2007 Champions League final has proven to be a managerial hotbed


The 2007 Champions League final between AC Milan and Liverpool was certainly nowhere near as dramatic as their meeting in Istanbul two years earlier but it has proven to be a breeding ground for a new generation of managers.

AC Milan were the winners that night in Athens, exacting revenge on Liverpool after their miracle in Istanbul two years earlier with a 2-1 win thanks to Filippo Inzaghi’s brace. 

Xabi Alonso played in both games and the retired Spanish midfielder is the latest big name from the 2007 encounter to have got the bug for management. 

Xabi Alonso was heavily linked with a move to Borussia Monchengladbach earlier this week

Xabi Alonso was heavily linked with a move to Borussia Monchengladbach earlier this week

The 2007 Champions League final - won by AC Milan against Liverpool - has proven to be a hotbed for future managers

The 2007 Champions League final – won by AC Milan against Liverpool – has proven to be a hotbed for future managers

2007 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL MATCH FACTS 

AC Milan: Dida, Oddo, Nesta, Maldini, Jankulovski (Kaladze 80), Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini, Seedorf (Favalli 90+2), Kaka, Inzaghi (Gilardino 88).

Subs not used: Kalac, Cafu, Serginho, Brocchi.

Goals: Inzaghi 45,82

Booked: Jankulovski, Gattuso

Liverpool: Reina, Finnan (Arbeloa 88), Carragher, Agger, Riise, Alonso, Mascherano (Crouch 78), Pennant, Zenden (Kewell 59), Gerrard, Kuyt.

Subs not used: Dudek, Hyypia, Gonzalez, Bellamy. 

Goals: Kuyt 89

Booked: Carragher, Mascherano 

The former Spanish midfielder, who won almost all there is to win in football with the Reds, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, was heavily linked with a move to Borussia Monchengladbach last week.

Alonso, who has been honing his managerial style with the ‘B’ Team of boyhood club Real Sociedad, was a surprise candidate to take over from Dortmund-bound Marco Rose.

On paper it looked like a big gamble by Max Eberl, the Gladbach sporting director, and obviously Alonso thought so too after some time to consider a switch to the Bundesliga – he ended up agreeing to stay put in Sociedad for one more season. Make no mistake though – it is a case of ‘when’ he makes a big move, rather than ‘if’.

And as Alonso’s former team-mate Steven Gerrard has proven with Rangers, you do not need a wealth of experience to make it big in the dugout.

Alonso and Gerrard were both part of Rafa Benitez’s side in Athens. So was Dirk Kuyt, who recently said he’d like to be assistant to Gerrard if he ever took over at Anfield, and there are a whole host of players on show that night who are patrolling the touchline.

Harry Kewell, recently sacked by Oldham, was there, as was Sami Hyypia who had bad spells in charge of both Bayer Leverkusen and Brighton. 

Sportsmail looks at the huge number of stars from that night in the Greek capital who are trying or have tried to cut their teeth in management.

Xabi Alonso

German publication Bild reported last Monday that Monchengladbach wanted Alonso to replace Rose but the Spaniard since opted to stay with his boyhood club for another season.

Alonso brought the curtain down on his playing career with Bayern back in 2017 and then went to Real Madrid’s youth academy to launch his coaching career.

After returning to Sociedad in 2018, it was widely thought Alonso would work at youth level before becoming the inevitable successor to current boss Imanol.  

Alonso had his work cut out in the 2007 Champions League final against Milan's midfield

Alonso had his work cut out in the 2007 Champions League final against Milan’s midfield

But with Imanol impressing in the hot-seat, Alonso seems keen to speed up his journey to a top European club by any means necessary. 

Alonso has won 23 of his 48 matches in charge of the youth team and this season they sit top of the 10-team Group 2 Group A in a convoluted Segunda B set-up. 

It certainly seemed a gamble for Monchengladbach but with an exciting crop of players, who reached the Champions League last-16 this season, it could have been one of the most exciting appointments in European football this season. It seems we’ll all have to wait another year before Alonso takes his step into senior football management, wherever that might be.

Steven Gerrard

Gerrard’s foray into management has been a breeze so far.

After retiring in 2016, Gerrard started to coach with Liverpool’s youth side and was then handed the reigns with the Under-19 team in the 2017-18 UEFA Youth League. 

But after just one season back on Merseyside, he was appointed by Rangers in the summer of 2018. 

