It’s hard to blame Rafa Benitez for taking a payday in China. He’s just had a rough three years of in-fighting at Newcastle United where he was loved by fans but given no backing by owner Mike Ashley. After brilliantly keeping them up two years in a row, he’s finally departed and the Magpies have genuinely lost an elite coach.
Benitez has brought success to the likes of Valencia, Liverpool and Napoli. His results in Europe have been especially brilliant, winning the Champion’s League, Europea Leagues, and Super Cups. The Spaniard’s tactical nous is second to none and he was one of the early pioneers of zonal marking in the Premier League. You can guarantee that his team will be well set up.
You would think to have a talent pool like Brazil’s would make life as a manager easier, but in truth, it can make things incredibly complicated. The expectation of the South American giants is massive because of their past success and production of global icons. Tite has managed to reinvigorate the team, winning the Copa America in 2019, without their biggest superstar Neymar.
Tite is known for not having a preferred captain. He had once 15 different players wear the armband in 19 games. His style of play is perhaps more patient and pragmatic than in the past, with tactical balance and defensive nous. It’s not all about the attack anymore, and in the modern game that’s possibly going to be his biggest legacy.
When Bayern Munich is your most direct competitor, you know you’re up against it. That’s what Borussia Dortmund have had to deal with forever, but they looked to close the gap by bringing in Lucien Favre. He’s developed an exciting young team who brought the 2018/18 Bundesliga race to the last couple of weeks.
His teams play a dynamic and quick attacking-minded style of football. While his teams may have a low number of shots, they do have very high conversion rates. Favre is also excellent at developing young players. Jadon Sancho had an outstanding season last year, while he also brought on Marco Reus as a youngster at Monchengladbach.
Back in management now with Inter Milan, Antonio Conte had a few very successful years with Juventus and then brought Premier League glory to Chelsea. He won three consecutive Serie A titles with ‘The Old Lady’ before taking the national team job with Italy, bringing them to the Euro ’16 quarterfinals.
He moved to the Premier League with Chelsea and brought success in his first season, implementing his favoured 3-5-2 formation. Conte likes to use wingbacks, giving his side a direct attacking thrust. He also uses two out-and-out strikers at the top of the formation. It’s exciting times for Inter Milan.
Possibly the least Italian looking Italian manager out there today, Sarri smokes about 100 cigarettes a day and dresses in his over-sized kit, making it look like he’s wearing hospital scrubs. Don’t be fooled by his scruffy appearance though, because ‘Sarriball’ is one of the slickest systems out there.
Famous for his use of a deep-lying playmaker and a very high defensive line, when it works, Sarri’s teams are exciting and spectacular to watch. He was loved at Napoli before going to Chelsea where he managed to win a Europa League and achieve a top-four spot against the odds. Now at Juventus, Sarri will feel validated by getting the top job in Italian football.
Originally serving as Jurgen Klinsmann’s assistant, Joachim Low was appointed Germany manager in 2006 and has been there for 13 years so far. He won the World Cup in Brazil as well as the 2017 Confederations Cup and is one of the most well-respected international managers in the world today.
Low is obsessed with attacking and clinical interplay. The most noticeable aspect of his teams is that it’s all about the system and not about any single superstar. Low screams German efficiency and despite a disastrous World Cup in 2018, is still beloved in Germany. His dress style has also gathered a cult following.
Currently, in charge of Napoli, Carlo Ancelotti has had a nomadic career, successfully managing some of Europe’s biggest clubs. The Italian looks like a mafia don, but he’s one of the greatest coaches in the history of the sport. He’s brought success to the likes of AC Milan, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Paris St. Germain.
Now in charge of Napoli, Ancelotti is renowned for adapting systems that will suit his players, rather than forcing them to adopt his own rigorous philosophy. He’s also incredibly likeable, cultivating good relationships with his squads and getting the best out of temperamental superstars. With three Champion’s Leagues and countless cup and league trophies, his success is clear to see.
Our highest ranked international manager on this list, Didier Deschamps brought France to World Cup glory in Russia 2018. Blessed with a golden-generation of players, Deschamps still had to try and get the best out of a group of mercurial and volatile talents, including Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann.
He truly did and the proof is there. Now he’s looking to go forward and win the European Championships. Deschamps tends to use a 4-2-3-1 formation, with a lone striker wreaking havoc at the top of the pitch. The France manager was also brave enough to give Kylian Mbappe his big break on the world’s biggest stage.
