5 Best Football Managers of All Time

Sir Alex Ferguson

Managing a football club can be both incredibly rewarding and utterly devastating.

Look at the contrasting fortunes of Ronald Koeman and Carlo Ancelotti in Spain; the latter has taken Real Madrid to the top of La Liga, the former has delivered Barcelona’s worst start to a season in a lifetime. Reputations can be made and broken overnight, and whenever there is blame to be placed, it usually ends up at the manager’s feet.

Koeman is a rare example of a former player, club legend and proven success who has failed in the dugout; he is close to leaving Catalonia, as reported by to CGTN, but his successor will surely fare little better. They’re in dire financial trouble and cannot look to anything other than a season of consolidation and damage limitation.

What they wouldn’t give for someone like the Dutch mater, Johan Cruyff now. He nurtured and developed many Dutch legends at Ajax, then built a dream team at Camp Nou, which dominated Spanish football and won the 1992 European Cup. He even launched the academy that later became La Masia, yet he isn’t in the top five managers. He is just on the fringes, bested by this quintet of brilliance.

1. Giovanni Trapattoni

Giovanni Trapattoni
Credit: Michael Kranewitter, FIFA WC-qualification 2014 – Austria vs Ireland 2013-09-10 – Giovanni Trapattoni 03 (cropped)CC BY-SA 3.0 AT

Trapattoni had a solid playing career with AC Milan, managing their youth team, before stepping up to the senior job in 1974. In 1976, he joined Juventus, and it is here he proved his managerial credentials. He won Series A six times, lifted the UEFA Cup in 1984 and the European Cup in 1985. His Juventus team, containing the likes of Michel Platini, was astounding and dominant, remembered to this day by supporters. He also won Serie A with Internazionale and a Bundesliga with Bayern Munich. The less said about his spell with Ireland, the better.

2. Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola Stylish Football Managers

Pep Guardiola was already an accomplished manager when he arrived at Manchester City, having won the Champions League twice with Barcelona and the Bundesliga three times with Bayern Munich. His arrival at Manchester saw him become the ‘perfect’ manager, according to a Bwin infographic; he’s a respected former player, had previously managed to a high standard and fit the age demographic. Three Premier League titles later, he is a legend in the blue half of Manchester; even if he is still waiting for the Champions League success he enjoyed in Barcelona.

3. Rinus Michels

Rinus Michels

Michels began his playing career after World War II; from 1946 to 1958, he represented Ajax. After learning the ropes in the Dutch lower leagues, he returned to the club as manager in 1965, winning the Eredivisie four times, the KNVB Cup three times and the European Cup once. He helped develop Johan Cruyff as a player and took him to Barcelona. Michels also oversaw two major tournaments as Dutch manager; the 1974 World Cup, where they finished as runner up, and the 1988 European Championship, where they achieved the same feat.

4. Arrigo Sacchi

Arrigo Sacchi
Credit: anonymous, Sacchi, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

Sacchi is a curious manager; he never played football professionally, instead grinding out a coaching career from the bottom up. He got his big break with Parma, winning Serie C1 in 1986, before taking them to within three points of Serie A. That led him to Milan, where he created a dynasty. His side won Serie A in 1988 but lifted the European Cup in successive seasons in 1989 and 1990. He didn’t just win games; he won with beautiful football and even came within one penalty kick of adding the 1994 World Cup to his collection. Although Sacchi is one of the football coaches who never played football, he had a tremendous impact on the game as a manager.

5. Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson
Credit: Austin OsuideAlex FergusonCC BY 2.0

Sir Alex Ferguson’s achievements will simply never be beaten. Even before he stepped foot in Manchester, he achieved the impossible; he took Aberdeen to three Scottish titles, four Scottish Cups and a Scottish League Cup. Even more astounding was his European achievements; they won the Cup Winner’s Cup in 1983 and then European Super Cup. He moved to Manchester in 1986 but came close to the sack in 1989 after a terrible run. He turned their form around, and in the years that followed, won 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups and 10 Charity Shields. His European record was excellent; he lifted the Champions League twice as manager, twice finished as runner up and won a second Cup Winner’s Cup. Alex Ferguson is the football coach who has won the most trophies.

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