Gerrard took over and was tasked with one thing: ending Celtic’s dominance north of the border – especially before they reached an unprecedented 10-in-a-row.

Gerrard lifted the European Cup two years earlier in Istanbul but it was not meant to be in Athens

Now manager of Rangers, Gerrard led the club to their first Scottish title in 10 years this season

Steven Gerrard has comfortably transferred his class as a player into a brilliant manager

And he finally accomplished his goal earlier this month when he led Rangers to a first Scottish Premiership title for a decade.

Gerrard has got Rangers playing a high-energy, attractive brand of football while they are also resilient at the back.

His side are unbeaten in the Scottish Premiership as they enter the final stage of the season.

Gerrard’s success has already led to speculation that he will replace Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool manager when the German’s contract expires in 2024 which, coincidentally, is also when Gerrard’s Ibrox deal runs out.

Dirk Kuyt

The retired Dutch forward made a shock admission on Monday when he announced he’d be up for becoming Gerrard’s No 2 if he is to one day take over at Anfield. 

Slightly presumptuous, Dirk.

Kuyt, who scored 71 goals in 285 appearances for the Reds – including their goal on the night in 2007, has spent time on the training ground with Gerrard in Scotland and backed the former club captain to do a ‘great job’ with his old club.

‘I feel that his leadership qualities are going to take him very far as a manager,’ Kuyt told The Mirror. ‘I think it would be great if Steven Gerrard went on to manage Liverpool. He’s Liverpool through and through and spent his entire playing career at Anfield.

‘I have always got on very well with him, and we are still in contact from time to time. Steven has said some great things about me in the last couple of years, we have a special bond. He does not have to speak about me, but he still does.’

Kuyt scored in the 2007 Champions League final but it was too late to spark a comeback

Kuyt enjoyed a two-year stint as manager of Feyenoord's Under 19 side

Dirk Kuyt said this week he would love to be Gerrard’s assistant if he ever takes over at Anfield

‘I have a desire to be a manager soon and I am looking at options,’ he added. ‘But there are exceptions for choosing a path as an assistant manager and being alongside Stevie would be one of them.’

The 40-year-old left Liverpool in 2012 and joined Turkish giants Fenerbahce. Kuyt hung up his boots in 2018, ending a 20-year career in which he scored 282 goals in 787 games. 

Kuyt has coaching experience at Dutch side Quick Boys, where he was assistant manager, while he enjoyed a two-year stint as manager of Feyenoord’s Under 19 side. 

Sami Hyypia

The Finnish centre back was a key member of Benitez’s side that won the European Cup in Istanbul and was on the bench for the final in Athens two years later as he entered the twilight of his career.

After two years in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen, Hyypia retired from playing in 2001 and immediately moved into coaching.

He took up the position as assistant manager with both Leverkusen and the Finland national team but in May 2012 was named Leverkusen manager after Robin Dutt was sacked.

In a bizarre set up, Hyppia was ‘team manager’ and Sascha Lewandowski served as ‘team coach’. It seemed like a recipe for disaster.

Lewandowski took charge of training and post-match press conferences while Hyypia issued personal team talks and did pre-match press conferences.

Hyypia was a crucial part of Liverpool's defence for several years

He had unsuccessful spells as a manager with both Bayer Leverkusen and Brighton

Sami Hyypia was an unused sub during the 2007 final as he entered the end of his career

But the system worked and they finished 2012-13 in third place behind Bayern Munich and Dortmund. Hyypia was named sole head coach at the end of the season with Lewandowski returning to the youth system. 

However, Hyypia was gone by April 2014 after a disappointing campaign but he was quickly back in the dugout with Brighton. Then in the Championship, Hyypia had an awful time on the south coast and resigned in December 2014 with Brighton in the bottom three. 

Again, there was not a long break between jobs for Hyypia as he was named Zurich boss in August 2015.

The Finn must have wondered if coaching really was for him because he was sacked nine months later as Zurich were eventually relegated. 

Most recently, Hyypia served as assistant manager to former Tottenham and Sunderland player Teemu Tainio at FC Haka in Finland for just three months between September and December 2020. 

Harry Kewell 

The Australian arrived at Anfield in 2003 amid interest from a host of Europe’s top clubs and won the FA Cup and Champions League there.

He left in 2008 and went on to have spells with Galatasaray, Melbourne Victory, Al-Gharafa and Melbourne Heart.

After stepping away from the game in 2014, Kewell took a year out before getting into youth coaching back in English football with Watford.

