Football News: World's Top Managers?

 

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World's Top Managers?

This is one of the most difficult lists I have ever done, so thanks to whoever suggested I did this article, you really gave me a difficult list to produce. So many factors to weigh up and decide on. Some that have been around for ages but with little trophy success but have enjoyed comparative success. It is just so subjective as to what makes one manager better than another, with so many different factors to consider, that it makes it difficult to be happy with your own list of the best, let alone someone else's! These are not in any particular order, just the order they came to mind.


Arsene Wenger Arsenal

It feels like Arsene has been around forever, managing Arsenal. I am sure there are kids that believe the club was actually named after him, as he seems so synonymous with it. The problem is, and it is a big problem, his comparative lack of success in recent years almost saw me leave him out. Wenger no longer seems to have that edge he had when he first arrived in England, which saw him bring in competitive players to add fight and bite to the midfield.

The recruitment policy seems to be flawed, for every Alexis Sanchez there is eight or nine players brought in that have added little to the team. Then there is the constant injuries, the failing discipline within the squad and the continual loyalty to players that have constantly let him down. You can see why Sanchez is frustrated there and falling out with his team mates.

For most clubs, his recent top four finishes and couple of FA Cups would seem like genuine success, but at Arsenal that is not enough, certainly not for fans being forced to pay the highest ticket prices in European football to watch their team play at home. We all know Wenger worked a minor miracle of sorts to keep the Gunners semi-competitive while its future was mortgaged to pay for the stadium. Now that burden has lifted and funds are there for him to spend, he has shown an inability to raise the bar, to bring in the right players, instil the right attitude amongst the squad or to even fix the training issues that see the players suffer so many injuries.

In recent seasons, the will he or won't he stay saga has held the club back badly. Knowing Wenger is coming to the end of his time is certainly an ongoing issue that will be hanging over the North London club until the day he goes. The only question is whether he will outstay his welcome or he will leave before it is too late. Right now he is beginning to look like one of those boxers who has become addicted to the beatings and keeps stepping in the ring, refusing to accept his time has past.


Mauricio Pochettino Tottenham Hotspur

The Tottenham Hotspur manager is still young and learning, for a manager, and has yet to add trophies to his CV, but still he deserves inclusion on this list for the way he has lifted Spurs up a level since taking charge. Pochettino now faces the biggest challenge of all, that of taking that final step from challenging for trophies to winning trophies. Until he does so, the former Southampton coach will always have question marks over his ability.

What he has done is tightened up the defence, creating one of the best defensive units in European football, despite giving the full backs freedom to attack at will. His team work hard and play good football, in the main, but they are very reliant, maybe overly so, on Harry Kane's goals. While the striker woes are not entirely his fault, the way every forward brought in has struggled does suggest there is a potential issue with his man-management of the fringe players.

From Kieran Trippier to Ben Davies to Heung-Min Son and Vincent Janssen, none of the fringe players have shown any signs of performing well enough to force their way into his plans. There has been a long list of fringe players brought in, none of whom have managed to produce consistently good performances. Also questions have to be asked about why Tom Carroll was never able to show a performance level similar to the ones he is now showing for Swansea City.

While there has been seemingly no problems keeping those players happy, evidenced by a number of them signing new contracts, his desire to utilise a small, tight squad, is possibly affecting those fringe players. Not that any of that will matter if he does manage to lead Spurs to trophy wins. Until then, he will always have question marks surrounding his ability.

Also he can take a lot of plaudits for his part in the rise of Southampton FC. He worked on the foundations built by the 'black box' etc set up there to make them a solid midtable Premier League team, with a comparatively small expenditure. All that is left for him now is to add trophies.


Pep Guardiola Manchester City

Guardiola has been given almost messianic status in the press, and amongst players. Clearly he is capable of coaching great players into playing exciting, attractive football which can blow other teams away, at times. He has won titles with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, I have no doubt he will lift one with Manchester City as well. Despite that, I do wonder if he is really as good as he is made out.

For starters his teams never seem able to maintain their quality for a long period, as their performances dip lower the longer that he is charge. While I have had that explained to me by saying that players suffer burnout, being unable to match his exacting standards, surely that shows a real weakness of his coaching?

