We speak to Cezary Kucharski – the football manager of Robert Lewandowski, former footballer of Legia Warszawa and Polish national football team.

Cezary Kucharski reveals the secrets of the work of a football manager; gives tips from the manager’s practice for parents and football players and among others answers the following questions:

  • Why are we already far behind the European academies at the U11 level?
  • How to prepare for a situation in which our dream is not realized?
  • What is his attitude as a father to his son who plays football? 

How did it all begin, how did you become a football manager?

I became the manager after finishing my football career. I observed my colleagues in the football cloakrooms and saw a problem with how they take wrong decicions. I have seen how much they lose by making the wrong choices and what are the painful consequences of thoses decisions. They do not have good advisers and they actually learn from their mistakes. I noticed then that you could take the advice of experienced people to eliminate these errors. Hence the idea of becoming a football advisor – a football manager.

Did you have to pass any exam to become a football manager?

I had to pass the FIFA exam, which was organized twice a year. It was a very difficult exam. You had to know a number of regulations. I failed the test the first time and with the second attempt, I managed to get a FIFA license. Currently, managers have been brought to such transactional intermediaries, and basically anyone can be such a “manager” – agent. All you need to do is to possess good reputation, pay 1000 PLN to PZPN (Polish Football Association) and you can advise players.

And how did you become the manager of Robert Lewandowski?

It was a complete coincidence. I helped another football player, whom I brought to Poland for tests, specifically to Jagiellonia (one of the Polish football academy) and because the club from Bialystok (the city where the club is located) moved the tests for a few days, I organized him trainings in Znicz Pruszków (another football academy in Poland). I watched this training and then Robert Lewandowski “caught my eye”. I contacted him and I presented my vision of cooperation. I managed to convince Robert to cooperate with me. By coincidence I found myself there in the training – presumably fate so wanted.

What is the model of cooperation between the player and manager?

I would not bring cooperation to the model because every footballer is different. You need to get to know the player. Know his expectations. A good footballer in his career has a lot of proposals and just like in business he has to make decisions – who to cooperate/bind with, who to sign the contract with, what terms to negotiate. He must think in the long-term persepective. Players usually think short-term. The model of cooperation between the player and the agent/manager can be compared to the development of the start-up. A young footballer who has a talent, who signed the first contract is for me a kind of a start-up, which I am able to help to develop from let’s say „small company“ to the „large company“ through proper advice and contacts. As I said before if someone is good, he has a lot of offers. Then you have to choose the best offer.

What is the difference between a football scout and a football manager?

Scout works for an agent or for a club. Scout’s job is to get as much information about the player as possible from the market and not only about his football skills but also about his character, family, his personality so that this information can be used by someone who makes the decisions. However, I think that the biggest role of the football scout is to assess football skills and football potential of a player. Every big club or agent has such people who advise them because they are not able to be at all matches of the player who represents the club or when looking for a new talent.

What is the lowest age since the scouts start to be interested in the young footballers?

They start to be interested at a very early stage and I think that this is a very good approach and it is the success of many clubs, that at the age of 10-11 (U11) the scouting is already done; strong clubs are able to catch these talented players. I start the cooperation with footballers from the age of 15-16.

How do you choose the players that you work with?

There is not an easy and straightforward answer to this question. Sometimes it is governed by the fact that I am watching a football match and someone I like (as it was in the case of Robert Lewandowski) appears. Another time I will receive information from a scout that someone is good and it is worth being interested in the football player. In every football player I am looking for something special. Something exeptional he possesses against other players. A “light run” is very important to me, how the player moves on the pitch. Somebody has a nice left leg or a so-called dribbling or a shot or a header. I am looking for players who have something that might interest a potential better club. Each player has an element – sometimes he does not know about it – which is his greatest value and sometimes the cooperation is all about to convince a young player to take more attention to improving a certain element that can give him a good contract in a good club in the future.

A good manager is how much of a player’s success?

Because I was a professional footballer and now I am a manager, I think that 95% is a player and 5% is a manager. However this 5% makes a big difference. This is how I judge it from the perspective of the footballer and football manager. A good manager is a good investment.

Would you recommend a prospective young player to play abroad or maybe stay in Poland would be a better decision and why?

It all depends what club a football player is going to choose but certainly foreign experience is very valuable. Not everyone is ready to go and practice abroad, so it all depends on how strong the player is, is he able to survive the separation with his family, how he will withstand it. I certainly do not revive young footballers to go abroad. Each road is a little bit different. I have been abroad and know what benefits I have gained from this experience, so if someone has the opportunity to go and play in a good club abroad, I would support him.

When one starts to think (from the point of view of the manager/scout) about the player “seriously” and what age is the lowest determinant?

