Sarina Wiegman is the Pep Guardiola of women's football

Sarina Wiegman and Millie Bright celebrate - Sarina Wiegman is the Pep Guardiola of women's football
Wiegman's team are through to Sunday's final - Reuters/CARL RECINE

Making comparisons between men’s and women’s football are not generally helpful, but in trying to capture just how good a manager Sarina Wiegman is, it is hard not to be drawn into one.

After guiding England to their first Women’s World Cup final, just a year after turning them into European champions, Wiegman’s genius is not up for debate.

This calm, quiet, serious and diligent Dutch coach has done something no manager in the history of football in this country has done before and compares favourably with the other outstanding manager who has redesigned what English football looks like.

One has worked solely in club football with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City, the other has made their name in the international game, but the impact that Wiegman has had with two different countries does at least deserve to be discussed in the same conversation as Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola is the outstanding manager of his generation, but Wiegman is probably the best of hers, too. Every country in the world would take her as their manager if they could, just as every club side in the world would clamour for Guardiola.

That is because Wiegman has shown she has a golden touch, first with her native Netherlands, where she won the European Championship in 2017 before reaching the World Cup final two years later, and now with England. Win the final against Spain on Sunday and there is a case for giving her an honarary damehood.

Should Wiegman guide England to a World Cup triumph, a first for the women’s side, she will surely have achieved something every bit as special as the treble Guardiola won with Manchester City last season.

Pep Guardiola with the Champions League trophy
Pep Guardiola led Manchester City to win the treble - the FA Cup, Premier League and Champions League - last season - AFP/Franck Fife

Both have specialised in taking extremely talented groups of players – full of quality and skill but with all the egos and conflicting personalities that come with that – and turning them into relentless winning machines. England have lost only once in 38 games under Wiegman.

The Netherlands may have been among the favourites to win the Euros in 2017 and England the same to do so on home soil in 2022, but pre-tournament billings do not mean anything once the action begins. Wiegman delivered on both occasions in spectacular fashion.

Sarina Wiegman lifts the Euro 2022 trophy
Sides coached by Sarina Wiegman have won the last two Women's Euros - first the Netherlands in 2017 and then England in 2022 - Getty /Lynne Cameron

Just as Guardiola had arguably the best group of players in Spain, Germany and now England, and delivered trophies under pressure, so, too, has Wiegman with two different national teams. She will desperately hope she can go one step further than she did with the Netherlands and actually win it this time.

Indeed, the Dutchwoman’s impact has been so positive and well-received that the Football Association has already said it will relax the insistence that the manager of the men’s team must be English. Instead, the FA has stipulated that candidates merely need to have had experience of working in the English game. That is the Wiegman effect.

After so many failed experiments with foreign coaches in the men’s game, Wiegman has been a resounding success story. And she had not even worked in English football before she swapped the orange of her homeland for the St George’s flag.

Wiegman is a coach, not just a manager. She thinks about the game with a sharp mind, but also knows how to create a tight bond in the team. A leader and a brilliant communicator, the players like but also respect her.

There are different sides to her personality; she is holistic and easy to talk to but also strict and demanding. There are non-negotiable standards of behaviour and she has a steely edge, much like Guardiola, who does not tolerate anyone who fails to meet his demands, either on the training ground or on match day.

Wiegman can be tough, too, when she feels it is time for a player to be moved on. Take former captain Steph Houghton. She was dropped from the squad on the eve of Euros last year and then overlooked again for this World Cup, despite an injury to Leah Willamson, her replacement as captain. Houghton was not happy about either decision and there was support for her in the media and among fans, too, given everything she has contributed to the national side through the years, but Wiegman was not interested or swayed by any of it.

It was Wiegman’s ability to pick the team up after the malaise and gradual decline of Phil Neville’s reign, to get them playing with clarity and no shortage of skill, that turned England into European champions.

They have not played nearly as well in Australia, but they have persistently found a way to win. She may yet lead them to a global conquest, too. England are lucky to have her.

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