While, when it clicks, his football is breathtaking, it seems to reliant on the whole team performing well that it can all fall apart if any one player has an off day. All those risks in dangerous areas can backfire spectacularly on his team on a bad day. However, for all my reservations, for all that he has an obscenely expensive squad but has fallen well behind Chelsea, despite Man City flopping in the Champions League, his record prior to taking over at Citeh means he has to be included.

Now Pep just has to prove he can win trophies by building a team, rather than taking over the best team in the league. With all of Man City's riches to back him, it is hard to see how he can possibly fail. However, his record makes it impossible to leave him out, even though I do not think he is anything like as good as the media make him out to be.

Right now though, it is impossible to judge him, even with the large sums spent, as he is still working with the squad that was in place, which is too old and unbalanced. It is unsuited to him and he will not give up his principles to suit the players. Whether you see that as a fault or an admirable trait is really down to what angle you are looking at it from.

One thing that is often cited as a big plus, but one I see as a major issue with his management, is his tendency to micro-manage every training session. Pep will want his players to react to every instant exactly as he wants them to, with no allowance for personality or differences in situations. Pep is looking for robots, not people, and that is always going to fall apart in the long term, as players get bored of being stifled and forced to do exactly what he wants.


Jose Mourinho Manchester United

If there is one man that does not need an explanation it is the self-styled 'Special One'. Any man who wins the league in Portugal, England, Italy, Spain and then England again deserves mention. Though nothing he has done will ever truly top his European success with Porto, he has still proven himself to be a winner no matter where he has ended up.

There is a lot to commend about Jose Mourinho, particularly in his earlier days, when he first arrived at Chelsea from Porto. There are many things he did which were refreshing and he was smiling, warm personality who brightened up the football scene in England. His attention to detail is legendary, with dossiers produced on opposition teams and players, to help him devise a tactical masterplan to deal with them.

However, particularly in recent years, there is a lot to dislike about Mourinho. Where once he was a breath of fresh air with his big beaming smile, now he is stale and miserable, grumpy even. His tactical plans of doing whatever it takes, whether by foul means or fair, feel even less palatable than they did when his Porto team dived and playacted their way to a UEFA Cup win all those years ago. Despite that, there can be no question he deserves a spot amongst the best managers in the world.


Jurgen Klopp Liverpool

Having taken Mainz 05 up to the top flight and then gone to Borussia Dortmund and won a couple of titles, it is fair to say Klopp joined Liverpool with a huge reputation. A reputation built on fast paced attacks and a high press, like so many he is, to a degree, a disciple of Marcelo Bielsa. Like Mourinho, he was initially a breath of fresh air, with his touchline antics and pleasant, smiling interviews. Two finals in his first part season augured well for this one.

However this season, his first full one at Liverpool, things have been more difficult since the turn of the year. Up until January, Klopp's Liverpool were looking like genuine title contenders, and playing some of the best football in the league. Since January, his star has waned as Liverpool struggle repeatedly to beat the lower half teams in the Premier League. Questions are now being asked of his tactics and if opponents have just 'worked him out'.

There is a lot more to it than that, this was largely a team looking destined to fight against relegation under Brendan Rodgers, before he was dismissed lasst season. With very little change to personnel, Klopp has put those same players in a battle for the top four. The discrepancy between the two performances is huge, but there is still a clear lack of quality in a number of positions in the first choice eleven. Klopp's appointment will not fix the recruitment issues at the club, which means he is currently acting with one arm tied behind his back.


Antonio Conte Chelsea

Like all of the managers in this list, Conte does have his weaknesses, in his case they are tactics, he can be outdone by the best, particularly in one off matches. What he does bring on the positive side does outweigh those disadvantages, to a large degree, with his relentless drive and determination making his team perform right through to the end of a league season, no matter what the circumstances. His team turns up each week.

As a player, he was once a victim of a late season collapse, missing out on a league title as the whole team switched off and coasted thinking it was already won. As a result, he never allows that to happen to any team he manages, there is no way he will allow his players to coast. Added to that, his main strength is man-management. He gets the most out of players who would otherwise not be good enough, getting them playing better than they have done before.

Even if you rule out the work he did with Juventus and forget about his time as Italy manager, you only have to take a quick look at the Premier League table to see how the wonders he can work. Yes he had an excellent starting platform, with the basics of a team that won the league the season before Leicester City, but he revitalised them. Conte turned them, from a fractious bunch of individuals bickering amongst themselves, back into a team.


