10 Greatest Soccer Coaches Of All Time

Alex Ferguson best soccer coaches of all time
. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

The role of coaches in soccer clubs cannot be overemphasized. Coaches have a wide range of responsibilities; they select the team, choose the tactics, recruit and transfer players, and regularly address the media.

Furthermore, they manage, guide, inspire and motivate players.

Throughout soccer history, we’ve seen several genius coaches who not only changed their team’s fortunes; but also made a huge impact on the round-leather game as a whole.

Here, TOP SOCCER BLOG brings you the 10 greatest soccer coaches of all time.

1. Alex Ferguson

Alex Ferguson best soccer coaches of all time
(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Alex Ferguson was a prolific striker during his playing days.

He started his coaching career with Aberdeen and was very successful, winning 3 Scottish league championships, 4 Scottish Cups, and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.

He briefly managed Scotland, taking the team to the 1986 FIFA World Cup.

Ferguson was appointed as head coach of Manchester United in November 1986. During his 26 years with the Red Devils, he won 38 trophies — including 13 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cups, and 2 UEFA Champions League titles.

He is the longest-serving manager of Manchester United, having overtaken Sir Matt Busby’s record in December 2010.

Many of Alex Ferguson’s former players have gone on to become football managers themselves, including Tony Fitzpatrick, Alex McLeish, Gordon Strachan, Mark McGhee, Willie Miller, Neale Cooper, Bryan Gunn, Eric Black, Billy Stark, Bryan Robson, Steve Bruce, Mark Hughes, Roy Keane, Paul Ince, Chris Casper, Mark Robins, Darren Ferguson, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Henning Berg, Andrei Kanchelskis, Michael Appleton, Ryan Giggs, David Healy, Gabriel Heinze, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Jaap Stam, Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney, and Phil Neville.

Furthermore, 3 of these players (Giggs, Solskjaer, and Carrick) have subsequently managed Manchester United.

With around 49 trophies, Alex Ferguson is the coach with the most trophies in soccer history.

In addition, Ferguson was knighted in the 1999 Queen’s Birthday Honours list for his services to the game.

His book, My Autobiography (released in 2013), is one of the most popular soccer books ever.

2. Pep Guardiola

Is Pep Guardiola The Best Manager To Grace The Premier League?
(Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

A defensive midfielder, Pep Guardiola spent the majority of his playing career with Barcelona — forming a part of Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team that won the club’s first European Cup in 1992 and 4 successive Spanish league titles from 1991 to 1994.

After retiring as a player, Guardiola briefly coached Barcelona’s reserve side and was subsequently promoted to the senior team.

Thereafter, he assembled what is arguably the greatest soccer club side in history, with Barca playing beautiful “Tiki-Taka” football.

In 2009, Guardiola’s great Barcelona side won a record 6 trophies: La Liga, Copa del Rey, UEFA Champions League, Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup, and the FIFA Club World Cup — becoming the first manager in history to do so.

Pep left Barcelona to join Bayern Munich, winning the Bundesliga in each of his 3 seasons in Germany, including two domestic doubles.

He joined Manchester City in 2016 and guided them to a Premier League title in his second season in charge, breaking numerous domestic records as the team became the first ever to attain 100 league points.

So far at Man City, Guardiola has won 4 English Premier League titles, 4 League Cups, and the FA Cup — including a domestic treble in the 2018/19 season.

He also led City to their first-ever UEFA Champions League final in 2021, losing to Chelsea.

Pep Guardiola is considered one of the greatest coaches of all time and holds the records for the most consecutive league games won in La Liga, the Bundesliga, and the Premier League.

The enigmatic Spaniard is considered to be one of the best soccer coaches in the world right now.

3. Arrigo Sacchi

Arrigo Sacchi

Arrigo Sacchi is regarded as one of the greatest coaches of all time. His AC Milan side (1987—1991) is widely regarded to be one of the greatest club sides to ever play soccer.

He won the Serie A title in his debut season at Milan and then dominated European football by winning back-to-back European Cups in 1989 and 1990.

