Who wants to take over for erstwhile Mexico coach Miguel Herrera? Presumably, lots of high-profile coaches -- after all, the job pays well, and with a likeable personality and a couple good showings in big tournaments, you could even become a celebrity in the country, earning extra money on the side shilling products in TV commercials or even swaying the masses in political elections through your Twitter account. Herrera certainly enjoyed his run as head coach of El Tri, and so could you!
Just don’t punch anyone.
Of course, as with any national team coaching job, there’s an awful lot of downtime. Herrera, who became famous at the 2014 World Cup for his exuberant touchline displays, made himself quite busy by becoming a celebrity endorser-on-the-side. While some people had no problem with that, others certainly did. According to ESPN’s Andrea Canales, this was one of the main criticisms that Christian Martinoli, the outspoken TV Azteca pundit whom Herrera punched a the Philadelphia airport following Mexico’s Gold Cup win, repeatedly aimed at the former Club America coach: that the national team coach should be just that and nothing else.
In any event, though the compensation and its residual benefits will likely agree with whoever replaces Herrera, there are some big items for prospective candidates to consider before saying yes to the Mexican soccer association (FMF).
For starters, job security: Mexico has been through six head coaches since the 2010 World Cup. It has been through a whopping 14 since 1999. By comparison, rival USA has been through three over the same period. In the world of soccer, perhaps only English giant Chelsea has been through as many coaches in the last 15 years -- and we’re talking about a national team here, not a club that has to perform in three to four different competitions every season.
Why so many? If you ask former Mexico coach Victor Manuel Vucetich, who lasted for exactly two games (one win, one loss) during El Tri’s chaotic World Cup qualifying campaign during which it went through four coaches, the project operates on a broken model. In other words, every Mexico coach is damned from the beginning.
Unlike, say, the U.S. Soccer Federation giving Jurgen Klinsmann reign over all aspects of the U.S. men’s national team, Mexico’s next coach must adapt to the whims and needs of the FMF: its benchmarks for success, the competitions it enters the team into, its sponsorship arrangements, the friendlies it organizes, etc. Then there’s the fact that most of the program’s players play in the Liga MX, which has its own considerations, Vucetich notes.
“In my experience, the federation and the national team must work on a project that is supported by the [Liga MX] clubs," the Queretaro coach tells ESPN, adding that the lack of cohesion between the three programs results in the national team coach constantly having to balance a squad of seriously over-worked players.
"We have the Copa, the league, Concachampions, Libertadores, Gold Cup, Copa America," he says, adding: "There is an entire world to program for so that they don't get overtaxed and don't get to the World Cup like they did [in 2014]. The big players get exhausted and their performance is under what was expected due to being overworked."
Indeed, some Mexican players play in extra competitions, whereas in the USA, the national team does not usually play in the Copa America, and its MLS clubs do not (yet, anyway) play in the Copa Libertadores (South America’s top club championship). As any coach will tell you, players burn out when you over-burden them with so many commitments.
That said, they also need stability. A jumpy federation going through four different coaches in one month during World Cup qualifying (as El Tri did in 2013), does not inspire confidence in players, or fans.
With all of that in mind, is the FMF presiding over a system that unknowingly bites the nails of its own success? Perhaps, as Vucetich suggests, if it rethinks its infrastructure and operations, it wouldn’t have to go through so many coaches.