It’s really from the beginning. If I cooperate with someone, I think about long-term cooperation. However, the practice shows that people of today are not patient and what is crucial – football requires patience. Sometimes cooperation expires after a year, two years and sometimes it is longer. There are no rules here. If I have a relationship with a football player and I undertake to advise him, I try to do it seriously from the very beginning.

How to forsee the future of the young footballer? Any tips from the manager’s practice for the parents and players?

First of all, the player needs to want to be a footballer. He must dream about it and think how to develop himself every day. The parents should be a support however they should not interfere too much in the development of the football player or be overprotective. I think that overprotection over footballers who are 16-22 years old inhibits their development. I left the house at the age of 18. I had to take life into my own hands. My experience of working with footballers with whom I played or whom I observe shows that when the father is more important than the player and the father makes all the decisions, I know that this player will not use his potential in 100%. It is often the case that it is the father who once played, who did not achieve great successes, wants at all costs that his son would do it and surround the player with great care, which from my perspective is only a limitation. The player must make his own decisions whether on the pitch or in the football cloakroom. He must be able to talk with colleagues, with journalists, he must be able to solve his own problems and conflicts. If one of the parents interferes, it is not well perceived in the clubs. Later, the opinion goes with the player, that here is an overeager parent or parents who ask w the child is harmed. I also had to answer such parents’ questions many times if I will not hurt their child. Then I imagine different stories: “What do these people mean?”; “how can I hurt this child?

Not everyone will succeed. What can you do and how to prepare for a situation in which our dream is not realized.

Parents most of the time rationally approach the ball. They try to convince the young player to combine playing football with the good education. There are also sometimes such “crazy people” who put everything on the ball and then it can be painful. In most cases, parents approach wisely and care for their child’s education and see a different path than football. I do not know many cases when someone stopped playing football at an early stage and did not manage in their lives.

Not everyone will succeed. What can you do and how to prepare for a situation in which our dream is not realized.

Parents mostly rationally approach the football. They try to convince the young football player to combine the football with a good education. There are also sometimes such “crazy people” who put everything on the football and then it can be painful. In most cases, parents approach wisely and care for their child’s education and see a different path than football. I do not know many cases that someone stopped playing football at an early stage and did not manage it in their lives.

What advice do you give to the young footballers you take care of – give examples.

I feel best as a negotiator with clubs, for example when changing clubs. Here is an example from the last transfer window; Mateusz Wieteska or Konrad Michalak, who went on the loan. One to Wisła Płock (Polish football academy), second to Gornik Zabrze (another Polish football academy). There were many clubs that were interested in these players and both found themselves in the environments in which they adjusted very quickly and they are doing great and playing great. These are two last cases, where you had to put in an effort to advise them wisely.

When do young players start earning?

Good young footballers start earning as early as 15-16. However, the biggest money come after 10-15 years from that moment. This is the perspective of the highest earnings. The highest earnings are achieved by players who have built a position on the market and showed in their career that their sports‘ level is high.

What are the sums of the earnings of the footballers and do you think that in 10 years they will be on the same level?

Football is a huge business and a lot of money is located in this business so I think that earnings will increase all over the time in football, which will also affect the earnings of players in 10 years. I know one thing: a good footballer investing in himself, developing and making good decisions is the best investment that can appear on the market because the increase in remuneration is from several dozen percent to several thousand percent in a 2-4 year perspective. Every 2-4 years a footballer can sign a much higher contract where the increase of the earnings is just from several dozen percent to even several thousand percent. It seems to me that there is no better investment for footballers than investing in yourself.

Is today’s footballer like a tennis player – must invest a lot in order to be able to gain in the future?

He needs to invest a bit at an early stage. Later, if someone is good, the club invests in the football player and then it is the coolest moment; when the player plays well and when the work is well rewarded. When this football play is one big adventure, passion, fulfillment of dreams and on the other hand a very nice economic aspect, that someone for this realization of dreams pays you. I think that this is the coolest thing in this profession that passion turns into a job.

How is the training of today’s teenager different from that in the times of Robert Lewandowski?

It seems to me that the level of training has risen slightly but only slightly This increase is based on the fact that young coaches have access to many information and are able to improve themselves. I hope that this effect, which Robert Lewandowski gave the football, his professionalism and approach to sport will have an impact on young coaches and young footballers who want to achieve perfection and will look at and follow their idol. They will try to imitate him for the benefit of themselves.

How much is a psychologist in the manager?

The manager should have the characteristics of a psychologist because he is often the first contact for the player. The football equals emotions, so the young footballer often experiences his mistakes, failures and injuries. The manager should be able to convince the player that a lost match is not a catastrophe, that you can get something positive from it. An injury is the worst moment in the career of a footballer because you are powerless, you have to work hard to get back to the previous form. Sometimes it is unrealistic to get back to a high form. The manager should have knowledge in the field of psychology to be able to support his protégé in the difficult moments.

