FourFourTwo’s 100 most influential people in football right now: 40-31
Words: Michael Yokhin, Seb Stafford-Bloor, Mike Holden, Amit Katwala, Jeff Kassouf, Emyr Price.
40. Nathalie Boy de la Tour
Boy de la Tour's election as president of France's Ligue de Football Professionnel in November 2016 offers hope to women who want to take their share in management of the most popular sport.
The 48-year-old – the first ever woman to hold the post – might have been fortunate given unusual political circumstances, and claimed that even she was surprised to win, but now intends to lead French football forward and stay in the job for four years at least. "Football is not a macho or misogynistic world as one can imagine," Boy de la Tour said.
She might be pioneering in introducing technology to help referees, and has made it one of her top priorities. "We want to constantly improve, and using video replays seems essential because it brings fairness and sporting justice. 90 per cent of the fans want it to be implemented," she claimed. Tests might be introduced in the French League Cup as early as 2018. MY
39. Ivan Gazidis
Mr Catalyst for Change – whatever that means. Gazidis is Arsenal’s chief executive and, given the current climate, there isn’t a more scrutinised role in English football.
Often charged as being an apologist for Arsene Wenger, he is in the middle of the “extend or not to extend” bore-a-thon which has long burned the enthusiasm from hearts far and wide. He’s also in the unenviable position of not being able to make any kind of comment (or decision) without significantly displeasing a large proportion of the club’s supporters – and quite possibly, Wenger himself.
Whatever the outcome, Gazidis will ultimately be responsible for the manner in which Arsenal attempt to climb back from this season’s galling failure. The Premier League has never looked a realistic possibility, local superiority over Tottenham has gone, and the manner in which the club recalibrates its football operation will, in part, be defined by him. That’s if he’s still around to lead the way, amid reports of big job offers from America. SSB
38. Javier Tebas
When he’s not being heckled by Gerard Pique about questionable refereeing decisions, Javier Tebas considers it his mission to clean up the image of Spain's domestic game.
A self-confessed Real Madrid fan since childhood, his experience for the role of league president is unquestionable after a quarter of century spent working in the boardroom of 11 different clubs and three terms served as vice-president.
Tebas landed the top job in April 2013 with the league embroiled in a match-fixing scandal, and the tenacity with which he has tackled the issue of maletines (little briefcases) can only be applauded. To what extent the culture of third-party incentive payments has been eradicated is unclear, but the changing climate of intolerance towards the practice is a firm step in the right direction.
The spiral is being reversed and the integrity of the Primera Division can only benefit. MH
37. Txiki Begiristain
One decision has shaped Begiristain’s career above all others and, fair play, it was certainly a ballsy one.
The appointment of Pep Guardiola as Barcelona boss in the summer of 2008 – ignoring Jose Mourinho’s application in the process – was risky to say the least. But it reaped huge dividends for all concerned, and it’s hardly a secret that Begiristain landed the sporting director’s role at Manchester City in August 2012 on the promise of his ability to attract Guardiola to the club one day.
Begiristain’s record in charge of transfers at the Etihad is suspect to say the least – just as it had been previously with Barça – but that bond with his former team-mate trumps everything. They share a vision on how the game should be played, stemming from their days together under Johan Cruyff, and it creates a level of trust and understanding that enables Guardiola to go about his business free of frustration. MH
In the dark days before the advent of social media, if you wanted to know what a footballer ate for lunch, you’d have had to follow them to the pub (only to find out that it was probably chips). Now players can share photos and opinions from the team bus to the dressing room – and Twitter can be both a gift and a curse for them.
It’s a lucrative source of extra income – as long as you remember to take the ‘Please write something like…’ bit out of the email before you paste it in.
Some players have helped change their image through their social media posts – Robert Huth is the James Blunt of football Twitter, while Joey Barton’s persona was that of a sixth-form philosophy student. On the other hand, though, it’s also a potential minefield, as players are fined for bringing the game into disrepute with ill-timed comments and posts.
It’s not their fault; those smartphones have a mind of his own, as Joleon Lescott will tell you after his managed to tweet a picture of a luxury car from his pocket while he was driving home from an embarrassing defeat. Technology, eh? AK