I have decided to rank my list of the top 10 managers this century. Managers who began their careers in the 1990s are eligible, but their 1990’s accomplishments are not valid criteria for my list. Sit back and enjoy!
#10 MARCELO LIPPI- The Wise One
Mr. Lippi was one of the best managers around at the beginning of this century. He won two Serie A titles with Juventus, and took them to a Champions League Final. Then, when the Italian national team job opened, he took it and led them to the 2006 World Cup title. You might ask, why is he not higher? One, he would be if we included the 1990s when he won double what he won these days with Juve. Two, he is tactically questionable. He is an incredible motivator of a squad, and specializes in keeping a unified dressing room, a major reason why the Italians still won despite all their scandal that summer. However, he is not exactly known as a tactician, he lets his team do the talking while he provides the inspiration. Third, in the 2010 World Cup, Italy were a disaster, not even making it out of the group, and after that World Cup, instead of taking another challenge, Lippi fled for the Chinese Super League. However, his trophy cabinet speaks for itself. I thought long and hard about where to put him, and if it was the 90s he would be top 5, but Marcelo will have to settle for 10.
#9 ANTONIO CONTE- The Drill Sergeant
Conte first made his name in the lower tiers of Italian football, getting both Bari and Siena promoted from the Serie B to the Serie A. Then, in 2011, the club he played for, Juventus, took a massive risk and hired him to manage them. Juventus finished 7th the year before, and had won nothing since their big scandal. Conte put a big stop to all that. In his first speech to the team he screamed, “It is CRIMINAL that we are not at least in the top 3. This is f**king Juventus! You should all be ashamed of yourselves! From now on, you only have one thing to do, and that’s what I TELL YOU TO DO! It’s time we stopped being CRAP!” The Bianconeri responded big time, winning three Serie A titles in a row in Conte’s three years there. Conte then took over the Italian national team at its lowest point talent wise. Most of its old veterans had retired, and today’s young talent hadn’t emerged yet. He had to work with Sunderland reject Emmanuel Giaccherini in his squad, and how bad do you have to be if you are rejected from SUNDERLAND? But in Euro 2016, he led the very limited Azzurri to the quarterfinals, beating Belgium and Spain along the way, and they only lost in a penalty shootout to world champions Germany. Then, he took over the job at Premier League club Chelsea, and in year one took the 10th place Blues to the EPL title, with a record number of points won along the way. He completely changed the tactics and mindset of the Blues. Why isn’t he higher? Because he is still young, and can’t yet compete trophies-wise with some of the people in front of him, but he is well on his way up this list.
#8 RAFA BENITEZ- The Underrated One
Benitez will never get the appreciation he deserves. He has always had a reputation as being a bit of an underachiever, that has failed when it mattered, but that could not be further from the truth. In 2001, he promoted Tenerife from the Segunda Division to La Liga, leading to Valencia to offer him their job. He won two La Liga titles with Valencia, which is very hard to do in a league so dominated by Barcelona and Real Madrid. This led to Liverpool to appoint him as their manager. At Liverpool, he won the FA Cup, took them as high as 2nd in the table, and was world class in Europe. Liverpool defeated the likes of Juventus, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter, and AC Milan in the Champions League under Benitez, and he led them to two UCL finals, winning one and losing one. His UCL victory, in 2005 against AC Milan in Istanbul, is the greatest final ever played, when Liverpool came back form 3-0 down at halftime to win 3-3 in a shootout. Benitez changing the formation at halftime is a major reason why. He then took over at Inter Milan after Liverpool, where despite the fans and players not taking to his methods, he still won a SuperCoppa Italiana. He then took the Chelsea job, where he led them to both third place and the Europa League crown, and if you want to know how hard it is to finish in the top 4 while in the Europa League, just ask the man ranked directly above Benitez! Next, he moved onto Napoli, where he finished third and fifth in his two seasons and won a Coppa Italia, and his transfers proved visionary, with over half of the starting XI of their current first place team being Rafa purchases. He then went to his boyhood club, Real Madrid, where despite only losing one match in 17, he was sacked in January, because Real Madrid is the managerial equivalent of The Apprentice, “You’re Fired!”. He is now in charge of Newcastle United, where despite relegation, he stayed to lead them back up to the Premier League, and they are now solidly mid table in the EPL. Some scoff at his lack of league titles, but I look at his overflowing trophy cabinet and all of his successful rebuilding jobs. Viva Rafa!
#7 ARSENE WENGER- The Invincible
What a difficult one to rank. If this was 2004, Le Professeur would be the undisputed #1, but if you ask some today, he is not even in the top 10. However, we cannot ignore that this century, Wenger has won 6 FA Cups, 2 Premier Leagues and been to a UCL final, all with one club. He has led Arsenal for 21 years, through good times and bad, and qualified for the Champions League in all but one of those years, all while remaining wholeheartedly committed to his own style of attacking football. Of course, we should not forget his biggest achievement of all, when Wenger guaranteed that Arsenal would go the entire 2003-04 season unbeaten in the EPL, and they did, leading to Arsenal to be nicknamed, The Invincibles. Some say he is now a senile old man, with Arsenal finally out of the Champions League and their squad’s quality declining every year, that he always sells his best players, that the game has passed him by now, and those are all valid points, but this is a ranking of overall achievement, and anyone who goes unbeaten in the Premier League for a whole season, is a top 10 manager.
