FIFA World Coach of the Year 2014 – A study in Analytics

The world of Football has had their eye set on Cristiano Ronaldo for last fortnight or so. Be it him winning the third Ballon d’Or, his outcry at the stage or even his personal life – CR7 has not been spared. We at Goalden Times thought that it is our responsibility to give the poor guy a break and shift our readers’ focus to something that has slipped under the radar quietly. After Cracking the Ballon d’Or 2014 , Debojyoti Chakraborty is at it again – this time the helpless coaches are at his mercy.

The Shortlist

FIFA introduced the concept of FIFA World Coach of the Year in 2010 to honour the best football coach for the year just concluded. 10 best coaches were first shortlisted – on the discretion of selection committee – who were thought to have excelled in the period between 30th November 2013 to21st November 2014. Then, similar to Ballon d’Or, captains, coaches and media personnel across the world voted for their top three choices to elect the best of the lot. The first ranked person gets five points, second three and the last person gets one point from each vote. 2014 being a year of World Cup, the list featured more national team coaches than usual. Top three position holders in the FIFA World Cup 2014 – Joachim Löw of Germany, runner up Alejandro Sabella of Argentina and Louis van Gaal of the Netherlands – were all present in the top ten accompanied by Jürgen Klinsmann who was in charge of the United States of America. UEFA Champions League winners have dominated the proceedings in the recent years and this year also, La Decima winner with Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti made the cut as one of the strong contenders. FIFA generally acknowledges – and restricts itself to – the top European Leagues winners and the trend continued this year too. Pep Guardiola of Bayern Munich, Diego Simeone of Atlético de Madrid, Manuel Pellegrini of Manchester City and Antonio Conte of Juventus all featured in the coveted list. Completing the crème-de-la-crème was the flamboyant Jose Mourinho of Chelsea.


Best Coach of the Year – Really?

FIFA’s selection of the coaches for this award is quite lopsided. FIFA, and most of us, tend to incline towards the coaches of the most successful football teams. Should we not take into account the resources one has at his disposal and compare that with the outcome? In financial terms, more like a RoE – Return on Investment – type of parameter seems like the need of the hour. Otherwise, how one can evaluate the true calibre of a certain Mircea Lucescu? Lucescu is the manager of Shakhtar Donetsk since 2004 and he makes news only when his team does not win the league or the cup. He has won the Ukranian Premier League eight times including five times in last five seasons. Is he out of contention because he does not operate in one of the most prestigious leagues of the world? But on the contrary, he does not get the transfer fund or the infrastructural facilities of such elite clubs. A more pertinent question could be asked by Kheïreddine Madoui, the youngest ever winner of the African Champions League with the Algerian club ES Sétif – the first in the club’s history after 16 years and the first from Algeria after a hiatus of 14 years. “What is the parameter for the non-European coaches to at least be considered for the award?” Let us dig a bit deeper – do the voters watch every match or simply go by some statistics, match results, trophy won etc? How are they able to judge the tactical acumen of the coaches then, how can they appreciate (or criticize) one splendid substitution / change in formation which altered the match outcome? We do not have the answer. Not sure if either FIFA or the voters have it. We cannot help it, let’s just move on with whatever we have.

Margin of Victory


Landslide Victory for Löw

The overall voting pattern has been unanimous with Löw emerging as the clear-cut winner with   36.21% of the total points and 79.60% voters opting for him in their top three counts. But there were some voters who had their own opinions. In fact, there were six of them – two each from captain, coach and media pool– who thought none of the eventual top three were good enough to feature in their top three. And one certain Lionel Messi was one of them. His choice of votes – national team coach, his ex-coach at club under whom he flourished and became LM10, and Jose Mourinho. Anyone here for transfer speculations?

Vote Country Name First (5 points) Second (3 points) Third (1 point)
Captain Argentina Lionel Messi Alejandro Sabella Pep Guardiola Jose Mourinho
Captain Samoa Desmond Faaiauso Jose Mourinho Louis van Gaal Pep Guardiola
Coach Guyana DenzilThompson Jürgen Klinsmann Louis van Gaal Jose Mourinho
Coach New Zealand Anthony Hudson Jose Mourinho Louis van Gaal Pep Guardiola
Media Djibouti Mohamed Jose Mourinho Louis van Gaal Pep Guardiola
Media Vanuatu Raymond Nasse Jose Mourinho Louis van Gaal Jürgen Klinsmann

Continental Break-up

Across continents the trend has remained more or less the same – Löw has dominated the voting, Simeone has ran close to Ancelotti more often than not, whereas at least half of the finalists were simply ignored by majority of the voters. A little deeper, and we unearth a lot more.


