Managing a football team is a tough job these days. No matter how successful you’ve been in the past, it’s always a question of what have you done for us lately in the modern era. While many people have heard that coaches are hired to be fired, that’s not exactly true as they’re hired to do a job. And that job is to win league titles and assorted other silverware.
This list features the 10 best and 10 of the most successful managers in football history. Most of them have retired after fine careers while a few others are still active and trying to add to their list of trophies. Some of these managers may have endured less-than-stellar spells at some point of their careers, but overall they were/are the cream of the crop.
10. Pep Guardiola
Some fans will believe Pep Guardiola should be ranked higher on this list, but in all honestly, there were probably dozens of managers who could have achieved what he did with Barcelona and Bayern Munich. The 46-year-old Spaniard will definitely climb the rankings though if he can guide Manchester City to an English Premier League or European title. There’s no doubt the former midfielder helped revolutionize the sport somewhat with his tiki-taka style of play and he won just about everything possible with Barcelona. He also learned some of his craft while playing for Johan Cruyff several years ago. Guardiola’s biggest achievements have been three La Liga titles and a pair of Champions League crowns with Barca along with three straight Bundesliga titles and two more domestic cups at Bayern Munich.
9. Rinus Michels
To realize how well respected Rinus Michels was as a manager, consider the former Dutch international striker and four-time manager was named manager of the century by FIFA in 1999. Along with managing Holland, Michels was also in charge of several top club teams including Ajax, Barcelona, FC Koln and Bayer Leverkusen. It took him a few years to taste success with Holland as he didn’t hoist any international silverware until guiding his squad to the European Championship in 1988. He came close 14 years earlier though when the Dutch team made it to the World Cup Final. Most of his accomplishments came at club level as he helped turn Ajax into one of the world’s best teams by winning four Eredivisie championships. He also believed in the ‘Total Football’ style of play and won the European Cup with Ajax in 1970/71 along with major trophies with FC Koln and Barcelona.
8. Sir Matt Busby
Sir Matt Busby of Scotland will always be a legendary figure with Manchester United supporters even though he played with arch rivals Liverpool and Manchester City. He became a beloved figure at Old Trafford after leading the club to three top-flight league championships in his first 10 years in charge along with an FA Cup. What makes Busby such an excellent manager was the fact that he had to basically rebuild the Man United squad following the 1958 Munich Air Disaster. Eight of the team’s players perished due to the plane crash along with three club officials and 12 other passengers. The team, known as the ‘Busby Babes’ at the time, was quickly contending for trophies again thanks to the likes of Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best. After nine weeks in the hospital, Busby went on to win another three English trophies and captured the European Cup in 1967/68.
7. Arrigo Sacchi
Arrigo Sacchi of Italy went from selling shoes to being one of the greatest football managers of all time with Italian greats AC Milan late in the 1980s. Sacchi joined the club with basically no football background to speak of and won the Serie A crown in his first year at the helm in 1987/88. He followed that accomplishment by winning the European Cup in both of the next two seasons along with another five trophies. He left AC Milan as one of the most-feared teams in Europe and then went on to manage the Italian national team. He led the Italians to the World Cup Final in 1994 in the USA, but lost the game in a penalty shootout. Sacchi also managed Parma and Atletico Madrid and spent the last year of his career as the director of football at Spanish giants Real Madrid in 2004/05.
6. Jose Mourinho
Current Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho may rub some people the wrong way by his personality and self-given nickname of ‘The Special One,’ but he’s a heck of a football manager. The native of Portugal started his managerial career in his homeland in Lisbon with Benfica and has enjoyed success with numerous other top clubs. He’s lifted the Champions League on two occasions with Inter Milan and Porto as well as league titles in four different European nations. The 54-year-old has achieved this feat with Porto in Portugal, Chelsea in England, Inter Milan in Italy and Real Madrid in Spain. In total, he’s won eight league titles along with other silverware such as the Coppa Italia (Italy), the Cop del Rey (Spain), the Taca de Portugal and the FA Cup in England.
5. Carlo Ancelotti
Italian Carlo Ancelotti finished as runner up in the Italian Serie A with Parma as well as two times at Juventus before winning his first trophy. That historic moment came in 2002/03 when he won the European Champions League with AC Milan. He led Milan to another Championship League title as well as a Serie A triumph. In addition, he led Chelsea to a Premier League championship in England as well as an FA Cup victory. It doesn’t end there though as the 58-year-old guided Paris St. Germain to a French Ligue 1 crown and then Real Madrid to Champions League glory. He has also been successful in the Bundesliga by winning the German league last season. Ancelotti has won four league titles in four different countries and is the only manager to win three Champions Leagues and reach four finals.
4. Udo Lattek
Udo Lattek was a man who led his teams to a trio of European trophies, eight Bundesliga championships, and was an excellent manager and inspirational leader. Lattek first joined Bayern Munich back in 1970 when he was just 35 years old. He had no managerial or playing experience and the fans didn’t really know what to make of his appointment. He had some teaching experience though as he was actually a former school teacher and had been on the staff of the 1966 West German national team. The supporters were obviously overjoyed with Lattek’s results as he won three straight German crowns with Bayern Munich and the club’s first European Cup. However, he lost his job shortly after winning Europe and joined rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach for more glory. He also won the 1981/82 European Cup Winners’ Cup with Barcelona before returning to Munich. In total, Lattek won 14 major trophies.
3. Vicente del Bosque
Success followed Spanish native Vicente del Bosque wherever he went. He enjoyed three separate stints with Real Madrid and was the most successful manager ever for the senior national side. Del Bosque got off to a great start by leading Real to the European Champions League crown in 1999/2000 and then again in 2001/02. He also won a pair of La Liga championships with the star-studded team. He actually did even better when he became the boss of the national team and became a Spanish treasure when he lifted the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championship just two years later. At this time, his squad was generally recognized as one of the best the planet had ever seen. With his calm demeanor, Del Bosque knew how to handle the egos of his players and his teams always seemed to gel perfectly under his tutelage.
2. Sir Alex Ferguson
It’s simply personal taste where you place Scotsman Sir Alex Ferguson on this list as he’s arguably number one in many people’s books. Of course, Ferguson became a legendary manager during his spell with Manchester United between 1986 and 2013. But let’s not forget that he had already won three league titles in Scotland with Aberdeen before that along with the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and four Scottish Cups. While at Old Trafford, Ferguson would add to his trophy cabinet by capturing 13 Premier League championships, two European Champions Leagues and five FA Cups. In fact, he won 38 pieces of silverware during his 26 years with United. However, some people believe he should have won even more considering the dominant talent he had at his disposal. Either way you look at it, he’s one of the best two football managers ever.
1. Bob Paisley
Unfortunately, Bob Paisley’s name isn’t nearly as recognizable as it should be. The Englishman got his feet wet with Liverpool as assistant manager from 1959 to 1974 then took over as boss until 1983. He had also played with the club from 1946 to 1954, several years as its captain. Paisley was basically a jack of all trades with the team before taking over from Bill Shankly, another Liverpool legend. Along with Carlo Ancelotti, Paisley is the only manager to win three European Cups/Champions Leagues, but Paisley is the only man to achieve it with the same team. He won an average of 2.2 trophies per year with Liverpool as he placed 19 pieces of silverware in his cabinet in just nine years as manager. These included three League Cups, six league championships, a UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup. He also took home six runners-up medals in various competitions. Fans should have realized he’d be somebody special since Paisley helped the club win its first top-flight league title in 24 years during his first season as a player.