The Best Football Managers in History

There’s always a fuss whenever a team manager gets sacked by the higher-ups or makes the choice of leaving for personal reasons and conflicts within the organization. But how important really are their roles in the campaigns? Are they as crucial as they’re made out to be? For one thing, the strategy and tactics used for each opponent are seen as the brainchild of these team leaders. Although the fortunes of a club are of course not single-handedly attributed to them, their ability to inspire players for a cause larger than themselves makes up a large component of getting league titles. With the news of Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger stepping down after 22 years, this list of the greatest managers football history has ever seen is much called for.

1. Carlo Ancelotti

Ancelotti is the quintessential Italian soccer man known his versatile and adaptive management style. He’s keen on laying out formations that suit the strengths of his players. He was part of the coaching staff in Italy’s bid for the 1994 World Cup and finished a Serie A runner-up with Parma and twice with Juventus. In 2003, he led AC Milan to the Champions League title. This was followed by numerous successive victories. With Ancelotti in charge, Milan again secured a Serie A title and a second European triumph, Chelsea won the FA Cup and Premier League trophy, Paris St. Germain was propelled to a Ligue 1 championship, and Real Madrid had the sweet success of a Champions League victory. He is the only manager to have three UEFA Champions League titles under his belt. His illustrious career has earned him 20 trophies, making him one of the most decorated managers of all time.

2. Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson is undoubtedly one of the best managers there will ever be. He has molded the individual talents of world-renowned players and is a reputed disciplinarian on and off the pitch. Appropriately dubbed as “The Master”, Ferguson has won 49 trophies in his outstanding managerial career. He claimed Premier League’s very first trophy and went on to win 12 more titles of the top flight. In his 26 years with Manchester United, the team dominated 13 Premier League championships, two UEFA Champions League titles and five FA Cups. He kickstarted the most dominant period in English soccer history. For his legendary contributions in the game, he has received many accolades including being knighted in the 1999 Queen’s Birthday Honours list. He was also voted by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics as the Best Coach of the 21st century, and he has a stand named after him at the Old Trafford. His achievements in the industry are unparalleled.

3. Antonio Conte

As a former footballer, Conte knows firsthand what makes a team tick. Understandably, he expects his players to mirror the same level of determination he has exhibited for most of his career in Juventus. He is known for plays with wing-backs in his cleverly designed formations. Under his close supervision, Juventus didn’t lose a single game in the 2011-2012 season of Serie A and they won the championships. And to prove that wasn’t a streak of luck, his team won the Serie A three times in a row. He managed Italy for the Euro 2016 campaign and eventually joined Chelsea. He lifted the team and they won the Premier League in his first season as their manager. He already has 30 league victories and he is just starting. He has already made an indelible mark in football and he will surely be hailed as one of the most efficient managers of all time.

4. Jose Mourinho

Trust polemic Jose Mourinho to make the headlines with his provocative one-liners. But the Portuguese manager is not to be overlooked. He’s one of only five coaches to have raised league titles in four different countries and he has recorded the two highest points totals in Premier League. He also won his third title in a span of seven seasons. Winning titles and breaking records one after the other, he has every good reason to proclaim himself as the “Special One”. He is praised for his organized defenses and compact style of play. Mourinho has won a superb 16 trophies across Inter Milan, Chelsea, and Real Madrid.

5. Brian Clough

Clough wasn’t a game theoretician, but he consistently developed the best out of his players. He brought Derby County and Nottingham Forest out of obscurity, taking them to the Second Division and spurring two consecutive European Cup victories for the latter—an astonishing feat considering Nottingham had yet to qualify for the UEFA competitions before. Clough was famous for his genius to transform bottom side clubs to top-flight champions. He is considered as “the greatest manager England never had”. Famed for his gung-ho gameplay, his legacy is an original underdog story rooted in his squad’s strength and physicalities.

6. Arsene Wenger

Only behind Sir Ferguson and Mourinho in the most number of Premier League titles, “The Professor” has radically changed how team managers supervised players in terms of their training and diet. He’s a big supporter of a flowing and attacking style of football. Wenger is one to trust young players as he prefers to train and develop their skills rather than spend hefty sums to recruit big names. He is celebrated for his packed midfield style and the freedom he gives to the forwards. He is the longest-serving manager of Arsenal and in that time, he has won seven FA Cups, seven Community Shields, and three Premier League titles. Under Wenger, Arsenal has been in the top of English football for two decades and even went unbeaten for the entire 2003-2004 season.

7. Ottomar Hitzfeld

For a man who has been elected World Coach of the Year twice, being nicknamed “The General” and “Gott”— the German word for God—does not seem to be an overestimation. True to his moniker, Ottomar Hitzfeld was a revered figure during his managerial career in Bundesliga. He has won seven Bundesliga titles and led two teams to the UEFA Champions League titles with Dortmund winning in 1997 and Bayern Munich taking the trophy in 2001. Hitzfield is one to anchor his team’s gameplay on faster tempo and closing lines. Overall, he has accumulated a total of 18 major titles and he is regarded as one of the most successful coaches of German football.

8. Marcelo Lippi

Lippi was responsible was Juventus’ rule of Italian football in the late 90s. He garnered a Coppa Italia, a Champions League crown, and five Serie A titles during his reign in the team. He was appointed as Italy’s national coach and in 2006, he led the country to their first World Cup in 24 years. He soon flew to China and guided Guangzhou Evergrande to winning the AFC Champions League and the Super League three times. He is known for instilling principles of strong mentality and unity within his team. He is the current manager of the Chinese national team and is the second on the list of best-paid coaches next to Mourinho.

9. Sir Matt Busby

Sir Matt Busby put the Red Devils on top of the table during the early 50’s and the late 60’s. Known for employing a positive attacking style of football, Busby honed young, talented players Duncan Edwards and Bobby Charlton (The Busby Babes) and led them to three league titles. An air crash tragedy in 1958 caused the death of his eight players and Busby himself barely survived. He had to rebuild the team from scratch which later culminated to three domestic trophies and the 1968 European Cup. Dennis Law, George Best, and Charlton who survived the crash then became European Players of the Year.

10. Pep Guardiola

Guardiola has gathered practically every trophy possible since taking over Barcelona in 2008. He has won 14 trophies in four seasons. Barca’s tiki-taka philosophy has mostly been associated with him, although he has since stated in an interview that the team didn’t do the famous strategy. In 2009 and 2011, he was awarded the IFFHS World’s Best Club Coach of the Year and the FIFA Ballon d’Or in 2012. He has given Barcelona more titles than any other manager the team had and just recently, his Manchester City team was crowned Premier League champions. He’s known as an educator to his players, improving their capacity, range, and aptitude.

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