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 By Nick Miller

Why would anyone want to be a football manager?

On Tuesday, Frank de Boer was dismissed by Inter having been in charge for just under three months. The Dutchman is the third Serie A manager to lose his job this season and the 10th in Europe's top five leagues, not including a few that went just before the season started. In the English Championship, nine managers were appointed in the summer and five of them have already lost their jobs, not a quarter of the way through the season.

That life is perilous as a manager in modern football isn't the most startling revelation. We're frequently reminded that bosses are never more than a bad run of form or an anxious owner away from the sack. Managers rarely have time to build anything of note, unless they somehow get things right straightaway. Pressure comes from the fans, the board, the media, the players and it can be intolerable.

All of which is why it's important to remember the toll that being a manager can take, something we've been reminded of in recent weeks. While at Manchester United, David Moyes resembled a child lost in a supermarket, with no idea how he'd got there and no idea how to get out.

Now at Sunderland he looks even more forlorn; he might know this time how he got there but is again clueless as to how he can rectify things. There's a darkness in Moyes' eyes that was reflected as he spoke after his side's latest calamity, Saturday's 4-1 defeat to Arsenal.

"It does make me feel lousy, and I do," he said about Sunderland's return of two points from 10 games. "I probably spend Saturday night, and quite often, in a darkened room somewhere. Sunday gets a wee bit better, but not much, and hopefully by the time Monday morning comes, you are ready to go again."

Moyes' words echoed recent comments made by West Brom manager Tony Pulis, regarding how defeat affects him.

"I've got a little room at home that I go in," he told the Guardian. "There is just a television in there. My wife brings in my food and a glass of wine. Then she leaves me until the morning. I don't sleep much. Losing a game of football, even when you have played well, kills you. It must be a nightmare for football managers' wives, putting up with us." 

Life as a manager even has an impact on the likes of Jose Mourinho. His actions might make him difficult to warm to but his complaints last week that his life in Manchester is a "disaster" and he's largely confined to a -- luxurious, admittedly -- hotel, were enough to elicit at least a little sympathy.

"I want sometimes to walk a little bit and I can't," he said. "I just want to cross the bridge and go to a restaurant. I can't, so it is really bad." 

Even the greatest managers, such as Jose Mourinho, can be negatively affected by the job.

Meanwhile, Marti Perarnau's book about Pep Guardiola paints a portrait of a brilliant man, but an obsessive, someone who couldn't stop and whose mind raced all the time. You were torn between admiring his intensity and fearing that, one day, he would explode. Guardiola took a year-long sabbatical in New York after four seasons at Barcelona but, after reading the book, you might think he would need one every year.

(Incidentally, given that Guardiola has an apartment situated about 10 minutes from the hotel in which Mourinho is currently staying, it's tempting to imagine a secret meeting of the two foes, like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in the film "Heat"!)

This is all a reminder of the ways that this job can consume those involved. While fans have work or friends or family or other interests to distract, the business of being a football manager is such that they either don't have or cannot give themselves over to those diversions.

Sportspeople often describe the pain of losing as being more profound than the joy of winning and that, while victory is merely relief, defeat is spirit-crushing. At least a player can have some direct control over performance; aside from tactical tweaks and a team talk, the manager's fate is in the hands of others. While he is not helpless, he can be failed by his team.

Moreover, these are also men who are usually searching for something that is unattainable. Only one team can win the league every season and, while success has many different definitions, even the best want more. Those at the bottom seek survival. Those in the middle are aspirational. Those at the top are looking for perfection.

Of course, the remuneration is handsome and it is some form of redress that football management is a profession that rewards failure like no other. Sam Allardyce managed one game for England before he was sacked and shuffled off with compensation that would set most people up for life.

Brian Clough always said that his payoff from Leeds in 1974 allowed him to be freer about his next managerial choice; six years later he had won the league and the European Cup twice with Nottingham Forest.

So there are some benefits, but money only takes you so far. Listening to the way some managers speak, you wonder why on earth they bother because, frankly, it sounds like the worst job in the world.

Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.


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