Löw was chosen as their first choice by close to half of the total voters from Europe even though Ancelotti was close to him in terms of total number of votes. In fact, along with Simeone, the top three accounted for more than 80% of the total votes in Europe. In the chart below, the sharp decline in “Total Votes” figure for Pep indicates how far the voters were inclined towards the top three. Nominees at the bottom half were non-existent as van Gaal to Pellegrini combined could manage only two first choice votes.




Similar pictures to Europe were seen in Africa. Löw was a clear winner as he received close to 60% of the first choice votes, Ancelotti was way behind but he was firm second favourite, but Simeone faded away even further here. The misery continued for the bottom half – five coaches combined could not manage a single first choice vote.




Löw continued his dream run in Asia with more than half the voters opting for him as their first choice to win the honour. Simeone was the second favourite as far as the first choice was concerned but he lost out marginally to Ancelotti in total points. Louis van Gaal got as many as three first choice votes – the maximum for him across any continent – but rest of the bottom five coaches’ misery continued.




Simeone was able to turn the tides in North and Central American region as he captured the second place behind Löw. The German again accumulated his customary lion’s share of first choice votes (close to 52%). His predecessor, Klinsmann, being in charge of one of the national teams from this region, was expected to have some bias towards him. Klinsmann did get five first choice votes – and that is all he could manage from the entire poll. But surprisingly, none was from the USA team captain or from the media person! Again the sorry tale did not change for his fellow strugglers – four of the bottom five coaches had only one first choice vote to show for their calibre.




The Latin American region, being home to three of the nominees was supposed to be ruled by them.  Simeone did have a stranglehold here as he comes out to top the tables. But being a continent of only 10 FIFA affiliated nations, these results did not count much in the end. Simeone, however, did not get the first choice votes from his national team captain and coach as they were bagged by the ex-Argentine coach Sabella. The latter one, in spite of leading Argentina to the World Cup final after a gap of 24 years, did not please many people with his non-imaginative, conservative style of play. That is why he managed to get only one more first choice vote, that of Lionel Messi. The national media representative was so annoyed with him that he did not consider Sabella worthy of any of his three votes. But Sabella can get some respite from the treatment handed over to Pellegrini by his own countrymen and neighbours – the poor Chilean was given only four votes, all of them being third choice ones. Things though were even worse for Klinsmann and Conte – these great coaches could not manage a single vote from down south.




The smallest continent was also full of praise for Löw as he grabbed 62% of first choice and 81% of the total vote count. Jose Mourinho was also given a nice boost as the Special One finished in the second position with six first choice votes,the same number of first choice votes he got in Africa. Pellegrini was again humiliated as he failed to get any vote from the tiny continent.



Popularity Check

It is all good to be recognised worldwide, but perhaps, more importantly closer home and at one’s workplace. That is why we tried to analyse the voting pattern for each of the nominees – in the country where they belong from and the country where they coach. And the results do tell a story.


Joachim Löw, by virtue of Germany’s scintillating displaywhich ultimately culminated in them winning the World Cup, was everyone’s favourite. It is a pity that he could not vote for himself. But that counted for nothing, literally.

Carlo Ancelotti too fared really well. Both in Italy and Spain, he was the first choice for the national team coaches. Winning an unprecedented 10th Champions League for Real Madrid did do him a world of favour as he received good response – first choice or at least the second choice – from Spain as well as his country of birth Italy, where he is hailed as one of the best managers ever.

Diego Simeone was not so lucky though. Having another contender – one each from Argentina, his motherland and Spain, where he hones his coaching skills – did hamper his cause. Simeone can draw solace from the fact that he is at least the best coach last year in the opinion of media representative from both the countries. And being the manager of Atlético Madrid he would have been more surprised than anyone else if the Spanish captain (IkerCasillas, captain of Real Madrid) or the Argentine captain (Messi of Barcelona) would have voted for him even as their third choice. That’s OK, life moves on.