He spent two years nurturing talent at Vicarage Road before earning his first management job at Crawley Town – the first of three positions with clubs in the lower divisions of the domestic game.

Kewell came off the bench in the 2007 final but couldn't make an impact

Earlier this month, Kewell was sacked by League Two Oldham after a poor run of form

Harry Kewell has had a torrid time in the lower leagues of English football in recent years

Kewell won 18 of his 57 games as Crawley boss but didn’t take long to move on and, in August 2018, he left to join another League Two side in Notts County.

It was a disastrous move and just 10 weeks after his appointment the Australian was out of a job, having won just three of his 14 games in charge in all competitions. 

The 42-year-old continued his journey around League Two by taking over from Dino Maamria at Oldham Athletic in August 2020.

But earlier this month he was axed after just seven months in charge with Oldham floundering in 16th in League Two. 

Any other Reds?

While they are still to make the leap into first-team management, both Bolo Zenden and Craig Bellamy are currently in coaching roles.

Zenden, who played for Chelsea and Middlesbrough as well as Liverpool in English football, served as Chelsea’s assistant manager when Benitez took charge at Stamford Bridge in 2012.

He then returned to Holland to work with boyhood club PSV Eindhoven and currently finds himself as a first-team coach under manager Roger Schmidt. 

Craig Bellamy was an unused substitute during the 2007 final but is now coaching the youth team at Vincent Kompany's Anderlecht

Craig Bellamy was an unused substitute during the 2007 final but is now coaching the youth team at Vincent Kompany’s Anderlecht

Bellamy, meanwhile, stood down as Cardiff Under 18s manager in 2019 after bullying allegations were made against him. 

A 10-month internal investigation found players had been subject to an ‘unacceptable coaching environment’. Bellamy denied the allegations.

The former winger is now in Belgium and working with the youth teams at Anderlecht, which is managed by his former Manchester City team-mate Vincent Kompany.

AC Milan

Andrea Pirlo 

A world-class, cultured midfielder during his playing days, Pirlo always looked destined to be a manager at the top of the game but it probably seemed unlikely he’d be Juventus boss so quickly.

After retiring in 2017, Pirlo took some time off before taking up a position as the manager of Juventus’ Under 23s last summer.

But just nine days after his appointment, Pirlo was drafted in to replace Maurizio Sarri in Turin and given the big job.

Pirlo was a classy midfielder during his playing career and won his final Champions League title in 2007

Now a manager, Pirlo was thrust into the job at Juventus and is struggling for results

Andrea Pirlo is currently Juventus manager but is future looks in serious doubt at the moment

A shambolic performance in Serie A this season and a Champions League exit at the hands of Porto has left his job hanging in the balance though.

After winning nine straight Serie A titles, Juve are 10 points adrift of leaders Inter Milan and that could be too much for Pirlo to keep his job.

If reports in Italy are to believe, Juve are already lining up replacements and Pirlo might be gone by the end of the season. 

Gennaro Gattuso

At just 43, Gattuso has already managed two of Italy’s biggest clubs.

A fiery midfielder during his playing days, Gattuso didn’t scream management material as he let rip at opposition players and tore into ferocious tackles.

But after calling it a day as player-coach with Sion in Switzerland in 2014, he has quickly risen through the management ranks. 

After spells at Palermo, OFI Crete and Pisa, Gattuso was brought back to the San Siro to manage Milan Primavera, the club’s youth team, in May 2017.

Gattuso won two European Cups with Milan, as well as two Serie A titles

Gattuso managed Milan briefly but is now with Napoli and struggling for consistency from his side

A tough-tackling midfielder, Gattuso has risen through the ranks very quickly as a manager

But just six months later he was thrust into the first-team job after Vincenzo Montella was sacked and his fine work was rewarded with a three-year contract at the end of that campaign.

However after just one full season in charge, in which Milan narrowly missed out on a top-four finish, Gattuso left by mutual consent and waited six months before returning to the dugout.

This time he was thrown in to save the day at Napoli after Carlo Ancelotti, his former manager at Milan, was sacked.

Gattuso led Napoli to the Coppa Italia in 2019-20 and is still there, albeit hanging by a thread as they battle to make the top four.

Clarence Seedorf

Like Gattuso, Seedorf was another Milan legend drafted in as manager to help the club out of a hole.

The Dutchman left rivals Inter for AC Milan in 2002 and played there for 10 years, winning both the Champions League and Serie A twice.

