Legends risk losing their lustre
© FIFA.com

The life of an iconic former international can be a constant round of awards, celebrity appearances, applause and recognition. But what of those footballing idols who risk it all by accepting that oft-poisoned chalice: the national team job. FIFA.com takes a look at the contrasting fortunes of some of the famous faces who braved a move to their country's dugout.

Diego, latest in long line
The most recent case in this trend is that of Argentina's Diego Maradona. A FIFA World Cup™ winner at Mexico 1986 and runner-up at Italy 1990, El Pelusa enjoys God-like status among his countrymen. Will his enormous popularity survive his new role at the helm of the Albiceleste? "I'm not scared of losing my crown. I wouldn't put myself forward if I was scared," said El Diez on his official unveiling. "We're in the midst of a mini-crisis and I'd be a coward if I didn't try to tackle it head on."

Another of the world's footballing heavyweights, Germany, have a history of handing the Mannschaft reins to former greats. The first and most famous case was that of Franz Beckenbauer, one of the finest players of all time, who was appointed senior national team coach in 1984 and led his charges to two consecutive FIFA World Cup Finals.

"I really enjoyed my time as a player and as a coach. However, being national team coach during a World Cup is one of the most difficult tasks imaginable in the world of football," says only the second man to win the coveted Trophy as a player and coach. Following in his footsteps with varying degrees of success were Berti Vogts, Rudi Voller and Jurgen Klinsmann.

The first man to do the extraordinary double later emulated by Der Kaiser was Brazil's Mario Zagallo. Twice a FIFA World Cup winner as a player, he repeated the feat as head coach of the great 1970 Brazil side. However, the Auriverde's greatest footballing icon Pele, dubbed "O Rei" (The King), has studiously avoided the lure of coaching his countrymen.

French magician Michel Platini, in contrast, did accept the challenge of leading Les Bleus at the UEFA European Championship Sweden 1992. The outcome? A first-round exit after two draws and one defeat.

Painful experiences
Few would dispute Hristo Stoichkov's status as Bulgaria's greatest player ever, his goalscoring ability and fiery will to win striking fear into the hearts of defenders the world over. Yet it would be this explosive temperament that undermined his three-year spell as Bulgaria supremo. The former captain became embroiled in a host of spats with players and officials, which included a suspension for comments made after a match with Sweden and the resignation of two of his captains, Radostin Kishishev and Stilian Petrov.

"Nowadays the roles of player and coach have changed a lot," admitted Stoichkov during his time in charge, which came to an end with an ill-fated April 2007 switch to Celta Vigo. "You have to give it all you've got, but if the players don't do the same it makes everything very difficult. You set boundaries and still they complain."

Meanwhile, Romanian legend Gheorghe Hagi, scorer of 35 goals in 125 national-team appearances and the inspiration behind his country's run to the quarter-finals of USA 1994, lasted just six months at the helm as Romania failed in their bid to qualify for Korea/Japan 2002.

Another whose tenure in charge of the national team fell short of his playing exploits was Mexico's Hugo Sanchez, universally considered the best player ever to don the famous green jersey. Having pursued the El Tri hotseat for several years, Hugol was finally handed the role in November 2006. Despite enjoying a relatively successful Copa America in 2007, Sanchez' popularity rapidly dipped.

This culminated in his dismissal in March 2008 in the wake of his Mexico U-23 side's failure to qualify for the Men's Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008. "I don't think that my time as coach was a failure," said the man himself of his 16-month stint. "It was just another of the many things I've experienced during my life. At the very most I'd call it a slip-up."

The list goes on with mercurial former Netherlands and AC Milan striker Marco van Basten, perhaps one of those better-prepared for the task ahead after completing his coaching badges upon hanging up his boots. Yet despite taking two-thirds of the points available while in command of the Oranje, the Netherlands exited Germany 2006 in the Round of 16, with Ruud van Nistelrooij sensationally left on the bench throughout the defeat to Portugal.

So, the evidence suggests that the very biggest icons in world football have the mettle to accept the hardest job of them all - though the end results for each of these legendary figures could not be more different. Will Maradona's time as Argentina coach be one for the plus or negative column? Only time, and the team's results, will tell.