Man-management has always been an area that’s been strongly emphasized in the game of football. More often than not, the managers decide a club’s fate and they instill belief in the players giving them something to fight for. Managers are the guardian angels of the club/country, who make a big difference in a team with their innovations, training methods, and tactical changes.
Over the years there have been a lot of managers who have revived the clubs fortunes. But only a handful of managers have marked their place in history and etched their names permanently in the annals of football. XploreSports lists down the Top 10 football managers of all time.
#10 Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger holds the record for the most Premier League matches managed after a 22-year spell with Arsenal between 1996 and 2018. The Frenchman learned his managerial trade in France with spells at Strasbourg, Cannes and Nancy before earning a move to Ligue 1 side AS Monaco. He won the French League Championship in 1988 before moving to Japan seven years later for an 18-month stint. After joining Arsenal, Wenger did not take long to adapt to life in English football and guided the team to their first Premier League title in the 1997/98 season.
He repeated the feat again in 2001/02 before making history in 2003/04, as “The Invincibles” went unbeaten throughout the entire league campaign on their way to sealing a third Premier League crown. Wenger was delivering titles, establishing Arsenal as one of the best teams to watch in the division and helping the London club create a large worldwide fan base. He brought over Thierry Henry from Juventus and Dennis Bergkamp from Inter Milan which revamped their career as legends in history.
The Frenchman claimed seven FA Cups – the most of any manager – and was voted Manager of the Year in 1998, 2002 and 2004. Wenger became the Premier League’s longest-serving manager when Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012/13 season and surpassed his record of matches managed in the Premier League during the 2017/18 campaign. With a record of 476 wins in the Premier League, Wenger still couldn’t drive Arsenal to lift the Champions League. Wenger put an end to his career on a decline as he, unfortunately, couldn’t adapt to the demands of the modern game and ranks 10th on the list of Top football manager of all time.
#9 Jurgen Klopp
Jurgen Klopp got his chance to manage in the Premier League when he took over at Liverpool in October 2015. The German arrived at Anfield following an impressive seven-year stay with Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. Klopp made over 300 appearances on the pitch, starting and finishing his professional career at FSV Mainz 05 in Germany’s second tier. The Stuttgart-born manager then began coaching in 2001 at the club where he spent 11 years as a player. Klopp oversaw promotion to the top flight of German football in his third season in charge, subsequently ending a 41-year wait for Mainz’s first-ever season in the Bundesliga.
In the summer of 2008, Klopp was appointed as manager of Borussia Dortmund and was tasked with rebuilding a side that had finished 13th in the Bundesliga in 2007/08. After two years under his reign, Dortmund had finished sixth and then fifth before Klopp achieved back-to-back Bundesliga titles, plus a German Cup win in the 2011/12 campaign. Dortmund also reached the UEFA Champions League final in 2013 under Klopp’s guidance, losing to fellow German side Bayern Munich.
Liverpool announced Klopp as Brendan Rodgers’ replacement at Anfield, giving the German his first taste of management in English football. Since he joined he has led the Reds to the UEFA Europa League final in 2015/16, UEFA Champions League final in 2017/18, UEFA Champions League Trophy in 2018/19 and 2019 FIFA Club World Cup. Under Jurgen Klopp, Anfield has again turned out to be a fortress. Klopp had his best season in 2018/19 as he guided Liverpool to lift the Champions League and stand second in the Premier League table. He was named the FIFA manager of the year in 2019 and registers his spot in our list of top football managers of all time.
#8 Carlo Ancelotti
Carlo Ancelotti learned how to transcend time, ages and styles of play, remaining as one of the top football managers in history, winning titles with some of the best squads in the world. He managed several great clubs including Real Madrid, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, PSG and many more. He won domestic titles in 4 out of Europe’s top 5 leagues. Ancelotti holds the record for winning the UEFA Champions League a record 4 times.
