Goal.com Special: Top 10 Lost Coaching Talents Of The Decade

At the beginning of the decade, they were the most promising and sought-after specialists in the world. After naming the Top 10 Lost Talents of the Decade, Goal.com's Michael Yokhin thinks that the coaches’ downfall has been equally, if not more, dramatic. Do you remember them in their prime?

Slovenia's success under the ambitious young coach was absolutely phenomenal. Katanec took a squad of unknown players and turned it into a great unit that was very pleasant to watch. Slovenia shocked Ukraine in the play-offs on their way to Euro 2000, where they famously led 3-0 against Yugoslavia, settling for a 3-3 draw in the end. Two years later, Katanec outfoxed Romania in the play-offs on his way to a World Cup finals appearance, but everything went wrong in South Korea. A very public rift with star player Zlatko Zahovic exposed enormous problems in the dressing room. Zahovic was sent home after one game, Slovenia lost all of their matches, and became the tournament joke. In spite of keen interest from German teams, Katanec decided to sign for Olympiacos. However, his man-management skills left a lot to be desired. Srecko failed to win over the players in Piraeus and was fired 3 months later. The same problems occured with the Macedonia national team, and by then nobody wanted him around. Lost to the United Arab Emirates national team last June, he will probably never get a decent chance in Europe again.


Voller’s appointment as Germany coach in 2000 was incidental to say the least. The DFB were stunned by the cocaine case of Christoph Daum, Bundesteam boss in the making, and had no idea what to do. Voller famously reflected: “We were having a discussion, and then suddenly everyone was looking at me.” The former striker took his chance with both hands, surviving the 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Michael Owen and England to take a team dubbed the worst in German history to the World Cup final. It was an amazing result, but Voller never lived up to his new status. Germany failed miserably at Euro 2004, and he duly resigned. Later that summer, Voller was urgently called to Roma, as a replacement for Cesare Prandelli, who left to take care of his wife. The German might have been a hit at the Olimpico as a player, but his coaching tenure lasted less than a month. That’s when he decided to call it a day, and went back to the comfortable position of sports director at Bayer Leverkusen. His short coaching career came to a very abrupt end.


The Austrian was one of the brightest young coaching talents in the Bundesliga in the 90s. His Borussia Monchengladbach played very attractive, attack-minded and successful football. Krauss built that team from scratch, nurturing talents like Heiko Herrlich. In the 1994-95 season Gladbach finished fifth in the Bundesliga, scoring an amazing total of 65 goals and winning the DFB Cup, the club’s only silverware in the last three decades. Krauss went on to a successful stint with Real Sociedad, and in 2000 got the biggest promotion of his career, being named the new coach of Borussia Dortmund. Just two months later, he was suddenly finished. That disastrous spell killed Krauss’ promise. A bad season with Mallorca was followed by some wandering around the globe, including short stays with Aris Thessaloniki, Iran’s Pegah Gilan and then second division Tenerife. After failing with now-defunct Austrian minnows Schwadorf in 2007, he didn’t get any new offers, and is almost forgotten, which is a great shame.


Aston Villa were the hottest team in the Premier League in 1998-99, heading the table for a long spell, and playing confident attacking football. Paul Merson, Dion Dublin and Julian Joachim were the stars on the field, but the manager got the biggest credit for the unexpected success. Having come through Plymouth and Wycombe, John Gregory guided Villa to the the last FA Cup final at the old Wembley in 2000, and was touted to become England national coach in the future. But then his dream collapsed. A short poor spell forced Gregory out of Villa Park in early 2002, and that was it. He immediately went to Derby County, was unable to save them from relegation, was sacked and sued the club. Since then, his only meaningful job was at QPR, where fans hated him. For some reason, his agent constantly tried to find him a team in Israel and finally succeeded a month ago. You might be curious to know that Gregory is now in Nazareth, working at small first division newcomers Akhi, seemingly destined for immediate relegation. That’s not where he expected to find himself when travelling to the twin towers 10 years ago.


Having seemingly endless resources at his disposal at Leeds, O’Leary built a team that took England and Europe by storm. The Irishman was appointed in place of George Graham after his departure to Tottenham in 1998, and was an instant success. His first season ended with fourth place in the Premier League, and by 2000 he lifted them to third in addition to guiding the team to the UEFA Cup semi-finals. The 2000-2001 season was the best the club has had in recent memory. Finishing ahead of Barcelona in the first group stage of the Champions League, Leeds thrashed Deportivo La Coruna on their way to the semi-finals and became the competition’s prime sensation. Here was a young manager destined for glory, as all the big clubs sat up and took notice. It was not to be. After being sacked by Leeds after their plunge into deep financial crisis, he managed Aston Villa for three years, calling their supporters “a fickle mob” in the process. Since being fired in 2006, despite various rumours surrounding his name, he has remained jobless.


