10 footballing greats who tried – and completely failed – at being player-managers

Edgar Davids Barnet

Player-manager is a wonderful dream: in your mind, you’re Messi and Fergie all rolled into one. Except it doesn’t really work out like that, as Tom Seymour explains

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Nicolas Anelka (Mumbai City)

Top-level journeyman Anelka found himself at his 12th club in a seventh different county when he joined Indian Super League side Mumbai City in 2014. Less than a year later, the Frenchman was named boss – but it only lasted four months.

His exit came after a 1-1 home draw against Kerala Blasters knocked Mumbai out of the eight-team competition, but also among reports of Anelka’s altercations with both players and coaching staff. A shock to us all, of course. 

Bobby Charlton (Preston)

Proof that even the greatest players don't always make great managers: 1966 World Cup winner Charlton was relegated from the old Second Division with Preston in his first season as manager in 1973/74. The team struggled so badly that lifelong Manchester United player Charlton came out of retirement to play 38 games for the Lilywhites, but even the great man couldn’t turn their fortunes around.

After just over two years in charge, Charlton left the club after falling-out with the board. He never took another permanent managerial job after that.

Edgar Davids (Barnet)

Davids was a perennial winner of trophies with clubs including Ajax and Juventus, so it was a massive surprise when he took his first job in management at then-League Two Barnet alongside Mark Robson in 2012. Robson lasted just two months, but the Dutchman stayed in north-west London for two years.

Davids and the Bees were relegated in his first season, before the second (in non-league) started with three red cards in his first eight games and him resigning in January. Bizarrely, he also wore the No.1 shirt, taking it off goalkeeper Graham Stack. 

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Mark Hateley (Hull)

One of the few English players to truly succeed abroad, winning Ligue 1 with Monaco and playing under Fabio Capello at Milan, Hateley moved into management with Hull in the summer of 1997. Quickly, though, the relationship between player-manager and new owner David Lloyd (who appointed him) turned sour.

While many believed the intimidating frontman and Rangers legend did the best he could in difficult circumstances, the Tigers still endured their lowest ever finish of 22nd in Division Three. Hateley played in nine games without scoring during what was to be his only season in charge.

Mario Kempes (Lushnja)

A little under 20 years after he was a World Cup winner with Argentina in 1978 (above) and at the age of 42, Kempes was convinced to take charge as player-boss at Albanian side Lushnja. The South American striker later admitted in his autobiography, El Matador, that he had to look up where the country was.

Kempes's stay lasted less than a month, coincided with riots as the country fell into financial ruin and eventual civil war, and ended with him escaping on a flight to Rome just before the airport closed. He took charge of two matches.