Sacchi’s teams play in a fluid, yet highly organized attacking 4–4–2 formation, discarding the traditional libero in an era where Italian football was mainly focused on strong defensive play.

Moreso, he was one of the first managers to make use of zonal marking, pressing, and playing Total Football.

From 1991 to 1996, Arrigo Sacchi was head coach of the Italian national team and led them to the final of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, where they sadly lost to Brazil in a penalty shoot-out.

4. Matt Busby

Matt Busby greatest soccer coaches of all time
(Photo by Bob Thomas/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

For a coach to build a great soccer team once is commendable, but to do it twice is legendary.

And that’s exactly what Matt Busby did at Manchester United!

Firstly, he built the famous “Busby Babes” team, but unfortunately; 8 of these players died in the infamous Munich Air Disaster.

Busby rebuilt another side a decade later and led Manchester United to win the European Cup.

In total, he spent 25 years with the club, winning 13 trophies.

Furthermore, Sir Matt Busby was the first manager of an English team to win the European Cup (1968).

5. Helenio Herrera

Helenio Herrera greatest soccer coaches of all time
(Photo by Sergio del Grande/Mondadori via Getty Images)

Helenio Herrera is regarded as one of the greatest soccer coaches of all time. He won 4 La Liga titles in Spain (with Atlético Madrid and Barcelona) and 3 Serie A titles in Italy with Inter Milan.

He also guided Inter to European glory, winning two consecutive European Cups, among several other honours.

In an era where players take all credit and coaches are just marginal figures in a team, Herrera was the superstar in his teams.

All teams throughout history are remembered for their headline-grabbing individual players, but Inter Milan of the 1960s (known as Grande Inter ) is still referred to as “Herrera’s Inter” to date.

Furthermore, Helenio Herrera pioneered the use of psychological motivating skills during pep team talks.

He was also a very strict disciplinarian. He famously suspended a player for saying in a press conference that: “we came to PLAY in Rome” instead of “we came to WIN in Rome”!!!.

6. Carlo Ancelotti

Carlo Ancelotti Stylish Football Managers

Carlo Ancelotti was a very successful player in his career, winning numerous titles (notably with AC Milan).

Regarded as one of the greatest coaches of all time, he is the most decorated manager in UEFA Champions League history, having won the trophy a record 4 times as coach (twice with AC Milan and twice with Real Madrid).

He is also the first and only one to have managed teams in 5 Champions League finals!

Ancelotti is one of 8 people to have won the European Cup/UEFA Champions League as both a player and a manager.

Furthermore, the Italian is the first and only manager ever to have won league titles in all of Europe’s Top Five leagues.

He has won the FIFA Club World Cup a joint-record 3 times and is also the manager with the most UEFA Super Cup triumphs, having won the trophy on 4 occasions!

Ancelotti has a reputation for his ability to deploy systems that would best suit his players.

His charisma and man-management skills make him to easily control superstar players.

7. Bob Paisley

Bob Paisley
(Photo by Harry Ormesher/Popperfoto via Getty Images)

Bob Paisley worked with Liverpool for almost 50 years as a player, assistant manager, and manager.

He became an assistant manager to the legendary Bill Shankly when Liverpool had been relegated to the Second Division, but both men turned the fortunes of the club around, leading them to success.

When Shankly retired in 1974, Paisley was appointed as manager. He went on to lead Liverpool through a period of domestic and European dominance, winning 20 trophies in 9 seasons: 6 League Championships, 3 League Cups, 6 Charity Shields, 3 European Cups, 1 UEFA Cup, and 1 UEFA Super Cup.

He won honors at a rate of 2.2 per season, a rate surpassed only by Pep Guardiola.

At the time of his retirement, he had won the manager of the Year Award a record 6 times.

Furthermore, Bob Paisley is the first of 3 managers to have won the European Cup (now UEFA Champions League) three times.

He is also one of 5 managers to have won the English top-flight championship as both a player and manager at the same club.

