Management. It’s no easy game.
Especially in football, where every result has the potential to make you or break you in the eyes of the masses.
It takes a certain type of character to be successful, but sustaining that success is another matter altogether. There are only a select few who have what it takes to get to the top and stay there.
We’ve taken a look at some of the very best coaches around, and ranked them on their performances over the past few seasons. National team managers not included.
20. Massimiliano Allegri
Cons: Doesn’t have a job.
Pros: Won about a million Serie As in a row, and Andrea Pirlo is now proving that’s not as easy as it looks, even at Juventus.
19. Unai Emery
This man bloody loves the Europa League. He loves it.
He won it three times in a row with Sevilla, made the final in his brief stint with Arsenal, and will now lead Villarreal to the fifth final of his career when they take on Man Utd later this month.
His team are also going strong in La Liga, still in with a shout of fifth place as the season draws to a close.
18. Erik ten Hag
You can’t really fault Ten Hag at Ajax, can you? Won the league in 2019, top when it got voided in 2020, won it again in 2021.
There was a Champions League semi-final thrown in there too, just for good measure.
17. Christophe Galtier
It’s been a slow burner for Galtier at Lille but in a season where none of the pre-season favourites seem capable of winning anything, it’s Lille who are the beneficiaries in France.
They have mounted a shock challenge to PSG’s unyielding dominance and sit four points ahead of the defending champions heading into the final run of games.
He also looks like a Bond villain, which is a big plus for any manager.
16. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
The Norwegian is probably Manchester United’s best manager since Sir Alex Ferguson. And while that’s not saying too much considering how they’ve fared in the years since he retired, it’s got to count for something.
He may not be remembered as a roaring success at Old Trafford when he eventually steps aside, but he has done a good job of implementing some stability at a club who desperately needed it.
Plus, he might well win something this season now the Europa League final beckons.
15. Ronald Koeman
Managing Barcelona this season has been no easy task given the soap opera behind the scenes, but Koeman seems to have done a far better job of it than many expected him to.
He’s steadied the ship somewhat, appeased Lionel Messi, got something resembling a tune out of Antoine Griezmann, and given a platform to various talented youngsters like Pedri, Ilaix Moriba and Oscar Mingueza.
And all that comes after he rebuilt the Netherlands into an actual, capable football team from the mess they were in 2018.
14. Julen Lopetegui
You’d have been laughed out of the building for naming Lopetegui as one of the world’s top managers a year ago, but his work with Sevilla has been exemplary.
They had no right to be in a La Liga title challenge given their comparative budget to the big three. And yet they managed it for a fair chunk of the season – only losing ground in match round 34.
13. Gian Piero Gasperini
Atalanta have set the world alight in their logic-defying charge up the Serie A table. Even if they never get around to actually winning it, it’s been an old-fashioned football fairy-tale, and at the core of it is Gasperini and his flagrantly optimistic tactics.
After their unlikely title challenge last season, they sit second, and look set for a return to the Champions League.
12. Marcelo Bielsa
His record of attainment may not exactly scream ‘legendary’, but Bielsa is one of the most influential managers around.
Over the course of a storied 31-year career, the Argentine has developed a truly unique style of football that has influenced some of the best coaches around. Recently, he’s led Leeds back to the Premier League, and kept them there quite comfortably.
11. Marco Rose
When you get your coaching education under Jurgen Klopp, there’s only one way your teams are going to play. And Rose hasn’t exactly broke the mould in that regard.
His breakneck style of football has taken RB Salzburg and Borussia Monchengladbach by storm, taking both teams to previously unheralded heights. He’s set to take over Borussia Dortmund in the summer, and we’re all anxious to see how that goes.
10. Brendan Rodgers
Claims that he’s done a better job at Leicester than Claudio Ranieri (thanks Jamie Carragher) are wide of the mark, but Rodgers has done a formidable job since taking the reins at Leicester.
He’s followed up three trophy-laden years at Celtic by turning the Foxes into a sustainable top four contender. Considering they were staring relegation in the face not so long ago, that’s been some effort.
9. Julian Nagelsmann
You don’t get the Bayern Munich job for nothing, do you?
Nagelsmann wasn’t even 30 when he took the Hoffenheim post but his age hasn’t stopped him from rocketing right to the top of German football. Now 33, he will leave RB Leipzig to take over their Bundesliga title rivals.
That’s something they definitely could not have said when he took over just a couple of years ago.
8. Mauricio Pochettino
Tottenham must yearn for the simpler times when Pochettino was their manager and the worst case scenario was merely qualifying for the Champions League.
The Jose Mourinho project did not go to plan but Pochettino has landed on his feet. Having just left the Champions League at the semi-final stage, however, his status could take a tanking if PSG fail to win Ligue 1.
7. Diego Simeone
Over the years, Simeone has steadily built Atletico into one of the most consistent sides in La Liga.
They looked dead set to win it for the second time under his tutelage earlier this season, but even though their dominance has yielded, they remain in with a strong chance. If they can get it over the line, then Simeone will likely be ranking a few spots higher soon.
6. Antonio Conte
Conte took his sacking from Chelsea personally, and now he’s on a mission to break Juventus’ Serie A stranglehold and oust Jose Mourinho as Inter’s best manager of the 21st century.
He has some way to go yet, but this season’s league title is a strong start.
5. Zinedine Zidane
He won three Champions Leagues on the spin not too long ago. He’ll be dining off that for a long time yet…not that he has to.
Zidane’s Real Madrid have been competitive this season and are still in the hunt for La Liga. If he can get it over the line, then his reputation as one of the world’s best coaches will only be enhanced further.
Central to his accomplishments has been a tactical dexterity rarely seen in top level management. While most coaches have a system they stick to, Zidane adapts his plan to the opposition, and it usually works.
4. Thomas Tuchel
Chelsea’s transformation under Tuchel has been astonishing. Sam Allardyce disasterclass aside, they’ve been basically flawless so far, and are in the finals of both the FA Cup and Champions League.
That is pretty wild when you consider where they were under Frank Lampard, looking on enviously at those above them in the Europa League positions.
3. Jurgen Klopp
Well, even the best have bad seasons. Despite Liverpool’s whimpering title challenge, Klopp’s reputation as one of the best in the game remains.
The German took over a Reds team who couldn’t even qualify for the Europa League in 2015 and within five years they were champions of England, Europe and the world all at once.
They’ve regressed significantly this season but they will be out to prove in 2021/22 that their poor performances this term have been the exception, not the rule.
2. Hansi Flick
Anyone who wins a sextuple at any level of football is going to be right in the running here.
We don’t have the space to list everything Flick won during his brief tenure as Bayern Munich manager…but it’s a lot!!!
1. Pep Guardiola
Yeah yeah yeah, predictable, I know. But what can you do when the guy just keeps coming back for more?
Man City weren’t in great shape when Guardilola took them over. And while it is clearly easier to win trophies when you have the budget of City, it’s still not easy. It doesn’t matter how much money you throw at it, three league titles in four years is far from a given.
The Catalan boss is back on top of his game with City this season as they charge to another Premier League. If they can get the Champions League over the line, then he will have won it all in Manchester.
RELATED STORY: Every one of Jose Mourinho’s managerial stints – ranked
Edited by Tiyani wa ka Mabasa