THE 15th UEFA Elite Club Coaches Forum provided an opportunity for some of European football's leading coaches to discuss the important issues that affect them in their work.
That was the view of Rafael Benítez, one of 16 coaches present for the two-day forum at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, which was chaired by former Manchester United FC manager Sir Alex Ferguson, via a live video link from England, and attended also by Michel Platini, the UEFA President.
Reflecting on the exchange of ideas that took place, SSC Napoli coach Benítez told a news conference: "We discussed a lot of things about technical trends in football. We were talking about the Champions League and Europa League, financial fair play, transfers and the international calendar – a lot of the issues that for us coaches are really important as they affect our daily job."
One of the chief concerns was the transfer window, with many of those present voicing the opinion that it should not remain open once the season has started. André Villas-Boas, the Tottenham Hotspur FC manager, explained: "The transfer window was something that got a lot of attention from the coaches regarding closing the window a little bit earlier."
As both Benítez and Villas-Boas reflected, there were different considerations raised on this matter, with domestic club seasons beginning on different dates and teams wanting to wait until after UEFA Champions League qualification was over before committing to spending.
The annual gathering of the elite coaches allowed for a fascinating discussion which on Wednesday took in notable on-field trends. These included the increase in goals scored per game in the UEFA Champions League and some of the major European divisions, and also the rise in goals scored from cutbacks from the goal line, highlighting the importance of wide players.
There was also a debate about the away goals rule and its place in the modern game. As Sir Alex told those gathered: "We feel the issues raised today are important for the structure and the progress of the Champions League and the Europa League."
Thursday's programme focused more on the business of football, as the coaches deliberated over the international calendar, financial fair play, the transfer window and third-party ownership of players. Pierluigi Collina, UEFA's chief refereeing officer, gave a presentation on changes to the offside law in place from this season, offering video examples to illustrate how referees will be interpreting situations, and also underlined the importance of the additional assistant referees deployed in UEFA's club competitions to watch in particular for penalty-area incidents.
The following coaches were in Nyon: Laurent Blanc (Paris Saint-Germain FC), Arsène Wenger (Arsenal FC), Neil Lennon (Celtic FC), Antonio Conte (Juventus), Manuel Pellegrini (Manchester City FC), Paulo Fonseca (FC Porto), Carlo Ancelotti (Real Madrid CF), Jens Keller (FC Schalke 04), Mircea Lucescu (FC Shakhtar Donetsk), Miroslav Djukić (Valencia CF), Murat Yakin (FC Basel 1893), Jorge Jesus (SL Benfica), Rafael Benítez (SSC Napoli), Vladimir Petković (SS Lazio), Kurban Berdyev (FC Rubin Kazan), André Villas-Boas (Tottenham Hotspur FC).
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