8. Johann Cruyff

Johan Cruyff greatest soccer coaches of all time
(Photo by Christian Liewig/TempSport/Corbis via Getty Images)

Johan Cruyff was not only one of the greatest soccer players of all time, but he also became one of the greatest coaches.

He began his coaching career in 1985 with Ajax, the club where he had made his name as a player.

Cruyff’s achievements as a coach are numerous, including winning the European Cup with Barcelona in 1992 and four consecutive La Liga titles between 1991 and 1994.

He also won the Dutch Eredivisie with Ajax as a coach in 1985, 1990, and 1994.

Cruyff’s coaching philosophy was heavily influenced by his time as a player, where he was a key part of the “Total Football” philosophy that Ajax and the Dutch national team were famous for in the 1970s.

He believed in a possession-based style of play, where players were encouraged to take risks and play with creativity.

He was also a pioneer of the 4-3-3 formation, which has since become one of the best formations in modern soccer.

Johan Cruyff’s impact on the game of soccer is immeasurable. As a player, he was one of the greatest ever to grace the field, and as a coach, he revolutionized the game with his innovative ideas and philosophies.

9. Brian Clough

Brian Clough
(Photo by Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images)

Brian Clough was famous for his successes as a manager with Derby County and Nottingham Forest, who were both “small” clubs before his arrival.

He became the head coach of Derby County in 1967 when they were in the Second Division. The club got promoted to the top flight in 1968/69 as Second Division champions.

Three years later, Derby got crowned as champions of England for the first time in the club’s history!

Moreso, they reached the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1973.

At Nottingham Forest, the club was also in the Second Division when Brian Clough was appointed. They immediately got promoted to the top flight and instantly won the league title at the first time of asking!

As a result, Clough is one of 4 managers to have won the English league with two different clubs.

Amazingly, Nottingham Forest also won two consecutive European Cups (in 1979 and 1980) and two League Cups (1978 and 1979).

Notably, Brian Clough’s teams play attractive football and always show good sportsmanship.

10. Giovanni Trapattoni

Giovanni Trapattoni best soccer coaches of all time
(Photo by Michael Regan – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

One of the most decorated coaches in soccer history, Giovanni Trapattoni is one of only 5 coaches (alongside Carlo Ancelotti, Ernst Happel, Jose Mourinho, and Tomislav Ivić) to have won league titles in 4 different European countries. In total, he won 10 league titles in Italy, Germany, Portugal, and Austria.

Alongside Udo Lattek and José Mourinho, he is one of the 3 coaches to have won all three major European club competitions (European Cup, UEFA Cup, UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup) and the only one to have done so with the same club (Juventus).

Also, Trapattoni is the only coach to have won all official continental club competitions and the world title — achieving this with Juventus during his first spell with the club.

He is one of the rare few to have won the European Cup, the Cup Winners’ Cup, and Intercontinental Cup as both a player and manager.

Trapattoni coached his native Italy to the 2002 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2004 but could not replicate his club successes with Italy, suffering a controversial early exit in both competitions.

Thereafter, he became the manager of the Republic of Ireland national team.

He led Ireland to her first European Championships in 24 years after a successful UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.

This was after narrowly missing out on the 2010 FIFA World Cup after his team were controversially knocked out by France.

Furthermore, Giovanni Trapattoni is highly regarded for his man-management, motivational, and organisational abilities, as well as his tactical acumen.

Honourable Mentions:

Other great soccer coaches of all time who deserve a honorable mention include:

  • José Mourinho
  • Rinus Michels
  • Valeriy Lobanovskyi
  • Ernst Happel
  • Vicente del Bosque
  • Marcelo Lippi
  • Ottmar Hitzfeld
  • Fabio Capello
  • Arsene Wenger
  • Zinedine Zidane
  • Bill Shankly
  • Jurgen Klopp
  • Jock Stein
  • Mircea Lucescu
  • Roberto Mancini
  • Stephen Keshi.
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