Top 10 Best Football Managers in the World

Updated on September 2, 2018
Thomas Swan profile image

Thomas Swan has been an avid fan of the English Premier League and European football for more than 20 years.

Football managers are responsible for leading their team to victory.
Football managers are responsible for leading their team to victory. | Source

Who are the best football managers?

Managing a football team requires a diverse array of talents and a substantial knowledge of the game. As well as being tactically astute, managers should be able to work individually with players to motivate and discipline them. Their instructions need to be communicated effectively, and they must anticipate the physical and psychological condition of their players. Of special importance is a manager's ability to make intelligent substitutions and tactical changes during matches.

As a prerequisite, managers need to earn the respect of their players by leading them competently. Many talented tacticians fail because they don't have the authority to lead. It takes a special kind of individual to be both an artist and a drill sergeant. The following list of managers epitomize this character, and have translated their ability into remarkable success in the football world.

10. Mircea Lucescu

This Romanian manager managed Shakhtar Donetsk from 2004 to 2016, guiding the Ukrainian team to every domestic trophy and the 2009 UEFA Cup. Shakhtar are now a formidable force in European football, reaching the quarter finals of the Champions League in 2011. Lucescu has won 12 league titles and 9 domestic cups during his time in Romania, Turkey and Ukraine. In 2016 he left to manage the Russian club, Zenit St. Petersburg. He currently manages the Turkish national side.

See Mircea Lucescu Invade the Pitch

9. Jürgen Klopp

Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp, is a rising star in the football world. He transformed the fortunes of Borussia Dortmund, bringing them league titles in 2011 and 2012, and the German Cup in 2012. Klopp's reign ended the undisputed dominance of Bayern Munich, and established Dortmund as a major force in European football. He assembled an excellent team in all positions and favored a quick style of counter-attacking football that was quite similar to Arsenal (in their better years). Dortmund went on a 28 match unbeaten streak in 2012, and Klopp's side also reached the 2013 Champions League final. He recently took Liverpool to three cup finals, including the 2018 Champions League final, but was defeated in each.

8. Pep Guardiola

After a distinguished career as a defensive midfielder for Barcelona, Josep Guardiola was elevated to manager of the club's B team in 2007. One year later, he was made first team boss. After making drastic and risky changes to Barcelona's first team and footballing strategy, the club won the treble in his first season. Pep went on to win 3 La Liga titles, 2 domestic cups, 3 Super cups, 2 Champions Leagues, 2 European super cups, and 2 World club cups, claiming a total of 14 trophies in 4 seasons. Guardiola then took a year out to recover before becoming Bayern Munich manager in 2013. He won the domestic double in his first season, and again in 2016, but never reached a Champions League final in his 3 years at the club. In all, he claimed a further 7 trophies with Bayern. In 2016, he took over at big-spending Manchester City and, after a season without a trophy, won the league in emphatic fashion, recording the most points, wins, and goals of any team in Premier League history. Guardiola's teams are known for keeping possession, pressing relentlessly, and their sublime creativity.

Guardiola's Unusual Behavior

7. Marcello Lippi

This Italian manager led an unfancied Italian side to victory in the 2006 World Cup. He was also responsible for the domination of Italian football by Juventus in the late 90's. His management style focuses on team strength and unity rather than individual talent and ego. He won 5 league titles, 1 domestic cup, and the 1996 Champions League with Juventus. He currently manages the Chinese national team.

Lippi's World Cup winning team

6. Antonio Conte

Antonio Conte is a former Italian footballer who spent most of his career at Juventus and represented his country 20 times. His work-rate as a player mirrors the effort he now expects from the players he manages. Conte plays with wing-backs in a 5-3-2 formation and picks players who are versatile enough to suit his system. During the 2011-12 season, he led Juventus to the Serie A title without losing a single game. Conte stayed at Juventus for 3 years, winning Serie A in each season before managing Italy for their Euro 2016 campaign. His team knocked Spain out of the tournament but narrowly lost to Germany on penalties. He then joined Chelsea in 2016 and won the Premier League in his first season, claiming a (then) record 30 league victories. Antonio Conte has a long career ahead of him, and is likely to become one of the greatest managers of all time.