Ronald Koeman Everton

If this list was being written prior to Koeman's arrival at Southampton, then there is no way his record would have got him into consideration. After early success, his career was more noticeable for a willingness to jump from job to job than for trophies won. Somehow the Saints top brass saw something in him and handed him the job of building on the work done by previous managers. Koeman built an extremely solid side, defensively even more sound than the one he inherited from Pochettino, with very good protection for the defence from the midfield, however it was very reliant on the central striker, Graziano Pelle, to score the goals.

Luckily for Koeman, the Italian striker was up to the task and scored the goals to improve Soton's position in the league to a 7th placed finish, which he then bettered the following season, ending the term in a highest ever Premier League finish for Saints, in 6th. Acrimony surrounded his exit, as he once again moved on, this time to join an Everton side promising him money to spend (and a massive pay rise), after the Merseyside club received an influx of cash from a new part-owner. This time he took over a struggling team, that had played ridiculously open football, resulting in goals leaking in.

The big Dutchman has fixed the defence and turned Everton into a carbon copy of his Saints side, once again a solid defensive platform with the entire attack focused on one target man striker, in Romelu Lukaku. Once again he has his team in the top half of the table, but this time around he is putting pressure on the top four teams, with European qualification still within reach. The worry is that, with everything so reliant on Lukaku, what happens if the Belgian striker has a lean spell, a bad injury or leaves? One thing Koeman has yet to prove, is whether he can build a team for the long term.


Diego Simeone Atletico Madrid

Simeone may not play the most expansive style of football, it is more along the lines of Jose Mourinho than Kevin Keegan, but there is no doubting that his pragmatic approach works. Managing Atletico Madrid, in the shadows of the mighty Real Madrid and their Galacticos, is never an easy task, but in this era of money being all important, it is particularly difficult. Simeone has worked what could be described as wonders to make Atletico competitive on a regular basis.

While he has only lifted the La Liga title once, every season his team is in there fighting for the title with Barcelona and the other Madrid side. His record is exceptional, especially when you consider that he is not just hampered by a comparative lack of cash but also by having to face up to never being able to sign the best players.

With a promise to stay at Atletico for a few years yet, there must be a lot of hope around the club that they may yet lift a few more league titles and make the Spanish league a genuine three club league. What is for sure is that his players will press and harry their opposition and fight each and every game for a result. Simeone is the opposite of Wenger, in many respects, as he would rather his players kicked the opposition off the park to win than lose playing pretty football.

This season has not been a vintage one for that Argentine, following his admittance after the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid that he had taken the 'mattress makers' as far as he could, Simeone has seen Sevilla jump ahead of them in the Primera Liga too. However, with a new stadium on the horizon, Simeone is now seeing a project for the long term, with hopes of more success in the future. For now it is a short term future of losing a top star and having to rebuild, as will no doubt happen again this summer with Antoine Griezmann.


Carlo Ancelotti Bayern Munich

A true veteran of the game now, Ancelotti has been there done that and won the t-shirt to take home at the end of it. Though the main criticism of Ancelotti, probably the only one, is that he does not win as many league titles as he should. Seen as a little too soft on the players he manages, though beloved by them, they can seem to lose focus during a league season as European success beckons. He has won a title in France, Italy and in England, with one in Germany about to be added, but most people do feel the teams he managed could, and should, have won more.

How can you criticise a man with three Champions League wins under his belt for not winning enough though? As well as two FIFA Club World Cups, three UEFA Supercups, one German Supercup, an Italian Supercup, an English Supercup (or, as it is better known in England, Community Shield), one Italian FA Cup, 1 Spanish FA Cup and one English FA Cup have been won by his teams. I have to admit though, I am firmly in the camp of feeling there should be more league trophies. Ancelotti's teams have been better than even that huge trophy haul suggests, but his focus on keeping player's happy has come at the expense of those extra trophies.

Having said that, his career would probably have been much shorter at the top level without that focus on the players. Only a few managers, ones entrenched at the club they manage, can afford to have fallouts with players, even a great manager like Mourinho has suffered badly due to one. What is for sure, Ancelotti is probably as far from the 'Italian style' of football, that the media presents to us, as it is possible to be. His teams are not hard nosed defensive battlers, sitting deep and looking to pick opponents off on the counter. Ancelotti's teams tend to be exciting to watch, with attacking verve and flair. His teams are ones for neutrals to watch and enjoy.


