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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

Paul Clement quietly climbing the ladder

Paul Clement is a rare Englishman coaching in Europe. And he is well-regarded.
Carlo Ancelotti, has brought Paul Clement, second left, along to Real Madrid, where he works along side the Italian and Zinedine Zidane, left. Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno / Getty Images
Carlo Ancelotti, has brought Paul Clement, second left, along to Real Madrid, where he works along side the Italian and Zinedine Zidane, left. Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno / Getty Images
The tall, suited, Englishman was one of the few Real Madrid employees not wearing large headphones after the team's recent away victory at Espanyol.

As he made his way from the dressing room of a victorious team, who had closed the gap on Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the top to of the Spanish Primera Liga table to three points, Paul Clement stopped to exchange small talk with some of his compatriots covering the game as journalists.

Polite and friendly, he waited while his team's star player, Cristiano Ronaldo, standing nearby, finished speaking to a Portuguese journalist.

Clement and Ronaldo would board the Real Madrid-branded team coach, with Ronaldo heading on to Zurich to collect the Ballon d'Or and Clement returning to the Spanish capital, his home since July 2013.

The British gave football to the world but does not export as much talent as it imports these days

Top British players see little reason to leave the best-paid league in the world unless they are following Gareth Bale and moving to a team of the stature of Madrid.

Clement, who works closely with Bale, is one of the few English coaches working abroad at the highest level in his capacity as assistant manager to Carlo Ancelotti.

The Londoner, 41, works alongside Zinedine Zidane, leading training for some of the best footballers on the planet. Ancelotti did not appoint Clement out of benevolence, but describes him as "one of the most dynamic and intelligent" coaches with whom he has worked with.

Clement is the son of the former Queens Park Rangers and England defender Dave Clement, who in 1982, after suffering with depression, took his own life at the age of 34. His eldest son, Paul, was just 10. He had hoped to be a footballer like his father but unlike his brother, Neil, did not play at professional level.

After a career playing non-league football near his native Sutton, in London, he switched his attention to becoming a coach - first, age 23, at Chelsea's centre of excellence, while also holding down a full-time job as a physical education instructor.

"Teaching gave me a foundation: organisation, planning, understanding different learning styles and needs, the importance of good communication," he said.

"I've taken that into my coaching."

Clement obtained his Uefa "A" coaching licence in 1999 alongside Liverpool coach Brendan Rodgers and became a full-time football coach a year later when he was appointed at Fulham's academy. He also helped train the Republic of Ireland Under 21s for three years.

In 2007, Chelsea made an offer for him to return, where he started as Under 16 coach before graduating to the youth team, then the reserves and then working with the first team during Guus Hiddink's spell as caretaker manager.

He found the transition between four teams and age groups in three years difficult, but he had excelled to earn those promotions.

Hiddink impressed the young coach with his charisma, people skills and linguistic ability as Chelsea won the FA Cup and reached the 2009 Uefa Champions League semi-finals, losing out to Barcelona and a dramatic late Andres Iniesta goal.

He stayed at Chelsea when Ancelotti replaced Hiddink and helped them win the domestic league and cup double in 2010.

When Ancelotti left Chelsea, Clement moved to Blackburn Rovers as an assistant to Steve Kean during an inglorious reign.

It was not long before Ancelotti found a new job and asked Clement to join him at Paris Saint-Germain.

Clement crossed the English Channel, took three hours of French classes each day and was part of the team that won Ligue 1 in 2012/13.

David Beckham, who Clement worked closely with, was the most famous Englishman at PSG, but the assistant coach was the rising star behind the scenes.

Nor were they the only English or former members of Chelsea's back-room staff to work at PSG.

Jack Naylor and Nick Broad revamped PSG's Sports Science department until tragedy befell the club when Broad's car broke down on the motorway hard shoulder on the way to training.

Broad called Clement to say he was waiting to be picked up. A car ploughed into Broad's static Mini.

Broad was killed, age 38.

Ancelotti moved to Madrid and Clement, a father of two, was happy to follow in July 2013. Clement has ambitions to go into management himself and said: "I'd like to think there's a chairman out there who will look at me and think 'he's had a good apprenticeship'.

"Some chairmen still like the traditional style of manager but others prefer a more innovative coach with fresh ideas; somebody with a thirst for learning what's out there, who's travelled the world looking at different methods. I certainly hope more clubs will give opportunities to younger coaches like Brendan [Rogers]."

Clement is happy at Madrid, but do not be surprised if he gets an even bigger opportunity there, or elsewhere, in the future.

amitten@thenational.ae

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