When the Champions League first began, it was the learned, old heads among the competition’s coaches who cleaned up.
With the passing of time, however, the veteran dugout dwellers have found themselves being schooled by the game’s greener gaffers in the annual quest to claim soccer’s richest prize.
From the Champions League’s 1992/93 debut up until the new millennium, just one boss claimed the prize for the first time under the age of 45, Louis van Gaal, who manned the rudder of the brilliant Ajax outfit of 1994/95.
The turn of the century brought about a stark change in fortunes, with just one coachee over 45 claiming a maiden conquest of the continent.
It’s terrible news for the Premier League clubs left in the competition, as the Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City ships are all steered by veteran helmsmen who are yet to win it, but are aged upwards of 62.
The baby of the bunch is the Citizens’ Manuel Pellegrini, but even he is 17 years the wrong side of the modern-day benchmark.
Here are the stats outlining the evolution…
The average age of coaches to claim the prize for the first time prior to the 21st century was a hefty 47, not least due to the triumph of 71-year-old Raymond Goethals, who led Marseille to victory in the first edition of the tournament.
From 2000 onwards, that average plummets to just under 43.
The majority of those who claimed their first Champions League title, surprisingly, did so in their opening foray into the tournament, a fact that applies to ten of the 15 applicable managers.
Having a lower number of teams on the CV helps these days too, with the 21st century average for previous clubs taken charge of is down to three from four, while the length of a boss’ career at the time of maiden Champions League win is significantly shorter too, at five seasons from ten.
Furthermore, a prestigious playing career matters more today than at the competition’s inception.
The mean of major trophies a first-time Champions League winner has at home today is up to seven from the five it stood at pre-2000.
All of the factors lend an enormous amount of favour to Real Madrid’s rookie rudderman Zinedine Zidane.
At 43, the Frenchman meets the age criteria and, just a month into his first post in management, he is sufficiently inexperienced to claim the title too.
He is one shy of the magic number in the silverware stakes too, with World Cup, European Championship, Serie A (x2), La Liga and Champions League winner’s medals taking pride of place in his trophy cabinet.
Champions league betting price of 11/2 says he and Real add another Ol’ Big Ears to the bunch this season.