Claudio Ranieri N/A

Yes he did get sacked by Leicester earlier on this season with his title winning side involved in a title battle, but that title alone puts him in the top manager bracket. Despite being sniffily dismissed as 'the Tinkerman' in Englad during his time with Chelsea, Ranieri had shown then that he is an excellent manager and was unlucky to be replaced by Jose Mourinho in Roman Abramovich's early days. Everywhere he went since he had a similar story, never quite being a trophy winner, but always did well.

Last season, however, was a truly special feat. To win the title with a rag-tag bunch of players that were not seen as good enough, for various reasons, by the big clubs. Ranieri created a homogenous team that seemed at times to have an extra player on the pitch. Though a large part of that sucess was N'Golo Kante (or the Kante twins as he has been referred to by a member of the Chelsea staff recently) and his incredible athleticism, it was not just about Kante, as has been shown in recent weeks.

Ranieri has shown how to win with humility and how to deal with the snide digs from the English media, with his always smiling persona in press conferences. He turned himself from a joke, a parody of himself, and made himself relevant and respected. It is only a matter of time before he is back in the game.


Joachim Loew Germany

Loew has taken an unusual route to the top, acting as Jurgen Klinsmann's number two in the national set up is not normally going to get you that job. The usual is for the assistant to get a caretaker role until a new man is found, but Loew had done enough to convince people he was the one who actually created the German success under Klinsmann. It was only natural to give him the job when Klinsmann went.

Since then, Loew has gone on to prove the suspicions right, that he was the power behind the throne, the one most responsible for the success, by taking Germany even further. He has gone on to create one of the best national teams in history, a real powerhouse in the international arena, despite there always being large gaps in the squad.

There are always squads out there that are more complete, with better players overall, yet you know Germany will be the team to beat in any competition they enter. While they are not quite all-conquering in the way Spain were, they do not quite have the level of players that Spain had at their disposal in those days. That is why Loew deserves so much credit, Germany are the best team, well managed and generally performing to their best, rather than the best players.


Michael O'Neill Northern Ireland

I am sure most of you will know just how impressive he has been as manager in his current role, achieving results far beyond the capabilities of his players, taking them to their first ever European Championship in 2016. It was his two league titles with League of Ireland side Shamrock Rovers that got him the job in the first place and showed he is a quality manager deserving of a step up in level.

He only just scrapes in, even with his great record, because he built this team himself to reach this level. Which is why Chris Coleman misses out, because he was, as he has himself acknowledged, working with Gary Speed's team and had a great platform already in place. O'Neill, on the other hand has taken over a struggling side and improved them.

When you add that to his feats Shamrock Rovers, which included making them the first League of Ireland team to reach the group stages of a European competition. He does need to step up to really prove himself deserving of a place amongst the best managers in the world, but, for now at least, he just about scrapes in.


Unai Emery Paris Saint Germain

If you discount his spell with Spartak Moscow, Emery has a very good record, despite his time at Spain being with clubs that were struggling financially. His Valencia side were stripped of David Villa and David Silva, but he still managed to finish in third for three seasons in a row. The disastrous spell in Moskva followed and then he returned to Spain to take over Sevilla. There he managed to lift three Europa Leagues in a row, establishing Sevilla as a European force.

Last summer saw him replace Laurent Blanc at PSG, who had swept the board in domestic football the previous season. Things have not gone quite so well in France, with there finally being some challengers for the title, after years of the club being light years ahead of the rest. Added to that, there was the capitulation to Barcelona in the knockout stages of the Champions League, despite taking a 4-0 lead in the first leg.

To really ensconce himself in this list, he needs to add league titles to his CV, as, right now, his trophy cabinet is missing those. That, to me, is the true measure, league titles. Winning the domestic league is what the best should aspire to do, so, without those, he still has to prove himself. His teams do play very watchable football, they do get results above expectations, but that next step he needs to take before he becomes accepted as a manager purely to keep struggling sides in a safe league position.