#6 PEP GUARDIOLA- The Philosopher
Another impossibly hard one to rank. Some would say he is #1, not just right now but of all time. Others say he is not even in the top 10, dubbing him “Fraudiola” due to his lack of challenges in his career. I have settled for 6 as a compromise. Guardiola’s first ever job was at Barcelona, where he immediately led them to the treble in year one, won another Champions League, and won 3 La Liga titles in 4 years in charge. Next, he moved on to Bayern Munich, where he won three straight Bundesligas before leaving for Manchester City, where in year one they finished third, and are currently at the top of the EPL with a commanding 8 point lead. He is 100% devoted to his philosophy of tiki-taka, short passing, having all the possession, playing the ball out from the back instead of hitting it long up the pitch, and if you don’t suit his style, then he has no time for you. To him, football is a matter of philosophy, and he preaches his beliefs of beautiful football to anyone who will listen. His Barcelona teams revolutionized the way football is played, and you cannot deny he was the coach of the greatest club side ever assembled. So why is he not higher? One, because he hasn’t even been managing for 10 years, and two, because there is some truth in that Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and the mega rich Man City are not exactly jobs that require a lot of challenge. The fact that in his first year in the more competitive EPL he won no trophies doesn’t speak well, though he is proving us wrong so far this year. However, to the haters, you cannot deny his trophy cabinet. Pep will almost certainly rise up as his career progresses, and his style of play is undeniably amazing to watch, but the top 5 have all done what they have done for longer periods of time, in more challenging roles.
#5 JOACHIM LOW- Mr. Consistency
When Jurgen Klinsmaan was leading Germany in the 2006 World Cup, hosted there, the general consensus of Germans was that Klinsmaan, the legendary player, was a figurehead, and he got all of his tactics from his assistant, Joachim “Jogi” Low. Klinsmaan was promptly fired after the tournament, because for the likes of Germany to not win the World Cup when they are hosting is criminal, and Jogi took over, and the Germans have never looked back. Since he took over, they have been the models of consistency in the international game. He has led them in Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, Euro 2012, World Cup 2014, and Euro 2016, and made at least the semifinals of EVERY SINGLE ONE! That is wild. Low’s crowning achievement was the 2014 World Cup victory in Brazil, where they defeated the hosts by a whopping margin of 7-1 in the semifinal, and beat no other than Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the World Cup Final. He never keeps a player in the squad unless they are useful to him, which is why, every four years, you see a new Germany team, but still as dominant as the last. He has also done wonders for developing German talent, last summer, in the Confederations Cup, he took his fringe players and U21s to give them playing time, and they still won! Then in the U21 World Cup later that summer, he took a bunch of teenagers, and they won that too! Germany now has one of the deepest talent pools in the world, and I would not be surprised if they went back to back, and won in Russia this summer. One thing is for certain, under Low, they will at least be in the final four.
#4 JOSE MOURINHO- The Special One
Jose will have my head for this. On Planet Jose, he is number one on the list of anything anywhere, including greatest human being to ever live. I wouldn’t be surprised if at Christmastime, his nativity scene showed Christ being born in Setubal, Portugal in January 1963. He is also the only manager for whom I did not invent my nickname, as he has declared himself “The Special One”. If he takes any comfort in this, the top 3 are all retired or inactive, so he IS the highest ranking one currently coaching. All of Jose’s braggadocio is for good reason, he has won major trophies in four different countries, and accepts nothing but winning. FC Porto shocked the world when they appointed him, considering he has never played the game, and was just a translator. However, he won two Primera Ligas and led them to one of the Champions League’s greatest upsets ever, winning it in 2004, beating the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United along the way. This led to Chelsea bringing him to England, where he won back to back EPL titles. Then he went to Inter Milan, where in two years he won two Serie As, and in year two led Inter to the famed treble. Then he went to Real Madrid, where he won a Copa del Rey and a La Liga, and is the only manager to say he won La Liga ahead of Guardiola’s great Barcelona. Afterwards, he returned to Chelsea, where he won a League Cup and returned the Premier League to Stamford Bridge. Then, after his controversial sacking, he remained in England and took over Manchester United, where in year one he won the League Cup and Europa League, and is currently second place. Mourinho is a master motivator, his players love him like a father. Didier Drogba said “I would honestly kill for Mourinho” and Michael Essien literally called him “Daddy”. He is a master of manipulating the media, and building a siege mentality of us against the world at all of his clubs. However, he is not without his critics. His arrogant style ruffles many feather, and he has been criticized for his defensive style, and love of spending lots of money on talented players, gaining him a reputation as a quick fix but not a long term coach. He also rarely leaves a job quietly, with both Chelsea stints and Real Madrid ending in complete self-implosion and the team falling apart, and it is for that reason he is not higher up. However, all his honors speak for themselves, he is truly a special one.