Antonio Conte Funny Moment

5. Diego Simeone

Diego Simeone is perhaps the most sought after rising star in the football management world. Before becoming notorious as manager of Atletico Madrid, he won two league titles in his native Argentina. On his arrival in Spain, he galvanized an underachieving Atletico side and took them to 5th in the league. He also guided them to victory in the 2012 Europa League. In his first full season as manager, his team thrashed Chelsea in the European Super Cup before winning the 2013 Spanish domestic cup. Next came Simeone's greatest achievement as Atletico Madrid manager: winning the 2014 Spanish league title by finishing ahead of both Barcelona and Real Madrid. Simeone's ongoing European success has only been limited by narrow defeats to Real Madrid in the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals.

Diego Simeone's Tactics

4. Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger managed Arsenal for 22 years. He advocates an attacking and flowing style of football, which made the club a favorite with neutral supporters. He has been criticized for his trust in youth, and his reluctance to bring in big names. Despite a lack of recent achievements, Wenger kept Arsenal in the top group of English football for two decades, winning 3 league titles, 7 FA Cups, and reaching the Champions League final in 2006. One of his Arsenal teams went an entire season unbeaten in 2003/04. Wenger also won a league title and domestic cup with Monaco.

Funny Story About Wenger and Toure

3. Louis Van Gaal

Known for his direct style of football, Van Gaal is also a strict disciplinarian. Described as proud and arrogant, his fusion of artistry and authority have brought him astounding success as a manager. With Ajax he won the 1995 Champions League, the 1992 UEFA Cup, 3 league titles and 1 domestic cup. At Barcelona and Bayern Munich he added 3 more league titles and 1 domestic cup. Incredibly, he also led AZ to the Dutch league title in 2009. Van Gaal then guided a much belittled Dutch side to 3rd place in the 2014 World Cup before taking over as Manchester United manager. His disappointing spell at United nevertheless included an FA Cup win.

Louis Van Gaal's mad celebration at Bayern

2. Jose Mourinho

Portuguese coach, Jose Mourinho, is known for his well organized defenses and the physical strength of his teams. He was a teacher of physical education before earning invaluable coaching experience under legends, Bobby Robson and Louis Van Gaal. He has won 8 league titles and 4 domestic cups with Porto, Chelsea, Inter, and Real Madrid. He also won the 2003 UEFA Cup and the 2004 Champions League with Porto, the 2010 Champions League with Inter, and the 2017 Europa League with Manchester United. After a mixed second spell at Chelsea, Mourinho became Manchester United manager at the start of the 2016-17 season and took them back into the Champions League.

Jose Mourinho's funniest moments

1. Carlo Ancelotti

When Carlo Ancelotti won the 2014 Champions League with Real Madrid, he became the only currently active manager to have won the tournament three times. Previously, he had won it twice with Milan in 2003 and 2007. Ancelotti's illustrious career includes league triumphs in Italy, England, France, and Germany, with Milan, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, and Bayern Munich respectively. He's also claimed domestic cups with Milan, Chelsea, and Real Madrid. Ancelotti's management style is one of versatility and adaptability. He plays formations that suit the attributes of his players. With 20 trophies to his name, he is one of the most decorated managers on this list.

Carlo Ancelotti is surprised by his team

Other Great Managers

Football managers captivate audiences around the world with their touchline antics. They are an unpredictable and sometimes mysterious part of the beautiful game.

There are a number of talented managers who weren't featured in this list. Honorable mentions go to Zinedine Zidane, Manuel Pellegrini, Ralf Rangnick, Muricy Ramalho, Unai Emery, Oscar Tabarez, Walter Mazzarri, Claudio Ranieri, Rafa Benitez, Vicente Del Bosque, and Fabio Capello.

Some readers may be surprised that Pep Guardiola only features at number 8 in this list. However, it's clear that Pep needs to test himself at lesser clubs before his ability can be properly judged. Not reaching a Champions League final in 3 years at Bayern Munich suggests he may be overrated. However, his record-breaking 2nd season at Manchester City is proof that he's talented enough for this list.