He might not be as famous as some of the names above and below him, but there’s no denying that Erik Ten Hag is one of the best young coaches in the world today. He’s been blessed with a generation of unbelievably talented players, but he still got the best out of a young Ajax side, getting them as far as the Champion’s League semi-final.
One of the key characteristics of his Ajax team is that everybody knows where everybody else is, with the ball constantly being passed into spaces opening up the opposition. The Eredivisie champions beat Juventus and Real Madrid in this way. His team might be decimated now but Ten Hag’s future is shining incredibly bright.
Despite his lack of honours as a manager, Maurizio Pochettino is held in very high regard by players, fans and his fellow managers. The stoic Argentinian has brought Tottenham Hotspurs forward in leaps and bounds. Even though he was given no money to sign new players in 2018/19, he still brought Spurs to the Champion’s League final.
Now as the club move forward in their new state-of-the-art stadium, Pochettino is the man responsible to bring them success. His teams are known for their attacking flair. ‘Poch’ has managed to turn Harry Kane into one of the best strikers in the world. It’s no wonder Real Madrid and Manchester United have both wanted him.
After stunning the world by leaving Real Madrid in 2018, Zinedine Zidane returned to the Santiago Bernabeu as its saviour. Following one of the worst seasons in living memory, it’s up to Zidane to stabilize the club and achieve the same crazy results that he brought to Los Blancos during his first spell with the club.
The only manager in history to win three consecutive Champion’s League titles, Zidane has been especially successful in Europe. He’s an icon in the club now both as a player and a manager. Sure, in the league he’s yet to fully prove himself, but with a desire to play the game the right way and the total respect of his players, you’ve got to believe in him.
Some might think it’s controversial to put Valverde this high up the list, but the man has done very well. Barcelona is one of the toughest teams in the world to coach because they have an identity and style of play that transcends managers and players. Valverde came in in 2017 and has managed to maintain success, winning a league and cup double.
Valverde was also handed a team in transition. Club icons like Xavi, Iniesta and legends like Javier Mascherano and Dani Alves all left gaping holes in the squad that had to be filled. He’s done well in tough circumstances, encouraging a patient, measured and attractive style that fully fits with the Barcelona ethos.
Max Allegri has the highest win percentage in Juventus history. He brought AC Milan to their most recent Serie A title and turned Juventus into an unstoppable force in the Italian league. From 2014, Allegri managed to win four consecutive league-and-cup doubles, the only coach in Europe’s top five leagues to achieve this feat.
Allegri’s teams are characterised by tactical intelligence, focused on ball retention and patient build-up. He’s also renowned for his flexibility, using a number of different formations depending on the circumstances. Currently out of work, Allegri is definitely one of the hottest commodities on the market right now. A sublime manager.
Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone has created a team that reflects how he played the game. He’s a snarling presence on the sidelines, dressed all in black, with his team set up to defend efficiently and drive forward on the counter. However, his team is slowly evolving with exciting attackers like Joao Felix and Alvaro Morata available.
Simeone managed to win La Liga despite having to cope with juggernauts Real Madrid and Barcelona. He’s also brought them European success, winning the Europa League twice, as well as a number of other cup trophies. El Cholo is Atletico Madrid personified. The club suits him down to the ground.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is beloved by football hipsters around the world. Few managers are able to transform a club to their own image like the charismatic German. Famed for his ‘gegenpressing style,’ Klopp’s tactics have evolved and matured during his time with Liverpool, helping them to the Champion’s League in 2018/19.
Klopp made his name in Germany with Mainz, bringing them up to the Bundesliga and keeping them there against the odds. But it was with Borussia Dortmund where he truly stood out, winning two Bundesligas despite Bayern Munich’s massive financial advantage and taking them to the Champion’s League final. He’s a brilliant man-manager and one of the most likeable people in football.
What else can you say about Pep Guardiola? The Manchester City man transforms his teams into forces of nature. He’s achieved ludicrous success with Barcelona and Bayern Munich before arriving in the UK. As well as winning countless trophies, he’s achieved the most consecutive wins in La Liga, the Bundesliga and the Premier League.
His philosophy revolves around the Tika-Taka system, a style of play that basically involves dominating ball possession with fast exchanges between players. When it works – which it tends to more than not – it is football at its purest. Despite his success – including 2 Premier Leagues, 3 Bundesligas, 3 La Ligas, and 2 Champion’s Leagues, he never stops pushing his players.