With Juventus, he won the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 1999. With AC Milan, he achieved UEFA Champions League twice, and Serie A and Coppa Italia once each. He also held the FIFA Club World Cup trophy with the Italian club in 2007. With Chelsea, Ancelotti won the Premier League and FA Cup in the 2009-10 season. He then guided Real Madrid to win UEFA Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup, Copa del Rey and UEFA Super Cup in 2014. With Bayern Munich, he achieved the Bundesliga in 2017.
He received the Serie A Coach of the Year award and Panchina d’Oro twice each. Ancelotti received the Best Coach of the Year award and Best Media Attraction in Football award at the Globe Soccer Awards in 2014. Italian football board inducted him into their Football Hall of Fame in 2015. Besides, AC Milan and AS Roma also inducted him into their club hall of fame.
#7 José Mourinho
The Portuguese previously had a semi-professional football career before making his coaching breakthrough in the backroom staff of Sir Bobby Robson at Sporting Lisbon, Porto and Barcelona. After brief but successful stints in charge at Benfica and Uniao de Leiria, he won the UEFA Champions League with Porto in 2004, only a year after lifting the UEFA Europa League trophy in his first full season as manager.
Mourinho also won back-to-back Portuguese league titles and two domestic cup competitions at Porto before Chelsea came calling. In his first campaign at Stamford Bridge in 2004/05, Chelsea won their first top-flight title in 50 years with a record haul of 95 points. They retained the Premier League crown a year later and won the FA Cup and the League Cup twice with Mourinho in charge. Mourinho left Chelsea in 2007 and his next managerial role came with Inter Milan, where he won the Serie A title and the Italian Super Cup in his first season. Inter then retained the title while winning the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Champions League in a memorable 2009/10 campaign.
Real Madrid appointed Mourinho as their coach in the summer of 2010, going on to win the Copa del Rey in 2011 and edge Barcelona to the 2011/12 La Liga title. But after three years at the Bernabeu, Mourinho returned to England ahead of the 2013/14 Premier League season for a second spell with Chelsea. In the 2014/15 campaign, Mourinho earned a third League Cup triumph with Chelsea. Mourinho then signed a three-year deal as manager of Manchester United. In his first season in charge, the club won the Community Shield, the League Cup and the UEFA Europa League but was eventually sacked as he failed to rank United in the Top 4.
#6 Pep Guardiola
As a player, Guardiola spent the majority of his career at Barcelona but also played for Brescia, Roma, Al-Ahli and Dorados de Sinaloa. He won six LaLiga titles and lifted the European Cup in 1992, the same year that he won Olympic gold with Spain. Guardiola’s first taste of coaching came as head coach of Barcelona’s B team in June 2007. With Tito Vilanova as his assistant, Guardiola achieved promotion and was quickly catapulted to the manager of the senior squad, replacing Frank Rijkaard at the end of the 2007/08 season.
He stamped his mark at Camp Nou as his first campaign in charge brought success in the UEFA Champions League, LaLiga and Copa del Rey. It was the club’s first-ever treble and, at 37 years of age, it made Guardiola the youngest manager to lift the UEFA Champions League in history. In total he spent four seasons as the manager for Barcelona, winning 14 trophies across six different competitions. Guardiola returned to coaching ahead of 2013/14 to replace Jupp Heynckes at German team Bayern Munich. He won three Bundesliga titles on the bounce, with silverware also coming via the DFB-Pokal, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.
After three years in Munich, the former FIFA World Coach of the Year agreed on a move to Manchester City in 2016. Since then City have dominated the Premier League. In the 2017/18 Premier League season Guardiola secured his first league title in English football with a record of 106 goals, 32 wins, and 100 points. In 2018/19 City won the Premier League, Carabao Cup, and the FA Cup but were eliminated in the quarter-finals against Tottenham in a thrilling encounter.
#5 Johan Cruyff
Johan Cruyff is another example of incredible players becoming incredible managers. The Dutch player did absolutely great during his time as a player, winning absolutely everything he could win, except the World Cup, leading Ajax to rein European football for three consecutive years and then playing the same way with Barcelona.