Does the footballer decide about himself? Does he make his own decisions or is he a “puppet” in the system?

It depends. The footballer can be every element that you mentioned. The more aware you are the more you decide about yourself. Those less aware are often the puppets in the system. It’s like in the normal life. There are numerous situations you have to deal with. The player often has no influence on where he goes to play or is subject to the pressure and influence of the club. Sometimes he decides where he wants to play. It all depends on his position, on his negotiation skills or on the skills of the agent with whom he works with, because the most important thing is to be able to make good compromises.

Is it possible for footballer to dealt without a manager?

Of course, you can deal without the manager however a wise manager is able to speed up certain processes and maximize the benefits of playing football, so I think that a good manager is a great value for the player.

And probably he watches over that footballer does not become the “puppet”?

If someone is a good player, he will play, earn, but we know what “puppet” means. Such a “puppet” player is not able to use all his potential, which talent and hard work give him.

Your son plays football at the Delta Warszawa club. What are your observations about children’s/ youth‘s football in Poland in comparison to the European one?

I have the impression that we often teach children, for example, how to multiply, but they still cannot count to ten. We want to teach children too much and they can not do the simplest things yet. There is a lack of work on accuracy and concentration. Perhaps this is due to our culture and national characteristics. It has an impact on what kind of the players we educate. This is related to our national characteristics, and finally this chaos, mess, lack of discipline, concentration is moving to the way we upbring our young players.

We are currently watching a boom on children’s football in Poland. Recently, there was a discussion, why are we already far behind European academies at the U11 level?

Shortly, we do not have the system that other countries have. We do not do it as effectively as they do. There is no system or such a plan in this environment to change it. It’s a bit like Lewandowski is such an alibi for our football authorities, who think that everything is good and everything works fine but later on the results verify it all. Of course we have talented boys but they are mostly “nuggets”.

What is your attitude as a father to a son who plays football?

I am very happy that my son plays football, that he likes to do it, that he trains, that he has such an activity. However, I approach it very calmly. I know that if he will work hard, he will have the determination and than he can get something out of it. I support my son. Sometimes my son has a grudge against me that I criticize him and point out some of his imperfections. We discuss everything and I am very happy that he makes progress and has fun, has great team, colleagues and does sports. I think that practicing sports is beneficial for every child.

Did your son choose football himself?

Yes, himself. It came naturally. Primarily I took him to the football club. He started in Kosa Konstancin. Afterwords he resigned for a while. He went on vacation to his grandma and played with his friends in the yard. When he came back he asked me to enroll him to another football club. Since then he has been playing, earlier in SF Wilanów and now in Delta Warsaw. I see he enjoys playing football and I hope that it will last as long as possible. It was his decision, not mine and it is the most important thing for the player. That the player wants more than his parents and it often happens the opposite.

Sometimes someone has a crisis. And then what to do; push or resign?

For sure, support and push. Because every crisis passes. However you have to work on this crisis to disapear. You can not lay down and wait for the crisis to pass by itself. I think that during the biggest crisis one should work as hard as possible. The crisis will end sooner or later. And if someone resigns and does not try to fight it means that there is no chance for him in football. Because the football is fulfilled with the crisis situations. It is known that adults can cope with crises while young people have a hardness with it. Parents try to make the child’s life easy and enjoyable, and crises occur in the football. Often, crises shape the character of the player and sift those players who have character from this whole mass of other players. The players who resist have a chance to achieve something. Others who resign lose the chance for the success.

Why did you become a footballer?

It just happened. I played in the yard, I played various sports. I spent all my days in the yard. At the age of 14, I signed up for a football club and it stayed like this. Later, it turned out that I was developing well. At the age of 15, I started playing in seniors. At the age of 18, I received a proposal to move to a higher league and my parents allowed. I really became a footballer because I dreamed about it. I had an idol in my childhood and I dreamed to play like him. At some point I was good enough that someone offered me a contract and I became a professional footballer. Briefly.

Who was this idol?

Darek Dziekanowski.

I have the impression that ones parents were less involved in the lives of their children and it was probably better than it is done today?

I agree. This approach resulted the children grew up faster.

They had an internal motivation that they lack of today.

Present times are different. There are more possibilities, more attractions for children. In my childhood days there were two TV programs, there were no computers, there were no tablets, smartphones, games, internet. Many such nonsensical time killers so I spent all the days in the yard. As our parents had a problem, to bring children home, today’s parents have a problem to get the children out of the house. It is also shown by the statistics that there are more and more absencies on PE (physical education) at schools and this is not a good trend.

Do not you think that someday the ball will move into the virtual world?

I do not think so. I’m not afraid of that. Experiencing live emotions will never change. It is hard for me to imagine that similar emotions could be experienced in the virtual world. Certain things can not be transferred to the virtual world – and it is good.