In soccer, those who step into the field often take much of the limelight. However, behind every team there is a person responsible for what happens both on and off the pitch.
Managers don’t always get the credit they deserve, but the game wouldn’t be what it is without them. In the modern era, the role of the head coach has become more important than ever. Here, take a look at the 10 best coaches in the world right now.
Throughout history, soccer has seen countless head coaches. However, only a few have left their mark in the beautiful game. Manchester United icon Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsenal legend Arsene Wenger, for instance, have cemented a legacy for what they’ve done in their managerial careers. Another iconic coach is Jose Mourinho, current Roma boss whose career took off since leading Portugal giants Porto to an unlikely Champions League triumph in 2004.
Nowadays, other managers get a lot of recognition. Judging by their managerial talent and recent titles they have won, these are the current top ten elite coaches in world soccer.
Injuries ended Julian Nagelsmann’s playing career prematurely. At 28, he became the youngest permanent head coach in Bundesliga history. From then on, his career only went uphill. Holder of a bachelor’s degree in Sports Science, Nagelsmann’s innovative training sessions showed the fascinating football coach that was emerging in Germany.
At Leipzig, he reflected his biggest strength: tactical versatility. Nagelsmann is an offensive-minded coach, but he doesn’t stick to only one playbook. He can change the lineup from one game to another or even during the same game. The youngest head coach to ever lead a club to the Champions League final four, Nagelsmann’s great work caught the eye of German giants Bayern Munich.
After coaching relatively unpopular teams, Allegri got his first opportunity in the Serie A at Cagliari; but it was at AC Milan where he showed his credentials as one of the world’s best coaches. Besides the five consecutive league titles he achieved at Juventus, his biggest impact was the versatility he gave to the team, which was used to a defensive style before his arrival.
Under Allegri, Juventus deployed different formations and tactical approaches depending on the rival or the game. The Old Lady struggled to succeed since Allegri left in 2019, which is why they brought him back in 2021.
Before Allegri, Juventus also found their way to the cusp of domestic soccer under Antonio Conte. His signature 3-5-2 formation blossomed during his Juve stint and followed him the rest of his career, as it brought results overseas as well.
Conte took his playbook to England and it worked, guiding Chelsea to a Premier League title. Back in Italy, he led Inter to a long-awaited Scudetto. His teams may not be recognized for dominating possession, yet they always find a way to create situations in the opposition’s box through a direct style of attacking.
Patience has certainly paid off for Hans-Dieter Flick, who spent nearly eight years as Joachim Low’s assistant at the German national team before spreading his wings as a head coach. On November 3, 2019, Flick took the reins of Bayern Munich as coach Niko Kovac was fired.
Under Flick, the Bavarians won the treble in great fashion that season. Flick’s Bayern became the first team to win all games in a Champions League campaign, and their dominance continued in the second half of 2020 as they completed the club’s first ever sextuple. Flick’s Bayern was a ruthless force that didn’t just beat its opponents, it destroyed them.
A game-obsessed manager that inspired Julian Nagelsmann, Thomas Tuchel proved Borussia Dortmund’s worth right after the departure of Jurgen Klopp. He followed a similar style of play left by his predecessor, based on the high pressing and attacking mindset.
His work in Germany caught the attention of PSG, who almost tasted continental glory for the first time under Tuchel. Though they didn’t win the coveted Champions League, Paris later regretted firing him.
Tuchel was appointed by Chelsea in January 2021, only a few weeks after losing the PSG job. In the blink of an eye, he turned the Blues around, leading them to a Champions League success with less than six months in charge.
Diego Simeone is one of the most impactful coaches of this century. When he left Argentina in 2011 to take charge of Atlético Madrid, the team was flirting with relegation. By the end of the season, not only they had left behind those fears, but they were enjoying a UEFA Europa League success. The rest is history.
Simeone turned Atletico into a continental powerhouse, getting them used to challenging for Champions League titles when before him they barely managed to play in European competitions. Though his defensive style of play is often criticized, that approach has made Atletico reach new heights.
Why would Simeone change his playbook when this soccer philosophy of sacrifice and defense made Atletico competitive again? In an era where Barcelona and Real Madrid looked invincible in Spain, Simeone found a way to challenge that supremacy.
When Zinedine Zidane took over at Real Madrid halfway through the 2015-16 season, many doubted he could get them back on their feet. Until then, Zizou had worked at Real Madrid B and served as Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant. However, those experiences certainly were preparing him for his managerial career.
From the very beginning, Zidane handled the dressing room and its egos perfectly. Real Madrid was a team full of stars, but things weren’t working before Zizou arrived. He got everyone aligned for a collective goal, which resulted in three consecutive Champions League trophies for Los Blancos. Unlike other managers who are defined for a certain style of play, Zidane’s biggest strength is his ability to handle star-studded rosters, like he did in Madrid.
Many coaches have emerged through the years with new methods and innovative ideas. Age, however, doesn’t always matter. At 63, Carlo Ancelotti continues to prove he’s one of the best football managers in the world. Having succeeded in every league he’s coached so far, Carletto recently took Real Madrid to the top of Europe again in great fashion. His often defensive-minded approach may not please all fans, but what matters most is that it gets results.
Jurgen Klopp has revolutionized European soccer with his trademark “heavy metal” style, based on high pressing, quick passing and fast-paced attacks. Klopp is an advocate of the so-called Gegenpressing, a tactic known for teams that opt for intense pressing rather than dropping back when losing the ball.
His soccer philosophy inspired the likes of Thomas Tuchel and Julian Nagelsmann, to whom it also brought a lot of success. Klopp’s results at Dortmund took him to Liverpool, where he completely turned things around. Under Klopp’s tutelage, the Reds displayed their best football in decades and once again became one of the best soccer teams on the planet.
For the way he changed the game, and because he continues to be the biggest role model for most coaches, Pep Guardiola is widely regarded as the world’s best soccer manager. Inspired by the ideas of the late Johan Cruyff and the historic “total football” Ajax team, Guardiola cemented his own legacy with a revolutionary tiki-taka style of play based on possession and attacking soccer.
His Barcelona may be the biggest achievement in his managerial career, but Bayern and Manchester City have also gotten great results displaying his hallmark soccer philosophy. Helping his teams become the best version of themselves, Guardiola has brought the best out of countless stars while also helping young players fulfill their potential.
Whether it’s because of a game-winning goal or a crucial save, the players usually draw most of the attention. However, there wouldn’t be a successful team or a decorated player without the right manager. Head coaches are just as important in soccer as a goalkeeper, a midfielder or a striker. Without them, the sport simply wouldn’t be the same.
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