#3 SIR ALEX FERGUSON- The Club Icon
As much as this is hard for me to swallow as a Liverpool fan, Alex Ferguson is an all time great. He has won either 7 or 8 Premier Leagues (do you count the 99-00 season?) an FA Cup, three League Cups, and a Champions League, all with Manchester United. He completely made that club what it is, with 26 years in charge total, all of them totally dominant. Man United even have a stand in their stadium named for Fergie. He is also a master of developing and signing young talent, Manchester United always had at least one academy product in their starting XI under him. He also believes in progressive, attacking football, and is a master of “Fergie Time” where United would score an ungodly amount of late winning goals. He trains his team to never give up, saying “I have never ONCE played for a draw!”. He also believed nobody was bigger than the club, no matter how good, when the likes of Roy Keane and David Beckham got too big for their britches, he sent them packing without a second thought. He also always overcame adversity, when Keane and Beckham left, everyone thought the invincibles of Arsenal were the new big thing, but then he found young Cristiano Ronaldo and built his best ever team. When Ronaldo left, everyone thought it was all Chelsea’s but he still won titles with a just OK squad at his disposal. And in his final year in 2013, with mega rich neighbors Man City defending Champions and star Wayne Rooney not signing a new deal, Ferguson boldly bought Robin Van Persie from archrivals Arsenal to ensure he retired a champion. No manager has ever meant more to a club than Sir Alex to Manchester United.
#2 CARLO ANCELOTTI- The Serial Winner
Don Carlo has done it all. This guy has won trophies in all 5 of the major domestic leagues, winning the whole league title in four of them. He is also one of only two coaches (besides Liverpool’s own Bob Paisley) to win three Champions League titles. And he has done all this in the 21st century! He started at AC Milan, his boyhood club, where he won a Serie A, a Coppa Italia, a SuperCoppa Italiana, and two Champions Leagues, appearing in a third final as well (thanks Rafa!). After 8 years there, in which he built Milan into one of the finest teams of this era, he moved onto Chelsea, where he won the Premier League and FA Cup in his first year. After Chelsea scandalously sacked him for failing to repeat, he joined the ambitious new Paris Saint-Germain project in France, leading them first to top 4 and Champions League qualification, and then to the Ligue 1 title, before leaving for the glory of Real Madrid. In his first year there, he won the Copa Del Rey and his third Champions League, and the clubs 10th, forever writing his name in history as the man who won La Dacima. He was then insanely sacked the next year for only finishing second, as if there is any shame in finishing behind MSN in their peak, despite Cristiano Ronaldo publicly asking for him to stay. I swear to god Real Madrid is insane with their managers. He then moved on to Bayern Munich, where he won the Bundesliga and German Super Cup. He is a believer in attacking football, his teams relentlessly press you to win the ball. He also treats his players like adults, and listens to them when things go wrong, and has shown a willingness to adapt to the teams he has not be stuck in his ways, and versatility is a sign of a great coach. When his old Milan formation did not suit the Chelsea players, he listened to their complaints, and changed it, leading to them winning the double. Wherever he travels to, he brings trophies. He is currently out of a job, but has not yet retired, and one thing is certain, wherever he goes next, he will win there.
#1 VICENTE DEL BOSQUE- The Legend
Vicente Del Bosque is our number one, as he is the ultimate winner. He took charge of his boyhood team Real Madrid right as they were starting to purchase their famed Galacticos, and led them to two La Liga crowns and two Champions Leagues. With the likes of Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, and the Brazilian Ronaldo playing absolutely dazzling football Real Madrid ruled the world. However what did that club, in its infinite wisdom do? They sacked him, for having the audacity to actually call out and bench the Galacticos when they were not performing! Real Madrid did not win a trophy for four years after Del Bosque’s departure, and we will never know how long that great team would have dominated if he stayed. However, his clubs loss was his country’s gain. He was appointed the manager of Spain and under his watch, Spain became the greatest international team to ever play. He won Euro 2008, Euro 2012, the 2009 Confederations Cup, and the 2010 World Cup. From 2009-2013 Spain did not lose a single match! He brought Barcelona’s tiki-taka to the international stage, and no team could keep up with Spain. In an era where El Clasico was at its most bitter ever (shoutout to our number 6 and 4 on this list), he was able to get his Barcelona and Real Madrid stars to work together for the good of the country. He proceeded to lead Spain in the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Euros, and then after that he retired, having won everything there is to win in the game. There are so many great managers in this list, what sets Del Bosque apart? The fact he won the biggest trophies both for his club, and for his country. He is the only manager this century to win his domestic league, Champions League, World Cup, and Euros. That is absolutely amazing. Viva Vicente!
That has been my personal ranking of this century’s top 10 greatest managers. If you disagree, please feel free to let me know! Thanks for reading.