In January 2014, Seedorf announced his retirement from professional football and voided his contract with Brazilian club Botafogo to become Milan manager.

The Dutchman started in midfield in Athens and managed to gain revenge for the Istanbul comeback

Seedorf did okay during his brief reign as Milan manager but was not given time to continue his work

Clarence Seedorf retired to take the AC Milan job but was sacked not long after being hired

The club was 11th in Serie A at the time and despite seeing an upturn in results – Milan took 35 out of 57 points during his tenure – Seedorf was given the boot just four months later with legendary striker Filippo Inzaghi named as his replacement.

Seedorf went on to manage Shenzhen in China, fallen Spanish giants Deportivo La Coruna and the Cameroon national team, a role in which he was sacked from in July 2019 after a woeful Africa Cup of Nations showing. 

Filippo Inzaghi

The hero of the 2007 Champions League final, Inzaghi scored twice in Athens to get revenge for Liverpool’s momentous win in Istanbul two years earlier.

When the legendary striker replaced Seedorf as Milan manager in 2014, he had been coaching the club’s youngsters before being promoted to the top job.

But he was given just a year before being let go in June 2015 after winning 14, drawing 13 and losing 13 of his 40 games in charge.

After 12 months out of the game, Inzaghi was hired by third-tier side Venezia. He led them to promotion to Serie B in his first season in charge and then cemented their status in the second division with a fifth-place finish.

Inzaghi was named man-of-the-match in the final after playing the deciding role

Now at Benevento, Inzaghi beat Juventus last week as he looks to mastermind Serie A survival

Filippo Inzaghi scored both goals in the 2007 final, breaking Liverpool hearts in Athens

He didn’t hang about though and was named manager of Serie A side Bologna in June 2018, where he was beaten by younger brother Simone’s Lazio.

Inzaghi was not given much time, however, and after just two wins in 21 matches was let go and replaced by Sinisa Mihajlovic.

But he would be back in Serie A soon. In June 2019, he was appointment manager of Serie B side Benevento and won promotion with seven games to go in his first season in charge.

Survival is the aim of the game this season and so far, so good. Benevento even beat Juventus 1-0 last week to go seven points clear of the relegation places. 

Alessandro Nesta

After a brief spell as a player in India, Nesta brought the curtain down on his brilliant career in 2014 and made the move into coaching with Miami FC in the North American Soccer League 12 months later.

But he left after two years and returned to Italy to manage Perugia. His stay there wasn’t particularly long either and he quit in May 2019 to take a job with Frosinone a month later.

Nesta and his staff were let go by Frosinone earlier this week after a string of poor results that has left them 12th in Serie B. 

Alessandro Nesta was an outstanding defender and helped keep Steven Gerrard and Co at bay

Alessandro Nesta was an outstanding defender and helped keep Steven Gerrard and Co at bay

Nesta was relieved of his duties by Frosinone in Serie B this week after struggling for results

Nesta was relieved of his duties by Frosinone in Serie B this week after struggling for results

The 45-year-old took over in the summer of 2019 and managed to secure an eighth place finish in his debut campaign, which saw Frosinone secure a play-off spot.

But they missed out on promotion to Serie A after a 1-1 draw with Spezia, with their opponents going up as a result of their superior results in the regular season.

Just a few months later and Nesta is gone, another Milan legend without a job at present.  

Anyone else?

Paolo Maldini 

Maldini is very much a key figure behind the scenes at the San Siro, helping to shape AC Milan’s football vision in his role as technical director. 

He works with agents and intermediaries to negotiate transfers and bring players to and from the club, as well as having an influence over the team’s tactical system and personnel.

Maldini’s influence is clearly working. For the first time in a long time, Milan have been competitive in Serie A and sit in second place as they eye a return to the Champions League. 

Milan legend Paolo Maldini is now the club's technical director and making a positive impact

Milan legend Paolo Maldini is now the club’s technical director and making a positive impact

What about outside football?

Bizarrely, AC Milan’s Georgian defender Kakha Kaladze moved into politics after his retirement and has been the mayor of Tbilisi since 2017.

He served various Government roles after being elected to parliament in October 2012 but then resigned to become the capital’s Mayor four years ago, winning with just over 51 per cent of the vote.

Meanwhile, former Liverpool defender Daniel Agger has trained to become a tattoo artist after he was forced to retired at 31 in 2016. 

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