growth has caught the eye of multiple clubs in Europe.
It is of no surprise the former Arsenal player is finding success on the bench. More than an imposing physical specimen in the midfield, Vieira was a player who also read and understood the game at a high level. Having captained the “Invincibles” and the French national team, his work under coaches like Arsene Wenger and Fabio Capello provided valuable mentorship for his post playing days.
His post playing vocation has been provided a fertile field for his initial development. Remaining in the Manchester City setup after retirement as a player, he joined the City youth academy in a development role in 2011. In 2013 he took over as manager of the City reserve side. His work with the reserve team parlayed into the NYCFC manager position, a team that is majority owned by Manchester City.
Having the backing of and resources of Manchester City during his introduction to the coaching ranks has been a great boost. Getting the time in MLS to get his feet wet has also been beneficial. It is now time for Vieira to get out from the City umbrella and try something different.
It is in his best interest to take an opportunity in Europe to continue his path towards joining the ranks of the top coaches. He needs to experience more than what MLS can provide him.
Some will argue he is in a great position if he stays put for now. Many view him as the successor to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. With Pep recently signing an extension through 2021, Vieira’s opportunity to take the helm at City has been pushed back. Taking an opportunity to build on his resume is the best way to insure he is a viable candidate to follow Guardiola. While City will take his time served in blue under consideration, hiring a manager who’s greatest experience has been leading an MLS squad may not be fully welcomed. Fans will most likely give him the benefit of the doubt, but the first signs of struggle and the media will surely pounce on the “Americanization” of Vieira. This only adds to the reasons he needs to make the move.
What Europe provides
In Europe, Vieira will have to deal with a greater gap between the talent of his team and the one they are playing. MLS has a talent gap between teams, but not to the degree you find in Europe. Take France for example. At Nice he would find himself with a team that is vastly superior to the bottom four or five teams. At the top though, he will be at a great disadvantage to the talent at PSG.
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As a coach he will need to be able to make sure his team is not to overconfident or complacent against the bottom feeders. He will need to prepare his team for breaking down the tactics employed by teams with less skill. At the other end, he will need to make sure his team maintains confidence in themselves and their structure when face to face with Neymar and company. He will also need to implement the tactics necessary to try to exploit any possible advantage while protecting their vulnerabilities.
Another scenario more prominent in Europe’s top leagues is player transfers. There is player movement in MLS, but transfer seasons in Europe at one giant circus. The constant media rumors, along with agents involvement add another level to it all. Managing a squad with a player or players who have put in transfer requests or been heavily connected with a move away puts added tension in the locker room. Effectively dealing with those events are challenging even for the most experienced coaches.
Europe also offers a more involved fan base. Ultra groups bring a passion that is both good and at times bad for the club. When things are going well, they provide an intense atmosphere that energizes the players. If a team is performing below expectations, their actions can become costly, sometimes even threatening. While the actions of fans is mostly out of the manager’s control, it brings added pressure.
It is learning these lessons at a higher level that he is missing in MLS. MLS has made great progress in the past decade and has been great for giving Patrick that initial experience. Vieira has grown beyond what MLS can provide, and Europe is where he must go to continue his growth. This is what he needs if he wants to fulfill his coaching potential.
Vieira has experienced these things from a player perspective. That provides a foundation for dealing with each of them, but it lacks experience in the shoes he is now wearing. Moving to Europe to take on his next challenge is the best way to learn these lessons. Lessons if learned well, could catapult him further up the coaching ladder.