Football management requires a unique variety of skills and psychological traits. It is not simply a matter of defensive or attacking philosophy. The best football managers value team unity, hard work, organization, and harsh discipline. Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this compilation!

Questions & Answers

    © 2013 Thomas Swan

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      • profile image

        Gem Rubiny 

        5 months ago

        Hey, how comes Wenger is in the list, but Alex Ferguson is not even a honorable mention???

      • profile image

        Mohammed Mossaad 

        7 months ago

        Pep Guardiola should definitely be number 1!

        This season proves that he is much more talented than Mourinho.

      • Thomas Swan profile imageAUTHOR

        Thomas Swan 

        9 months ago from New Zealand

        By popular demand (and his recent achievements at City) Pep Guardiola is now included in this list. Thank you for your comments everyone!

        Thank you especially for your comment David. I've included Rafa Benitez in the honorable mentions.

        Manuel Pellegrini has dropped out of the top 10 for now.

      • profile image

        nbn 

        9 months ago

        Where is guardiola such a genuines man

      • profile image

        hoa 

        9 months ago

        where is pep guardiola ?

      • profile image

        David Cartier 

        12 months ago

        Great list, I completely agree with the decision to exclude Guardiola.

        Firstly anyone wins the league with Bayern Munich. Secondary do all football pundits and fans have short-term memory loss, a gentle reminder:

        At Barcelona Guardiola "took" Rijkaard's formation and tactics. All that he added was the high press which Del Bosque was implementing with the Spanish squad. Another proof for him to be considered highly overrated both Rijkaard and Luis Enrique won Champions league titles either side of Guardiola's reign, showing how any team with Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi at their peaks is unstoppable.

        On a separate matter, I would consider the inclusion of Rafa Benetiz. Honours speak for themselves but he has practically overachieved at every club he has been at. He is often overlooked for his pragmatic approach and his anti-social character, but along with Wenger changed the Premier league.

        1) When Benitez was appointed at Liverpool he was laughed at because he used to rotate his squad, now every premier league team does it. Benitez argued it ensures his top players were at optimum levels for big games.

        2) When questioned about the English game Benitez stated the level of the reserve leagues were shocking. He explained why the National team could not win anything as the gap in competition between first team and reserves was massive. Therefore reserve players and young players would be the most affected, most of those players were English. Since 2005 when he stated this, English football has built up to a high standard of competitive reserve leagues. The results are players becoming later bloomers. The gap for competitiveness has shrunk using this methodology, fringe players are sharper and generally reserve football levels have improved giving more chances to develop younger players. These players are primarily English hence improving the outlook of the future for the National squad.

        3) Benitez has won a trophy at every club he has been at. Many major trophies n that list too. Champions League, UEFA Cup and La Liga.

        He is the only manager in history to have won the UEFA Europa League, UEFA Super Cup, UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup.

        Benitez is way underrated and Guardiola is way overrated, still a great list.

      • profile image

        Desmond 

        14 months ago

        What of Zidane champoins league double historic?

      • Thomas Swan profile imageAUTHOR

        Thomas Swan 

        14 months ago from New Zealand

        Guardiola has yet to prove himself worthy. Managing the best team in the world, with Lionel Messi at his peak, wasn't difficult. Then moving to the new best team in the world (Bayern, after the great work of Jupp Heynckes), and not even getting them to a Champions League final for 3 years, was less than impressive. In his first season at Man City, he barely got them into the top 4, despite massive resources. He'd need to win the Premier League a couple of times, or reach a CL final, before I'd consider him.

        As for Alex Ferguson, he retired long ago. I try to keep the list current.

      • profile image

        M.Yalezo 

        14 months ago

        What about Pep guardiola?

      • profile image

        lolwut 

        14 months ago

        Sir Alex Ferguson, Pep Guardiola?

      • profile image

        Socrates Tículos 

        15 months ago

        Louis Van Gaal over Guardiola, ok.