Massimiliano Allegri Juventus

Taking over Conte's Juve and maintaining the same level of success would have been some feat in itself, but to improve them, well that is the measure of a great coach. Under Conte, Juve would run away with Serie A every season, but they struggled in Europe. Allegri took over and turned them into a European powerhouse, leading them to the Champions League final. With the team being so far ahead of the competition in Serie A, European success was the only way to really judge his performance comparative to Conte.

Allegri has also had to rebuild a side which has lost its entire midfield since Conte left. Andrea Pirlo went into retirement in the MLS, Paul Pogba was sold for a world record fee to Manchester United and the best of the lot, Arturo Vidal, was sold to Bayern Munich. Despite this Juve have barely missed a beat in Serie A. That tells you a lot, but it is his European record that has seen him included in this list.


Jorge Sampaoli Sevilla

Unconventional and fiery, Sampaoli, like so many others, is a disciple of another Argentine football manager, Marcelo Bielsa. His management of Chile saw them lift the 2015 Copa America and earnt him a place on the shortlist of three for 2015 FIFA World Coach of the Year award. Sampaoli's time at Chile was successful but marred by ongoing battles with the federation over various issues and eventually he left in 2016.

Sevilla jumped in to take him, agreeing a two year deal with him in June 2016, though it is anyone's guess if he will see it out, as the club has gone into a major meltdown in recent months, off the pitch. However he did manage to end Zinedine Zidane's 40 match unbeaten run at Real Madrid to take Sevilla up to second in La Liga for a time. His teams play with passion and skill and generally are good to watch. His next step will be very interesting.


Phillip Cocu PSV Eindhoven

Cocu just about sneaks in, though it may actually be too early to really consider him one of the best. However, he broke Ajax's domination of the Eredivisie by winning the title in 2015 and then holding onto it the following year. This despite having been relegated from the job of head coach at PSV once back down to the youth coaching ranks. That desire to improve and learn is something that could take him far in the future.


Lucien Favre OGC Nice

After a summer of being messed about while Everton were considering managers, Favre got fed up of waiting and joined Nice instead. His dynamic, quick and attacking football has led them to unexpected heights, Favre has even managed to turn Mario Balotelli into a goalscorer!

The comparative success at Nice follows a period at Borussia Moenchengladbach, who he took from bottom of the league and revived them, turning them into regular competitors in European competition. All done while providing entertaining, well organised, attacking football and developing youngsters for the first team, rather than buying in ready made talent.


Leonardo Jardim AS Monaco

I think we all know the Monaco coach by now, after his brand of attacking football has lit up the Champions League, turning the usual snorefest into an avalanche of goals game after game. Having to rely on youth products, the Portugese manager has given them their head, looking to overwhelm opponents with lightning fast attacks from any area of the pitch. Jardim also emphasises hard work, with his players getting plenty of freedom to express themselves, but also working hard to recover the ball when they lose it.

Along with Favre, Jardim has turned Ligue Un into an exciting league to watch. He might very well lead Monaco to their first title since they lost the tax advantages that had previously allowed them to pay better wages than the rest of the league. That would truly be a feat worthy of praise, in a league that has the financial might of PSG to beat.


Marcelo Bielsa

Bielsa has to be in this list for his influence in the coaching world. Widely acknowledged by a large portion of this list as the best coach in the world, though his management is known for being a little eccentric. Eccentric enough to earn him the nickname 'Loco'. However, his high press, fast break football can be seen all over the world, with his disciples now legion. Mad he may be, but his methods are effective.


Tite Brazil

Adenor Leonardo Bacchi, better known at Tite, has resurrected Brazil from the doldrums Dunga had dragged them down to. Seven consecutive victories in qualifying made his Brazil team the first team to secure qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Well, other than the host country, who qualify automatically. As of 28 March 2017, his record as head coach of Brazil stood at played 9, won 9, scored 25, conceded 2!


Maurizio Sarri SSC Napoli

Sarri is another of the new breed of managers who favour attacking football over defensive. He has worked his way up from grassroots football to reach Serie A and the club of his home city, Napoli. Another to just sneak in, as he has shown signs of struggling to take Napoli on another step to challenge for the title. However, his work prior to his arrival at the Neapolitans showed a real promise and his first season also showed more. This season has been in patches brilliant, even though the club lost top scorer Gonzalo Higuain, so I feel Sarri has done just enough to deserve inclusion.

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