What harm having a strong contender from the same place can do to you? Ask Pep Guardiola, the Spanish who is at helm of the German superpower, Bayern Munich. Atleast in Germany, he managed to get couple of second choice votes. But be it the sense that he is winning everything in Germany due to lack of competition or club rivalry running deep – Pep was simply overlooked in Spain by coach, captain and media altogether. We can conclude: long distance relationships do not help. Anyone.

What happens when you have a stormy relationship with people around you? Look no further than Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese mastermind did not get a single vote from England where he earns his bread or from Portugal. But he hardly cares. As long as he is winning matches, leagues, cups and trophies, I think he would just be fine.

Real-Madrid v Atletico-Madrid Diego Simeone  

Louis van Gaal might like to question his national team captain and current club striker Robin van Persie what he was thinking during voting. Not only him, entire Dutch vote bank disowned van Gaal even after a fabulous showing at the mega event in Brazil. We can understand him not getting any English votes – he has just joined Manchester United and his start has not been anything close to fantastic.

Alejandro Sabella benefited in the voting as he is no longer the national team coach. His successor as well as Argentine captain Messi, both had Sabella at the top of their wish list – and they were the only two people to do so from the entire pool of voters. The local media was not at all happy with his defensive tactics, snubbing him out of the top three spot.

Similar treatment was handed over to three consecutive Scudetto winner – that too in his first three years of being in charge of Juventus – Antonio Conte. Conte suffered even more as he is the current national team coach and hence could not vote for himself, just like Löw – not that it would have mattered in the end though.

But no one can beat Jürgen Klinsmann in terms of the kind of strange apathy shown towards him by his fellow countrymen and the Americans. He managed a single third choice vote from them all. To be fair to them, it did not make any sense at all to shortlist the legendary German for this year’s award. We can say that the Germans and the Americans have kept their emotions aside and used their logic and judgment while voting.

Last in our list is Manuel Pellegrini. Frankly, it seems likely that FIFA was influenced by the most popular league of them all. Otherwise there is no reason to shortlist a coach who has not done anything great during the evaluation period. Chilean captain and coach were biased towards their fellow countryman and put him up as their third choice. But by and large, Pellegrini – in fact, all of them in the bottom five who cumulatively could not manage even 8% of the total votes – was humiliated by the voting.

And, it would have been fascinating to have a sneak peak at some of the big clubs’ first training session after the results were announced. Some players owe an explanation or two to their managers.

  • Edin Džeko (Manchester City) choosing Pellegrini for his third vote only
  • Bastian Schweinsteiger and Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) putting down Pep as their second and third choice respectively although in Bastian’s defense, he gave his first choice vote to his World Cup winning coach
  • Arda Turan (Atlético Madrid) opting for Simeone as his third choice

Turan though later accused FIFA for mixing up his votes. Both his first choice votes (for player and coach), as per him, came out to be third choice ones. Hmm….was it printed on Hebrew, by any chance?


The coaches are given the awardfor a year, but actually they – specifically the coaches handling club teams – do not get a fair run at that. The evaluation period covers the second half of the previousseason and the first half of the running season. During the season break, so many things can happen – bizarre transfer strategy (by top management), injury to key players, drop in form for influential players, change in entire team dynamics – which will be telling for the fortune of a manager / coach. The coach under contention is basically evaluated how he is handling (possibly) two entire different sets of teams for half a season each. But it might not count much for the voters eventually – public memory is very short and can get heavily influenced by the last domestic season, especially the UEFA Champions League winner. On the other hand, national team coaches get a much fairer run for their efforts – all the major tournaments start and get over in the evaluation period. But again, the opportunities for the national team coaches are few and far between – except a FIFA World Cup or an UEFA European Championship nothing seem to matter much either for FIFA or for the voters. After a few years, when we would have seen couple more European championships and World Cups, we might be able to conclude if trophies won with national teams are preferred by the voters over the domestic crowns. But till now, the honours are pretty much evenly shared. Since its inception in 2010, the award for the best football coach in the world has gone to the UEFA Champions League winners thrice, UEFA European Championship winner once and the FIFA World Cup winner once. Then again, whether they are the best coaches or simply coaches of the best teams, that debate will remain forever.


Debojyoti Chakraborty

About Debojyoti Chakraborty

Debojyoti Chakraborty is a follower of English Premier League and European football. You can reach him at