As a manager, Cruyff had similar successes, taking all the things he learned from Dutch legend Rinus Michel to help him and his teams to achieve big things. Cruyff, just like he did as a player, managed Ajax and Barcelona, leading both squads to win numerous titles, including a Champions League with the Blaugrana. He laid the foundation of Tiki-taka developing Barça into a world-class club by giving it stability both on and off the pitch. His eight-year reign, saw him become the club’s longest consecutive serving manager and the most successful one as well.
In total, Cruyff won two La Liga championships, two UEFA Cup Winners Cup, and European Cup, showing his “Total Football” philosophy and dominating at a local and international level which ranks him among the best football managers of all time.
#4 Arrigo Sacchi
Sacchi was never a professional football player and this led to critics questioning his qualification and caliber. He was appointed to be the coach of Italian giants A.C. Milan in the late ‘80s. He won the Serie A title in his 1987–88 debut season and then dominated European football by winning back to back European Cups in 1989 and 1990. From 1991 to 1996, he was the head coach of the Italy national team and led them to the 1994 FIFA World Cup final, only to lose to Brazil in a penalty shoot-out.
Sacchi is regarded as one of the top football managers of all-time and his Milan side (1987–1991) is widely regarded to be one of the greatest club sides to ever play the game, and by some to be the greatest of all-time.
#3 Marcello Lippi
Marcello Lippi is quite possibly the finest Italian football manager of all time and remains one of the few managers to have won both UEFA Champions League and the World Cup titles. In his early days, Lippi played for Italian club Sampdoria and started his managerial career in 1985. He became the manager of Juventus in 1994 and took them to three successive Champions League finals from 1995 to 1998.
He made Juventus one of the strongest teams in world football during the late 1990s and the early 2000s and again took them to the Champions League final in 2002-03. Marcello Lippi remains one of the few managers to have taken a club to 4 Champions League finals in 8 years. He also won 5 Serie A titles with Juventus. He became the coach of the Italian national team in 2004 and helped them win their 4th World Cup title in 2006 which ranks him third among the list of top football managers of all time.
#2 Rinus Michels
Rinus Michels is the inventor of modern football. He came up with his “Total Football” philosophy that changed the way players and fans used to see the game. He inculcated the philosophy of total football first at Ajax and then in Barcelona. Michels led Ajax to become the best football team of all time during the 1970s, winning three consecutive Champions League before going to manage Barcelona and winning a La Liga trophy.
Throughout his career, Michels tallied four Eredivisie championships, a La Liga championship, one European Cup as well as one UEFA European Championship with the Netherlands back in 1988. Michels took the charge of FC Barcelona in 1971 and made the passing football popular at the Catalan club as well. Cruyff joined him at Barcelona in 1978 and made Barcelona the best club in Spain. He became the manager of the Dutch national side in 1986, and won the European Championship with them in 1988. Rinus Michels was a pioneer in world football in many ways and is considered as one of the top football managers of all time.
#1 Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson is the most successful manager in football history and is widely noted for his stint with Manchester United. Having spent all of his playing career in Scotland, Ferguson first went into management with East Stirlingshire in 1974 before joining St Mirren in the same year. At St Mirren, Ferguson transformed a Second Division team into the 1977 First Division champions. Ferguson further enhanced his reputation at Aberdeen, where he guided the club to three top-flight titles, four Scottish Cups, and triumphs in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Super Cup.
He replaced Ron Atkinson at Old Trafford in 1986, winning his first FA Cup in 1990. He also added another UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Super Cup to his collection. Ferguson ended Man Utd’s 26-year wait for a top-flight title in the inaugural Premier League season of 1992/93. He went on to enjoy unprecedented success over the next two decades.
During his reign at Old Trafford, Ferguson won the FA Cup five times and the League Cup on four occasions. United also claimed two UEFA Champions League trophies and 13 Premier League titles under his management. In total, he lifted more than 30 trophies in his time in charge at Old Trafford and holds the first spot in the list of top football managers of all time.