Just Arsenal wishes good luck to Sylvinho – The very first Gunner to manage a team at the Euros

Sylvinho will make Arsenal history this Saturday, the first Gunner to manage at the European Championship. Gooners of a certain age will remember his long-range strike at Stamford Bridge.

In his second season in North London, the left back suffered injury issues and was smart enough to recognise the talent of the youngster who had replaced him, a certain Ashley Cole, making it hard to get back into the first team.

Feeling at 27 he was running out of time to play at a World Cup he hinted to Arsenal Wenger about leaving and was hurt when his boss didn’t try and change his mind (that might be because the club had illegally registered him as a European citizen saying he had a Portuguese passport!).

5 years later the defender would be lifting the Champions League against his former employers. Two years after that he was starting the Final when Barcelona beat Man United.

At that time, he would have called a treble in Spain his greatest Sporting achievement.

Until now ……

Watching how the Brazilian conducts himself on the touchline, hearing his work routine and his attention to detail being almost obsessive, you can tell he’s worked under Pep Guardiola.

Yet in his two spells in charge of clubs, posts at Lyon and Corinthians didn’t last long. In an industry where you don’t get many opportunities making sure the next job was the right choice was crucial towards his coaching career.

The 50-year-old has since been honoured by the Albanian President with the Golden Decoration of The Eagle. That’s a decoration usually reserved for those who go to war.

It’s not just that he’s took Albania to only their second ever major tournament, it’s how he’s done it.

When a country has a population of approx. 2.778 million and are ranked 66 in the World it’s not uncommon for their Football federation to invest a lot of money in a high-profile name but on the employees terms.

Sylvinho is not the first or last former player to take work in obscure parts of the globe for employers trying to improve the standards of the sport. He is one of the few though who would insist on moving to that nation.

Living in Tirana was not part of the job criteria. He would have been just as handsomely paid if he just flew in during the international break, which his predecessors would do and is the protocol for a lot of Associations managed by a foreigner.

Klinsmann didn’t move to South Korea when in charge, Sven Goran Ericksen didn’t relocate to Mexico or the Ivory Coast, Gus Hiddink didn’t live in every country that he represented.

Sylvinho though wanted to learn the culture, meet fans in the street to get the locals to fall in love with the game again.

He wanted to be aware of all facilities his new home had to offer. Most importantly he wanted to be present to scout talent.

Again, he would have got the same income by remaining with his family in Porto, having a network set up in Albania and asking for his scouting team to email him detailed reports.

That’s why he’s so highly respected because he’s gone over and above what was expected of him.

Let’s be honest, some of his peers would have viewed this vacancy as a quick pay day where the expectation was low. It’s only high now because of the man himself.

Crucial to his action plan was using video analysis to identify as many candidates as possible who qualified to be selected for the Kuqezinjte.

FIFA regulations determine an individual qualifies to play for any country based on place of birth, long term residency, where you parents and grandparents were born.

Albania shares borders with Greece, Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro.

Hours would be spent first forming a shortlist, then even longer watching tapes while travelling from Wycombe to South Korea. Some of these names not even aware they could play for Albania or that they were on their radar.

That’s why their squad in Germany includes players born in Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and England.

It’s something old school in terms of how much time manager and his assistant (Pablo Zabaleta) take in viewing tapes and travelling. Tasks that lots of others in Sylvinho’s position might delegate to underlings.

The ambition exists to not simply make up the numbers in Group B. Albania are unlucky in that they are in the Group of Death but don’t be shocked if they at least cause one shock.

On behalf of everyone at JustArsenal, good luck to Sylvinho this weekend

Once a Gunner always a Gunner….the first to manager at a Euros



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1 Comment

  1. Albania have scored the fastest goal in European championship history…. well done Sylvinho !

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