      • Thomas Swan profile imageAUTHOR

        Thomas Swan 

        15 months ago from New Zealand

        Updated to include Antonio Conte. He was effectively 11th for last season, but has to be included now after winning the Premier League in his first year in England. Removed Otto Rehhagel who's been retired a while.

      • profile image

        Jake 

        18 months ago

        ROFL Arsene forever 4th.

      • profile image

        Amara 

        19 months ago

        I fully agree with the entire ruling based upon the criteria.

        Thanks enough

      • Thomas Swan profile imageAUTHOR

        Thomas Swan 

        23 months ago from New Zealand

        I remove managers from the list who've been retired a long time. Ferguson was originally #1. I removed him a couple of years ago. Just removed Ottmar Hitzfeld too.

      • profile image

        James 

        23 months ago

        I'm a gunner through and through. But where the hell is Ferguson

      • Thomas Swan profile imageAUTHOR

        Thomas Swan 

        2 years ago from New Zealand

        Thanks for the recent comments guys. I've wanted to put Diego Simeone in this list for some time. Now I've finally updated it, Simeone is at #5.

        I removed Ottmar Hitzfeld who retired a couple of years ago and doesn't look like coming back. I moved Mourinho to #2 after his disappointing season at Chelsea and put Ancelotti at #1. Ancelotti has been consistently better imo, and has 3 CL wins. Claudio Ranieni has an honorable mention now. Him and Conte are close to being in this list.

        Alex Ferguson is long retired, which is why he isn't on here.

        Guardiola needs to prove himself at a lesser club. I'm glad you agree with me `Lilbudi'. He took charge at Barca just as Messi was reaching his peak. They were the best team in the world. Then, just as Jupp Heynkes makes a better Bayern side, and wins the CL, look who takes over: Guardiola! Yet, in 3 years, he couldn't even get them to a CL final. If it had gone on any longer, more people would have started questioning him. He's always had the best players to work with, but his time at Bayern was a failure imo. City will be a bit more of a test, but he'll still have massive resources to play with.

      • profile image

        Sarkis 

        2 years ago

        What about diego simeone? ?

      • profile image

        Saeed 

        2 years ago

        Where's Alex Ferguson

      • profile image

        LilBudi 

        2 years ago

        Finally, someone agrees with me that Guardiola needs to prove at a smaller club.

        Expected to win champions league at Bayern due to him being called the best manager but he failed.

        To me he is a solid manager that has the best players and teams to work with, and this is the reason why he wins trophies.

        People think this is why Luis Enrique,current boss of Barca wins, but the same should also be said about Guardiola.

      • profile image

        Unknown 

        2 years ago

        No Guardiola? You're either bitter or just really really clueless.

      • FootballNut profile image

        FootballNut 

        2 years ago

        Jose Mourinho at number one?

        I believe how good a manager is, all depends on what players he or she has.

        For example, if Sir Alex Ferguson never had the players that come through the Manchester United ranks back in the early 1990's would he have been successful?

        It was thanks to the youth that came through that attracted other top players from around the world to Manchester United. If Ferguson never had that group of players come through in the early 90's, it is possible that he would not have signed world class players on an ongoing basis as Manchester United would not have appealed to such players.

        Yes, managers help guide players and name the teams based on who is available and who is not, it is not really a hard task to pick who is best to play against certain teams.

        It backs it up this season, Mourinho is the best manager in the world, he is a genius and so on, if that is the case then why is his team sitting 2 points from relegation nearly half way through the season? If he was a genius, or if managers are so great in general he would have pulled Chelsea out of that situation weeks ago, he does not have performing players so he looks like an average manager. Players have control of what managers are deemed good and what managers are deemed average, if managers were in control of how great they are Jose would be doing great things currently, but he can't because the players can't be bothered.

      • profile image

        SHANTANU 

        2 years ago

        why not sir alexxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

      • Joe3santacoloma profile image

        Joseph Santacruz 

        3 years ago from Warsaw, Poland

        Good stuff.... here's a small article about Manu, in case you want to check it out :)

      • worldsoccer profile image

        Kamrul Hasan 

        3 years ago from Dhaka

        hm, i see. But Thomas what About Arsène Wenger? He is loyal but I guess can't tell that he is one of the best. Can we? If you really think about winning CL.

