The sad departure of Rafael Benítez from Newcastle United was far from amicable, but it provided something of a rarity in the Premier League; a manager who saw out the full term of his contract.
Benítez’s three-year reign with the Toon Army comes to an end on the same day that David Moyes’ six-year contract at Manchester United is also due to expire. Incredibly, despite only lasting nine months at Old Trafford, Moyes has remained on the wage bill for this long. But even that is beaten by Alan Pardew’s crazy eight-year deal, which doesn’t run out until September 2020.
If we look at Leicester City, we can really see the madness that is going on around the contracts of Premier League managers. Brendan Rodgers moved from Celtic to Leicester on a deal that runs up to 2022, but this has made him the fourth manager the club had already offered a contract for, to be the man in charge of the 2019-20 campaign.
The first, Claudio Ranieri, was sacked in February 2017, six months after agreeing a four-year extension following the Italian guiding the Foxes to that memorable Premier League title.
Craig Shakespeare, who succeeded Ranieri, was sacked in October 2017, four months into a three-year deal, whilst Claude Puel was triggered in favour of Rodgers in February, having originally been contracted until June 2020.
There are similar stories right across English football’s top-flight, such as at Southampton, who appointed Ralph Hasenhüttl last December to replace Mark Hughes, even though the Welshman had been signed up until 2021.
Hughes, who had replaced Mauricio Pellegrino, whose deal doesn’t run out until next summer, was still under contract at Stoke City until the end of last season, despite being sacked in January 2018.
Paying off managers is becoming ridiculously expensive. Manchester United’s half-yearly accounts showed that it had cost them £19.6m to pay off Mourinho and his assistants. The ‘Special One’ had signed an extension at United that would have taken him to the end of the 2019-20 season, with an option for a further year. Even Mourinho’s previous contract at Chelsea, which he signed in August 2015, before being sacked four months later, runs until this summer.
In the Premier League, it had become the norm to offer multi-year contracts, while single-year, rolling contracts are more common in the Football League. Managers like Mourinho hold the balance of power in their employment negotiations. The bigger the name, the better the negotiating power they have on their notice period.
The spiralling costs of paying off sacked managers has meant that it is far less common to see six- and eight-year deals, like the one’s signed by Moyes and Pardew, now being offered. That said, Jürgen Klopp is three years from completing a six-year deal at Liverpool, pending an extension. Currently, just three Premier League managers have four years left on their deal; Watford’s Javi Gracia, Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino, and new Brighton manager, Graham Potter, all of whom are under contract until the summer of 2023.
Premier League clubs seem to be wising up to the waste of money that multi-year contracts bring.