Wenger, Berlusconi, Xavi – the players, coaches and presidents who stayed on too long

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With Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger having succumbed to fan pressure to resign, Goal takes a look at other icons that didn't know when to walk away

  1. Silvio Berlusconi

    The media mogul didn't just save AC Milan from bankruptcy in 1986, he also funded the creation of arguably the finest club side the game has ever seen, one which won back-to-back European Cups under Arrigo Sacchi.

    The Rossoneri conquered the continent five times in total during Berlusconi's 30-year reign, as well as claiming eight Scudetti. However, the funds started to dry up after the 2011 title triumph, resulting in a five-year trophy drought.

    Consequently, he decided to walk away in August 2016, revealing, "The sale was a painful decision but a necessary one." Most Milan fans agreed.

  2. Brian Clough

    One of the greatest and most colourful managers the English game has ever known, Brian Clough performed a footballing miracle in transforming Nottingham Forest from Division Two strugglers into the champions of Europe in just four years.

    However, his remarkable spell at the City Ground ended in ignominy in 1993, with the former England international - by this point displaying visible effects of his long-running battle with alcoholism - resigning after Forest's relegation from the Premier League.

    Still, Ol Big Head's cheeky sense of self-worth remained happily unaffected, "Nottingham's river Trent is lovely; I know, because I've walked on it for 18 years."

  3. Johann Cruyff

    There is no more influential figure in the history of football than Johann Cruyff, who revolutionised the game, first as a player and then as a coach. Barcelona would not the club it is today were it not for Cruyff.

    It is a shame, then, that after creating 'The Dream Team', who won four successive Liga titles and, more importantly, the Blaugrana's first European Cup, he left Camp Nou in such acrimonious circumstances.

    After enduring two trophyless seasons, Cruyff's relationship with Josep Lluis Nunez completely broke down and he was informed of his dismissal by vice president Joan Gaspart. Cruyff reacted furiously, labelling Gaspart "a Judas" before the two came to blows.

  4. Vicente Del Bosque

    Under Vicente Del Bosque, Spain won their first World Cup, in 2010, before becoming the first nation to retain the European Championship trophy two years later.

    However, La Roja's bid to claim a fourth major title in a row collapsed in Brazil in 2014, with the reigning champions suffering a shocking first-round exit.

    Del Bosque offered to stand down but the two-time Champions League winner was persuaded into continuing by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF).

    The former Real Madrid boss would come to regret that decision, though, with Spain suffering a tame last-16 elimination at Euro 2016 by Italy, after Del Bosque had been completely out-thought by Azzurri counterpart Antonio Conte.

  5. Pep Guardiola

    Pep Guardiola completely changed the face of football during his time in charge of Barcelona, creating one of the most beautiful and successful teams in football history.

    In total, he collected 14 trophies, including three Liga titles and two Champions Leagues. However, the Blaugrana claimed just one honour in his final season in charge, in 2011-12, the Copa del Rey.

    Guardiola was so emotionally drained by the end of his tenure that he took a one-year sabbatical from the game in order to "recharge his batteries". 

    Indeed, the Catalan himself hinted that he had stayed too long, admitting afterwards that "four years is an eternity as Barcelona coach" and that he had actually decided in October of his last campaign that he needed to step down.

  6. Josep Lluis Nunez

    The most successful president in Barcelona's history, Josep Lluis Nunez reigned for 22 years, overseeing Barcelona's emergence as one of the biggest clubs in European football.

    The best decision he ever made was appointing Johan Cruyff as coach in 1988. However, he later fell out with the Dutchman and the final years of his presidency were marked by arguments and fan protests over his perceived parsimony, which ultimately led to Luis Figo's departure for bitter rivals Real Madrid.

    He eventually stood down in 2000, after a trying final season which ended with Louis van Gaal's Barca failing to win a single trophy

  7. Lothar Matthaus

    It was abundantly clear the moment that a 35-year-old Gheorge Hagi breezed by Lothar Matthaus during a Euro 2000 clash between Romania and Germany that the World Cup winner had long since past his sell-by date.

    Indeed, after the game, a group of key players, including Oliver Bierhoff, went to coach Erich Ribbeck and begged him to drop Matthaus for the sake of the team.

    Ribbeck stood firm and the 39-year-old sweeper started Germany's remaining two fixtures. Both were lost and Matthaus' long and illustrious international career concluded with a bitter first-round elimination

  8. Xavi

    On June 6, 2015, Xavi lifted the Champions League trophy after Barcelona had become the first club to win two trebles courtesy of a 3-1 win over Juventus in Berlin.

    It was the crowning moment of a truly remarkable career; the perfect way for the man who had embodied the Blaugrana's footballing philosophy to bow out.

    However, while Xavi quit Camp Nou, he chose to continue playing. There was no shame in that, of course, but the fact that he elected to move to Qatar and agreed to become an ambassador for the 2022 World Cup was extremely dispiriting, given the human rights abuses to which workers have been subjected in the construction of facilities for the game's showpiece event.

  9. Francesco Totti

    Francesco Totti received a fittingly grand and emotional send-off at the Stadio Olimpico when he hung up his boots in 2017, having spent his entire playing career with hometown club Roma.

    However, there was no escaping the feeling that the iconic No.10 really should have bid farewell the year before, given his final season was spent sitting on the bench.

    This was no way for a true legend of the game to bow out and, in truth, Totti became a distraction, an annoying sideshow that coach Luciano Spalletti had to deal with on a weekly basis. 

    They had rebuilt some bridges after one explosive dust-up in 2016, which didn't reflect well on Totti at all, but they were barely speaking by the time the Roma captain finally retired.

  10. Arsene Wenger

    There was something particularly sad about the sight of an Arsenal fan holding a sign that read 'Enough is enough' during his side's Premier League clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge earlier this season. 

    The anti-Arsene Wenger sentiment was lamentable enough, of course, given the Frenchman was the mastermind behind 'The Invincibles', arguably the greatest side English football has ever seen.

    What was particularly depressing was the realisation that that supporter could bring that placard to the ground, almost 100 per cent safe in the knowledge that Arsenal would fail to win. 

    Unfortunately, though, it was clear from the moment that Wenger decided to sign a two-year contract extension that he would never get to see it out, given how far his stock had fallen in the eyes of fans that once adored him.

    Indeed, Wenger really should have bowed out after the surprise FA Cup win over Chelsea last May, thus avoiding a final, ignominious and trophyless campaign.