      • Thomas Swan profile imageAUTHOR

        Thomas Swan 

        3 years ago from New Zealand

        Thanks for commenting worldsoccer. I removed Alex Ferguson some time after he retired. Unlike my other articles, this is about the best current managers. Though, Hitzfeld has retired now I think, so it might need updating further. Perhaps Guardiola will go in if he wins the CL this year.

      • worldsoccer profile image

        Kamrul Hasan 

        3 years ago from Dhaka

        Thanks for sharing it. But I was expecting Sir Alex Ferguson! Hope you have a reason.

      • Thomas Swan profile imageAUTHOR

        Thomas Swan 

        4 years ago from New Zealand

        Hi Samuel, I think a lot of managers could have taken that Barca team and won some trophies. Heck, I probably could have! When his team was finally humiliated and displaced at the top of European football, where did he go?... to the team that displaced them. What did he achieve there?... well, he got comprehensively beaten by Real Madrid in the CL semis. I wouldn't say he's made them a better team. Nevertheless, Pep needs to manage a lesser club or it'll be near-impossible to properly judge his talent. The best managers prove their ability, like Mourinho at Porto and Inter, Van Gaal at AZ or Holland, Rehhagel with Greece, etc.

      • profile image

        samuel 

        4 years ago

        I hate barca.. still i would ask you.. Where is the hell is guardiola !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Thomas Swan profile imageAUTHOR

        Thomas Swan 

        4 years ago from New Zealand

        Thank you Richard and tmheffernan for commenting.

      • tmheffernan profile image

        tmheffernan 

        4 years ago from Middle East

        Thomas you know your football and your top tens a great read.

      • profile image

        Richard-Murray 

        4 years ago

        Positronwildhawk

        SAF is a great manager but in truth if we are going to stick with managers who work with low teams and actually have them overreach beyond the pundits, I would have to say in the past few years roberto martinez has done a great job. Top clubs should do great and usually do great but out of spain, england, france, italy, and germany, which country has had a truly low side when a trophy: wigan and swansea and saint ettient. atletico madrid isn't a little side. lazio isn't little. Saint ettiene is barely little.

        Thomas

        Thank you, Porto was the cheapest side to win the UEFA CL since porto won it, a bnch of kids, and as for Inter, that was a very aged side relatively to the age ranges outside of italy that won it all. And, Barca is a high price team, I don't know where this idea of a low wage team with barca comes from. Klopp has done very well, but the truth is, being a successful manager is a blend of everything: fitness bug [which we undervalue in teams performances], players's skill sets and style in the coaches system, the coaches system and management/sacrifice of tournaments.

        and when you look at Gervinho who is being played by his former lille coach at roma the way he likes, you have to argue against wenger. And I still feel that walcott's career was hurt sticking with wenger.

      • Thomas Swan profile imageAUTHOR

        Thomas Swan 

        4 years ago from New Zealand

        Thanks PositronWildhawk. I suppose Mourinho has had a lot of money down the years, though his two greatest successes were with Porto and Inter. Those teams didn't look capable of doing what he got them to do. Klopp looks to be a great manager, but he hasn't been around long enough yet. As an Arsenal fan, I don't know if I could put Wenger higher without being brought into question myself! His longevity and consistency has been good, but 8 years without a trophy can't be ignored. The silly wage policy, and playing people out of position has riled me a bit too. Many people have been saying that the techniques he brought to England have been replicated by all the other top clubs now. Everyone has their European scouting networks, and a desire to play beautiful football now. I think Guardiola was continuing with what Barca had in place before him though, and he did seem to benefit from the emergence of Messi too.

      • PositronWildhawk profile image

        PositronWildhawk 

        4 years ago from London

        Great hub! Although I think when it comes to comparing managers you have to consider money spent. Mourinho has had a lot of success but wherever he's gone he's always had a fat wallet to empty and for that reason I'd have him further down. On that note I'd also have Wenger and Klopp further up. In addition I'd have Guardiola in there somewhere. I know he's not prove himself at another club but the success he had at Barca was phenomenal. I think the fact they relied on a team game instead of individual brilliance shows the quality of the manager. However cannot disagree with SAF! Best manager there has been and probably ever will be.

