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It is an oft-made claim in footballing circles that potential coaches need a solid playing background to draw on once they make the move to the dugout. And though great players clearly do not always make great coaches, the path towards a club's helm is generally made smoother for former pros. Despite this prevailing trend, however, footballing history has shown that many of most successful coaches of all time never played at a professional level.

Leading the way in disproving the myth that coaches need to have competed at the highest level are five-time FIFA World Cup™ winners Brazil. Indeed, the Auriverde have appeared at no fewer than three FIFA World Cup finals led by men who had never played football for a living - this in a country with more teams and registered professionals than anywhere else on the planet.

The first of these was the late Claudio Coutinho, a former fitness instructor with the Brazilian Army. His big break came when he was invited to help sharpen the Seleção's physical conditioning ahead of Mexico 1970, where the team's stylish triumph earned Coutinho the opportunity to forge a career as a head coach. He took the reins of the Peruvian national team, Vasco da Gama, Flamengo before leading Brazil to third place at Argentina 1978.

I think that having played football [professionally] can be a big help. But the most important thing is to prepare yourself properly, keep up-to-date, be a good communicator and have charisma.
Carlos Alberto Parreira.

Twelve years on and the Canarinha once again appeared at world football's top table under the guidance of another strategist without professional playing experience: Sebastiao Lazaroni. Favouring a European style of play, and boasting a squad packed with talent, Lazeroni's Verdeamarelos were one of the favourites at Italia 1990, only to lose a fiercely contested match with Diego Maradona's Argentina in the Round of 16.

At USA 1994, however, Carlos Alberto Parreira struck a blow for the non-footballer brigade by guiding Brazil to the FIFA World Cup Trophy for the first time since Pele and Co. triumphed at Mexico 1970. "I think that having played football [professionally] can be a big help. But the most important thing is to prepare yourself properly, keep up-to-date, be a good communicator and have charisma," Parreira told FIFA.com.

"I started out as a fitness coach and, though I'd played football all my life, I never played professionally. But there reached a point in my life where I was so well qualified that I was almost pushed into taking on a head coach's role. In Kuwait they asked me to take charge of their youth sides and that was the start of a long career."

Over on the other side of the Atlantic are another two striking examples of this phenomenon, Arrigo Sacchi and Jose Mourinho, both of whom have left an indelible mark on the European game with their innovative coaching ideas.

The concepts behind the Italian's revolutionary use of the 4-4-2 system, including intensive "pressing" tactics where the forwards became the first line of defence, have been adopted by teams across the globe - to such an extent that they are now the norm in world football.

Furthermore, the former Parma, AC Milan and Italy supremo had his own typically forthright response for those who questioned his lack of playing experience: "I never realised that in order to become a jockey you have to have been a horse first... There's no rule. The most important thing is having the desire to keep improving."

I never realised that in order to become a jockey you have to have been a horse first. 
Arrigo Sacchi.

Meanwhile in France, Guy Roux took over the Auxerre reigns at the tender age of 23, guiding the club from amateur football to involvement in the UEFA Champions League over the course of his 44 years at the helm. Another well-respected French coach, former France, Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain strategist Gerard Houllier, started out as an English teacher before taking his first coaching post at amateur club Touquet.

The story of Scotland's Jock Stein, who became the first non-Latin manager to win the European Cup when he led Celtic to victory over Inter Milan in 1967, is another inspirational tale. For the bulk of a largely inglorious part-time playing career, Stein spent his days working first as a labourer in a carpet factory and then as a coal miner in his home village of Burnbank. Indeed, after a brief and unhappy spell at non-league Welsh side Llanelly Town, the then 29-year-old considered giving the game up altogether for a career down the mines.

As it was, fate took a hand when, out of the blue, Celtic made a shock approach to take him back to Scotland. The rest is history, with Stein overcoming doubts about his age and ability to become club captain and, later, the most beloved manager in the history of Scottish football, leading the Bhoys to two European Cup finals and a record nine straight league titles before successfully guiding Scotland through two FIFA World Cup qualifying campaigns.

The examples just keep on coming. The Israeli Miron Bleiberg and the Mexican Jose Luis Sanchez Sola are just two of many who disprove the rule that professional playing success translates into coaching ability. Though club presidents and national associations continue to be drawn to high-profile former players, the achievements of Sacchi, Mourinho, Parreira et al will keep the dream alive for aspiring coaches everywhere.