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.