Held by the Sidelines: The World’s Ten Best Managers
Managers are responsible for the achievements of the biggest teams in the world and thanks to them the world of football has undergone somewhat of a renaissance in recent years. But who is the best among them? Mourinho, Guardiola, Simeone or someone else entirely?
10. Arsène Wenger (65 Years Old, Arsenal)
Ten years ago it was possible to say that Arsène Wenger was one of the top three managers in the world. The feats he achieved at Arsenal in his first decade there were nothing short of incredible. Four league titles, four cups, two doubles. But Wenger was much more than a successful manager that brought in the trophies. He completely changed the training methods of English football; Wenger introduced psychologists and dieticians to the sport, which at the time was unheard of in England.
Wenger’s work practises, the way in which he brought in young talent from across the globe and of course the fantastic football that Arsenal was playing made him a living legend. However, his second decade at Arsenal saw the team regress.
While teams, such as Manchester City and Chelsea, have spent vast amounts of money in recent years buying top quality players, including some of Arsenal’s own stars, Arsenal has been steadily falling behind.
Wenger is not solely to blame for Arsenal’s lack of success in recent years, as testified to by the team winning its first trophy for nine years last season. However, he is at least partly responsible for the fact that the Gunners are no longer considered possible winners of the Premier League. Nonetheless, even if he is past his prime, Wenger is still a fantastic manager and his team always plays attractive and attacking football.
9. Manuel Pellegrini (61 Years Old, Manchester City)
City won the league in Pellegrini’s first year as coach. Regardless of the team’s almost unlimited budget this was a huge achievement for a manager who had never before worked in a non-Spanish speaking country.
Pellegrini was brought in to replace Roberto Mancini by City’s bosses after the team failed to achieve any success in the Champions League. In 2006 Pellegrini reached the Champions League semi-finals with Villarreal and in 2013 he reached the quarterfinals with Malaga. At the moment Manchester City’s main goal is to win the Champions League. However, after two games resulting in just 1 point, things are not looking good.
Pellegrini has been in the business for almost three decades. As a manager he has won titles in Chile, Ecuador, Argentina, Spain and England. His style is classic South American, built around players with exceptional technique. He is a manager in the style of Ancelotti – a gentleman, even tempered and usually calm and calculating. However, one can’t help but feel that Pellegrini is lacking in cunningness.
8. Louis van Gaal (63 Years Old, Manchester United)
Despite the poor start to his time at Manchester United, Louis van Gaal is still considered to be one of the world’s top managers. However, after thirty years of work many now consider him past his prime.
Van Gaal first came to the fore when he coached Ajax and led the team to victory in the Champions League in 1995. At the time he was considered one of the best young coaches in the world and Barcelona did everything in their power to sign him in 1997. The tough and pedantic Dutchman knows how to bring success, but his hard character has resulted in numerous conflicts both with the media and his players. An ongoing battle with Rivaldo, Barcelona’s top player at the time, led to his eventual departure.
However, over the years Van Gaal has mellowed and he once again came to the fore with Bayern Munich in 2010 when the team won the double (the Bundesliga and the DFB-Pokal) and made it to the Champions League final.
To this date every team that Van Gaal has trained has won the championship. The last two years saw him coach the Dutch national team which had an extremely successful World Cup this summer. United clearly believes that Van Gaal is still hungry for success and hasn’t lost his spark and hence has picked him to help restore the team to the top of English football.
7. Antonio Conte (45 Years Old, Italian National Team)
Conte has been in his current position for less than two months so it is only fair to look at his work with club football. He appointed to his new role after leading Juventus to three straight title wins.
Conte began managing in 2006 and worked with small groups such as Siena. He brought Siena into the first division in 2011 and the Juventus bosses, who were impressed with his work, decided to take a gamble on him. While Conte’s role as a senior player at Juventus for 13 years will have helped him into his job, at the end of the day it was clear that he would be judged upon his results.
Conte transformed Juventus’ traditional style of play. He changed the club to play in 2-5-3 formation. Other teams found it hard to deal with Conte’s method and the results showed that it was working. As well as being tactically creative, Conte is also a very charismatic coach who knows how to foster a strong team spirit.
Conte’s first season with Juventus ended without the team suffering a single loss. His second championship ended with the team 9 points ahead of second place Naples while the third championship saw the team achieve a record 102 points. Now Conte faces the unenviable task of restoring Italy to the top of world football after the team’s failure at the Brazilian World Cup.
6. Joachim Löw (54 Years Old, German National Team)
Normally national team managers arrive in their jobs late in their careers after years of success managing league teams. It is difficult to draw comparisons between national team managers and league managers. While league managers are tested on a weekly basis and each season go after numerous trophies, national team coaches only come under pressure every couple of years when the European Championship and the World Cup come around.
There is no doubt that league managers work far harder than their national counterparts. However, there are some exceptions, such as Joachim Löw, who led his team to victory at the World Cup in Brazil. He was a league manager until 2004 when he won the German Cup Championship with Suttgart and the Austrian Championship with Tirol Innsburck, but at the time was still considered a mediocre manager.
In 2004 when Jürgen Klinsmann was appointed as manager of the German national team he brought in Löw to be his assistant. The two of them were responsible for the renaissance that the German national team underwent at the 2006 World Cup, when they reached the semi-finals and played open, creative and attacking football.