      • Thomas Swan profile imageAUTHOR

        Thomas Swan 

        5 years ago from New Zealand

        Thank Kiberd. The problem with Pep is he's gone to the one team who have become better than Barca, which makes me think he won't be tested there either. However, the previous manager set a high level, so he at least has to maintain that. Harry is decent enough, but I think most would disagree with you on that. His flop with QPR didn't do him any favors, and his failure to secure the Champions League for Spurs wasn't great either. He did alright at Portsmouth though. I don't think many of those managers will be entering the top 10. Moyes will never be SAF, Guardiola doesn't challenge himself, Martinez is stuck at a club who will never truly challenge beyond what they have been doing, Pottechino and Rodgers have scope to impress though.

      • profile image

        Kiberd 

        5 years ago from Ireland

        Very good post, few surprises with inclusions and exclusions in my opinion. Agree with Guardiola being left out, yet to prove himself at another club than Barca. I feel the players were the main contributors to success there. However having said that I would have Harry Redknapp in there, done a good job wherever he has gone in my opinion. I wonder how this list will look in a few years.. Will there be the likes of Moyes,Guardiola,Martinez,Pottechino or Rodgers, to name a few? Overall a very good post, agree with the majority of it. Well done.

      • Thomas Swan profile imageAUTHOR

        Thomas Swan 

        5 years ago from New Zealand

        Well Mourinho had his worst season this time round, so his reputation has decreased a little since writing this. He did finish above Barca in the league the previous season, which was pretty impressive considering the difference in team quality. Have to remember how he won the CL with Porto and Inter too. Based on my research while writing this, most people place Mourinho 2nd. I'm going to have to disagree with Guardiola too, but I'm waiting to see if he proves me wrong at Bayern. Still, he's gone from the previous best team in the world, to the current best team, so it would be no surprise if he keeps winning. I value what Pellegrini has done at Malaga and Villareal more than anything Guardiola has done yet.

      • pmarinov profile image

        Blogger at Best 

        5 years ago from Detroit MI

        I like your list but I think that I would disagree with you on Mourinho. I don't think that he is the right pick for number two. I would pick a coach like Guardiola, even though I don't like Barcelona, but he did way more than Mourinho ever did. I do agree with the pick in number one Sir Alex is the best football coach ever.

      • Thomas Swan profile imageAUTHOR

        Thomas Swan 

        5 years ago from New Zealand

        I think we were a bit harsh on Capello. Germany simply had better players, and we would have been at 2-2 without the terrible match officials. They caught us on the break when we pushed forward to win. Otherwise, his win record for us is very good. Capello, was also the manager of Milan when they were dominating European football in the 90's, and he managed Roma when they won Serie A as well. If I'd done a top 15, he probably would have made it.

      • CCahill profile image

        CCahill 

        5 years ago from England

        Ha love the Arsene Wenger-Ray Parlour video

        Fabio Capello rightly doesn't deserve to make the list after his England flop, rubbish rubbish manager lol

      • CCahill profile image

        CCahill 

        5 years ago from England

        Ha love the Arsene Wenger-Ray Parlour video

        Fabio Capello rightly doesn't deserve to make the list after his England flop, rubbish rubbish manager lol

      • Thomas Swan profile imageAUTHOR

        Thomas Swan 

        5 years ago from New Zealand

        Di Matteo needs a lot longer to prove himself. I think very few people would say Di Matteo is better than Wenger. Conte is better than Di Matteo because of his unbeaten year at Juventus. Guardiola is better, but needs to prove himself at another club. Fabio Capello didn't even make this list, and he's won a tonne of trophies with Milan and Roma. Also most people rate Wenger higher than I have actually.

      • nlazar profile image

        N. Lazar 

        5 years ago from USA

        Arsene Wenger yet no Di Matteo??!?!?!?!? Wenger 7 years no trophies, Matteo 7 months 2 trophies...

      • profile image

        Richard-Murray 

        5 years ago

        good list:)

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