When you think of the way Lyon dominated French football in the last decade, Santini’s role is difficult to overestimate. The closest ally of president Michel Aulas, he build the foundations of the club as technical director, then took over as a coach and steered the formerly modest outfit to their first ever league title in 2002. A great tactical mind, he was an almost unanimous choice to replace Roger Lemerre as France national coach after the disaster at the World Cup. Le Bleus finished the qualifiers with a perfect record of eight wins from eight, albeit in a pretty easy group, and arrived at Portugal 2004 as one of the top teams. Santini, however, decided to sign for Tottenham before the tournament started, and that was the single biggest mistake of his life in more ways than one. After France were shocked by eventual winners Greece in the quarter-finals, he never saw eye to eye with some of the top officials at White Hart Lane, and resigned after 13 games. Since then, Santini completely disappeared from the radar.


Milan’s 1999 Scudetto was probably one of the most sensational in Serie A history. Zaccheroni started his big-time career at Udinese, and then was promoted to replaced Fabio Capello at a club in deep crisis. After Don Fabio's troops had finished the previous season in 10th place, Zaccheroni immediately turned things around. Bringing ageing German striker Oliver Bierhoff with him from the Friuli, he finished his maiden San Siro season with seven successive wins to steal the title from megabucks Lazio by a point. With the expectations rising accordingly, Zaccheroni never rediscovered his magic touch at Milan and was sacked in 2001. After signing for Lazio, he played a very significant role in destroying the careers of Gaizka Mendieta and Stefano Fiore, major stars of the Top 10 Lost Talents of the Decade list, and was replaced by Roberto Mancini. His stint at Inter was also unsuccessful, and again Mancini was called to take his place. If Mark Hughes needs someone to talk to about his Mancio troubles, Zaccheroni will definitely lend him a sympathetic ear. Apart from a few terrible months at Torino, he hasn’t worked anywhere since 2004.


Just a few years ago, this chain-smoking wild-haired German was the toast of Europe. Having made his name with VfL Bochum, he took the reigns at Bayer Leverkusen in 2001 and immediately restored the spirits after some difficult months under Berti Vogts. Although his first season ended without trophies, Toppmoller built an extremely enjoyable attack-minded team that captured the imagination with second place finishes in all competitions – the Bundesliga, the DFB Cup and, most importantly, the Champions League. Toppmoller helped many of his players to develop into real stars, most notably Brazilian stopper Lucio, who thrived under his ambitious guidance and felt free to build the attacks, especially in the timeless 4-2 win over Liverpool in the European quarter-finals. No wonder “Toppi” was named coach of the year in Germany in 2002. But less than a year later he was sacked. After a disastrous spell at Hamburg, he never recovered, and the world lost one of its most progressive coaches. His last stop was in Tbilisi, as Georgia national coach two years ago.


Nantes had just five different coaches in 41 years between 1960 and 2001, all living and breathing the club’s short-passing football traditions, and none more so than the thoughtful and modest Denoueix. Nantes was his only club in a successful playing career as a defender, and he went on to spend 15 years at the club’s famous youth academy, helping to bring up countless future stars. Denoueix was the perfect choice to replace legendary Coco Suaudeau when he retired, and performed wonders with limited resources, winning the French title in 2001. Later that year domestic results went wrong, and the board made a ludicrous decision to sack their symbol, despite considerable success in the Champions League. Denoueix signed for Real Sociedad and produced another great team. In his very first season in Spain, the Frenchman almost secured the 2003 title, with the Basque outfit playing some stunning football. Real Madrid pipped them to first place in the dying moments of the season's final game, but Denoueix was named the best coach of the season. Just a few months later, the now sky-high expectations of Sociedad were not met, and he was no longer wanted. Seemingly disillusioned, he hasn't worked with any team since. At least his short-sighted employers got what they deserved. Both Nantes (who have had nine coaches in the last decade since Denoueix’s departure) and Sociedad are now in the second division in their respective countries.


The Argentinian was undoubtedly the most talked about and most sought after coach at the beginning of the decade. Cuper had glorious success with unheralded Mallorca, taking them to top of the Spanish league for an extended period, eventually finishing third in 1999, as well as getting to Copa del Rey final in 1998 and the Cup Winners’ Cup final in 1999. At Valencia, he made the most of the talents of Gaizka Mendieta and Claudio Lopez, and guided the team to two successive Champions League final appearances. By then, many people were already calling him the eternal bridesmaid, but that didn’t prevent Inter from signing him in 2001. At San Siro, Cuper was painfully close to writing his name in Nerazzurri history with their first Scudetto in 13 years, but famously lost 4-2 to Lazio on the final day, allowing Juventus to steal the title. The public row with Ronaldo, who claimed to have left the club for Real Madrid because of the coach, damaged Cuper’s reputation, probably beyond repair. A year later, he was gone, and he's not tasted any sort of success since. He lasted three months at Betis, two months at Parma, and curiously ended up replacing Klaus Toppmoller in Georgia. That adventure had a sour ending too, and now Cuper works at Aris Thessaloniki in Greece. His downfall might be the most spectacular of them all.

Michael Yokhin, Goal.com