Thursday, 25 Jul 2024

The Distinction between Head Coaches and Managers in Soccer

In the dynamic world of soccer, the terms “coach” and “manager” are often used interchangeably, leading to confusion among enthusiasts. While their roles may overlap to some extent, there are distinct differences between the two positions. In this article, we will delve into the intricate world of soccer management, shedding light on the responsibilities of both head coaches and managers.

The Role of a Soccer Coach

A soccer coach primarily focuses on developing the skills and fitness of players. They meticulously plan and lead training sessions, dedicated to enhancing different aspects of the game. Coaches design drills to improve technique, fitness, and tactics, striving to enhance both individual players and the team as a whole. Additionally, specialized coaches for different positions provide expert guidance in specific skill areas.

manager vs coach

One such example is Aron Hyde, the goalkeeper coach for the USA Men’s National Team. Hyde’s responsibility lies in honing the goalkeepers’ abilities and helping them reach their full potential. To gain a deeper understanding of his training techniques, you can watch one of his previous training clips here.

Differentiating Head Coaches from Managers

While the roles of head coaches and managers in soccer share similarities, they also possess unique attributes that set them apart. Both positions entail the responsibility of improving players, making tactical choices, and selecting the best team for each game. However, managers have additional responsibilities that extend beyond the soccer field.

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Managers have more authority and control over the overall soccer club. Their involvement extends to various aspects, including player contracts, transfers, and overseeing the club’s youth academy. They have the following responsibilities:

  • Identifying players for recruitment
  • Renewing player contracts
  • Choosing backroom staff (coaches, physios, doctors)
  • Overseeing the club’s youth academy
  • Making decisions on training ground facilities

Former Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson, serves as a prime example of a manager who held immense control over the club’s soccer side. His influence and philosophy were deeply ingrained in the fabric of the team, making him an integral figure in the club’s success.

Head Coaches

Head coaches have less authority and fewer responsibilities compared to managers. Their main focus lies in the team’s games and training sessions. Unlike managers, head coaches work under a director of soccer or sporting director, who handles player transfers, contracts, and budgeting. Head coaches primarily concentrate on improving players, enhancing team performance, and winning games.

Women's Soccer Coach

Prominent Figures: Guardiola and Klopp

To better comprehend the distinction between head coaches and managers, let’s examine two renowned figures in modern soccer: Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.

Is Pep Guardiola a Head Coach or Manager?

Pep Guardiola, the esteemed head of Manchester City FC, falls under the category of a head coach. While he possesses significant influence within the club, Guardiola works under the director of soccer, Txiki Begiristain, thereby limiting his control over transfer decisions, contracts, and budgets. However, Guardiola’s expertise and managerial acumen make him a valuable asset to the team, allowing him to shape Manchester City’s success on the pitch.

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Is Jurgen Klopp a Head Coach or Manager?

Similar to Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, the esteemed manager of Liverpool FC, operates as a head coach. Klopp works in collaboration with the sporting director, Michael Edwards, and does not have the final say in matters relating to transfers, contracts, and finances. Nonetheless, Klopp’s exceptional leadership and coaching abilities have propelled Liverpool FC to great heights, securing their first-ever English Premier League title in the 2019-20 season.

Pep Guardiola

The Multifaceted Role of Coaches and Managers

Apart from their primary responsibilities, both coaches and managers in soccer fulfill various other roles. These include:

  • Advisor: Offering expert advice on tactics and positioning.
  • Assessor: Assessing players’ performance to identify areas for improvement.
  • Counselor: Providing support and guidance to players during challenging times.
  • Demonstrator: Illustrating their vision through practical demonstrations.
  • Mentor: Utilizing personal experience to guide players on and off the field.
  • Motivator: Tailoring motivational strategies based on individual players’ personalities.

The Existence of Player-Coaches and Player-Managers

In some cases, coaches and managers take on dual roles, serving as both mentors and active players within the team. Known as player-coaches or player-managers, they manage the team while participating on the pitch. This unique blend of responsibilities allows them to make tactical adjustments during games. However, this role has become less common in modern soccer.

One prominent example is Vincent Kompany, the Manchester City legend who assumed the position of a player-manager at Anderlecht in Belgium. Although Kompany’s tenure as a player-manager was short-lived, he continues to contribute solely as a manager for the club.


While the terms “coach” and “manager” are often used interchangeably, it is essential to recognize the distinctions between the two roles in soccer. Head coaches primarily focus on improving player performance and team dynamics, while managers hold a broader scope, overseeing various aspects of the club’s operations. Understanding these differences helps provide a deeper appreciation for the intricacies of soccer management, amplifying our enjoyment of the beautiful game.

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Q: Can a coach or manager play soccer?
A: Yes, some coaches and managers assume the role of player-coaches or player-managers, actively participating in games while managing the team. However, this dual role has become less prevalent in modern soccer.

Q: What is the difference between a head coach and a manager in soccer?
A: The key distinction lies in the scope of their responsibilities. While both head coaches and managers focus on improving players and achieving positive results, managers possess additional authority and control over aspects such as transfers, contracts, and the club’s youth academy.

Q: Who is considered a head coach at Manchester City FC?
A: Pep Guardiola serves as the head coach at Manchester City FC, working closely with the director of soccer, Txiki Begiristain. Guardiola’s expertise and stature in the soccer community make him an influential figure within the club.

Q: Is Jurgen Klopp a head coach or a manager at Liverpool FC?
A: Jurgen Klopp operates as the head coach of Liverpool FC. While he plays a significant role in the club’s success, Klopp works alongside sporting director Michael Edwards, who holds the final decision-making authority in matters such as transfers, contracts, and budgets.

Q: What other roles do coaches and managers fulfill in soccer?
A: In addition to their primary responsibilities, coaches and managers serve as advisors, assessors, counselors, demonstrators, mentors, and motivators. These multifaceted roles contribute to the holistic development of players and the team.