When Klinsmann left in 2006 Löw was appointed as national coach. Under Löw the team went from strength to strength reaching the finals in the Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup semi-finals and the semi-finals of the Euro 2012. Then of course this year Germany won the World Cup having beaten Brazil 7 – 1 in the semi-finals and Argentina in the final.
5. Jürgen Klopp (47 Years Old, Borussia Dortmund)
From 2001 – 2008 Klopp was manager of Mainz, under him the team enjoyed little success and was even relegated. At the time nobody in Germany would have believed that Klopp would soon be one of the most successful and respected coaches in Europe.
However, in the summer of 2008 Klopp was appointed manager of Borussia Dortmund, which at the time was at the bottom of the league, and everything changed. Klopp became an excellent manager who knew how to get far more out of his players than they believed possible. Through a combination of his extrovert character and excellent tactical thinking he turned Dortmund into a leading team.
In 2011 and 2012 he led Dortmund to two consecutive championships and in 2013 the team reached the Champions League final where they lost to their main rivals, Bayern Munich.
Klopp believes in fast, rhythmic and physical football and has often likened his team’s style to Heavy Metal music, his favourite genre. He has become one of the world’s most sought after coaches and even though he is not short of offers, including some with significantly more money than he currently earns, he has decided to stay with Dortmund and has extended his contract to 2018.
4. Carlo Ancelotti (55 Years old, Real Madrid)
Ancelotti is not only considered to be a gentleman, but also one of the world’s top managers. While he is no less competitive than other managers, he is also considered a calm and pleasant person that would never speak ill of a colleague, enter into egotistical battles or lose his cool on the sidelines.
Ancelotti has been a manager for almost 20 years and has an impressive list of accomplishments to his name. He won in Italy (with Milan), in England (with Chelsea) and in France (with Paris Saint-Germain). Furthermore, he has won the Champions League three times, twice with AC Milan and once with Real Madrid.
Until five years ago Ancelotti had only worked in his homeland, however, upon branching out it became apparent that he really is an excellent manager that knows how to adapt to new leagues, situations and different mentalities. Unlike Guardiola, Simeone and Mourinho, Ancelotti does not have a crazy amount of charisma. But on the other hand, his relaxed nature creates an excellent atmosphere in the dressing room.
Ancelotti is not considered one of the great tactical geniuses and he admits himself that he has no fixed method. Nonetheless he has a proven talent of building balanced team, even when the players at his disposal aren’t perfect, and this is exactly what he is trying to achieve at Real Madrid.
3. Jose Mourinho (51 Years Old, Chelsea)
Success can’t be argued with and Mourinho is the world’s most successful manager of the past 12 years. Since leading Porto to the top of the league in 2003, he has won seven titles in four different countries as well as two European Cups. While not everyone likes his personality, his big mouth and his attacks on other mangers, even his most bitter rivals are prepared to admit that Mourinho is a fantastic manager.
For years Mourinho worked as an interpreter, scout and manager’s assistant, and all the time he was learning from the best such as Bobby Robson and Louis van Gaal. However, Mourinho wasn’t happy with what he learnt and went about developing his own method which is based on a fast and physical game. Unlike managers such as Guardiola, Mourinho is no idealist. For him the beauty of the game is secondary and only one thing really counts, winning.
Mourinho is a perfectionist who does his best not to overlook even the smallest details when examining his opposition. While his rivals generally cannot stand him, his players love him and he always gives them the feeling that he is completely dedicated to them.
2. Diego Simeone (44 Years Old, Atletico Madrid)
Who would have believed that a team like Atletico Madrid could, in two and a half years, win five titles including the Spanish Championship and be just thirty second away from winning the Champions League?
Even Simeone would have found it hard to believe when he was appointed as Atletico’s manager in December 2011. But it seems that the Argentinian is a magician. In hardly any time at all Simeone turned the team’s mentality around and made them into one of the best teams in the world. He installed in the team the fighting spirit that characterised him as a player along with his crazy character. But Simeone is far more than a motivator and psychologist; he is a gifted tactician that knows how to make the most of the players at his disposal.
While Atletico lost the Championship final to Real Madrid last year, they have already succeeded twice this year in beating their number one rivals. Furthermore, it’s not just Carlo Ancelotti that Simeone knows how to beat; he has also succeeded in defeating Jose Mourinho. Atletico beat Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final last year and from Simeone’s point of view that was another tactical victory over one of the greatest managers in the world.
1. Pep Guardiola (43 Years Old, Bayern Munich)
At a relatively young ago Guardiola positioned himself as one of the greatest managers in history. In the four years that he managed Barcelona, not only did he win two Champions League titles and 16 titles in total, he also developed an innovative style of play that influenced the entire world of football.
Regardless of what people make of Guardiola’s methods, the fact is that they work and it is quite right that Guardiola’s Barcelona is thought of as one of the best teams in history.
Over the past 15 months Guardiola has been reinventing himself at Bayern Munich. His first season there ended with a double but also with a crushing failure in the Champions League. This season Guardiola is carrying on as usual trying to innovate on a tactical level in order to recreate the success he had at Barcelona. Regardless of the position he finds himself in, Guardiola is a manager that just never gives up trying.