Top 10 footballers turned managers

Top 10 footballers turned managers

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For every Johan Cruyff there is a Diego Maradona

With the confirmation of Antonio Conte as the new manager of Chelsea earlier this week, I’ll look at the greatest footballers turned managers. Antonio Conte had a stellar career as a player with his tenacious and influential presence that transcended into management. The criteria for entry to this list is only limited to managers who have had distinguishable careers both on the pitch and in the dugout, so managers such as Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger et al are excluded.

10.  Diego Simeone


The feisty Argentine has built up a stellar CV in a relatively short space of time. To many on these shores he is known for being the perpetrator in David Beckham’s dismissal at the 1998 World Cup that inevitably led to England’s exit. He also had a very successful career, playing for clubs such as Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and Lazio with over 100 caps for his national team.

Simeone retired as a player in 2006 and went straight into management in his native Argentina where he won two  Argentine Primera Division titles (2006 & 2008). In 2011 he returned to his former club, Atletico Madrid and certified their status as one of Europe’s elite clubs. With feats such as winning the the Europa League,  Copa del Rey and the La Liga title (on a relative small budget in comparison to Barcelona and Real Madrid).

Simeone also came agonisingly close to winning the Champions League in 2014, however rivals Real Madrid equalised in injury time and dominated in extra time to a flattering 4-1 scoreline in their favour.

9. Sir Bobby Robson 


The late Bobby Robson started his football education at Fulham as a forward. During his tenure in west London he scored 77 goals in 344 games for the Cottagers. His career both domestically and internationally took off at West Bromwich Albion, as he established himself in the England setup as he was included in the 1958 and 1962 World Cup squads (withdrew from the latter due to an injury).

Although he had a successful career as a player, Robson is more known for his managerial credentials such as leading Ipswich Town to FA Cup and UEFA Cup glory in 1978 and 1981 respectfully that eventually led to him becoming the manager of England as he led the Three Lions to the semi-final, their best position to date since their 1966 triumph. Robson went continental after the World Cup with successful spells at PSV, Sporting Lisbon and Barcelona. He returned to England to manage his beloved Newcastle United.

8. Kenny Dalglish


Known as ‘King Kenny’ to the Liverpool faithful. Dalglish was a superb player for the Reds and was named as their best player in a 2006 player poll.  He won 6 titles with them as a player, along with 3 European Cups (he scored the winning goal in the ’78 final), 4 League Cups and a solitary FA Cup title. Not to forget his accolades with Celtic that included 4 Scottish Premier League titles.

Dalglish became player-manager of LIverpool in the 1985-86 season and led them to the double in his first season. He won two more titles as he cemented his position in Liverpool folklore. In 1991 he joined Blackburn Rovers, who were bankrolled by club chairman Jack Walker. He won the Premier League in 1994/95. Dalglish made a shock return to Liverpool in 2011 and won another League Cup in 2012 in what was a rather ill-fated spell.

7. Mario Zagallo


Mario Zagallo made football history in 1970 when he became the first footballer to win the World Cup both as a manager and a player. In fact Zagallo won the World Cup twice as a player in the ’58 and ’62 competitions. He was duly named to the latter tournament’s all-star team. Zagallo who played as a forward and winger played the majority of his domestic football for Flamengo and represented Brazil 33 times with 5 goals.

6. Brian Clough 

Sport. Football. England. 1980. Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough with the European Cup trophy.

Dubbed by the media as “the greatest manager England never had”. Cloughie had a phenomenal spell as a manager but it also overshadows his career as player in which he scored 197 goals in 217 league games for his hometown club Middlesbrough and earned two caps for England. His first successful spell as a manager came with Derby County as he led them to the First Division title in 1972.

He had an infamous 44-day spell at Leeds United that has in turn been adapted in the forms of a novel and movie. However his most successful spell as a manager was at Nottingham Forest. He was joined by his trusted assistant Peter Taylor as they turned Forest from a Second Division outfit to back-to-back European champions in the space of five years. Along with their European conquests, Clough led Forest to the First Division title in 1978 and also won four League Cups in his 18-year spell in the East Midlands.

5. Jupp Heynckes

Jupp Heynckes

Heynckes has won almost everything there is to win in the game. A prolific striker, most notably for Borussia Mochengladbach where he won four Bundesliga titles along with two Bundesliga top scorer titles to his name. Internationally he won the 1972 European Championship and 1974 World Cup. He was also as successful as a manager with two Champions League titles (with Real Madrid in ’98 and Bayern Munich in 2013) a part of their historic treble winning season.

4. Carlo Ancelotti


Ancelotti is a serial winner in every sense of the word. As a player he won 3x Serie A, 4x Coppa Italia and 2x European Cup along with earning a bronze medal with Italy at the 1990 World Cup. He has somehow replicated his achievements as a manager with 3x Champions League titles, 1x Serie A, the domestic double with Chelsea in 2010 (the first in their history) and a Ligue 1 title with Paris Saint-Germain in 2013. At the end of the last year it was announced that Ancelotti will replace Pep Guardiola as the manager of Bayern in the summer.

3. Franz Beckenbauer


I don’t think there has been a more influential figure in German football than Franz Beckenbauer. ‘Der Kaiser’ single handedly revolutionised the position of central defence, by playing as a Sweeper for the dominant Bayern and Germany sides. He also had superior attacking instincts for a defender as scored 69 league goals for the Bavarian side. Beckenbauer won 5x Bundesliga, 3x European Cup (consecutively) and skippered Die Mannschaft to European and world glory. Beckenbauer followed in the footsteps of Zagallo and also won the World Cup as a manager when Germany won in 1990.

2. Pep Guardiola


Arguably the best manager in world football at the moment. Guardiola, a defensive midfielder in his playing days broke into the Barca first team in the early 90s as Johan Cruyff assembled his  ‘Dream Team’ that consisted of Romario, Ronald Koeman and Hristo Stoichkov to name a few.  In his 11-year spell as a player for Barcelona, Guardiola won the La Liga 6x, the European Cup in ’92, 2x Copa del Rey and the Cup Winners’ Cup in ’97. Internationally, he won the gold medal at the ’92 Olympics with Spain and won 47 caps for la Roja. Pep has eclipsed his playing career with an astonishing managerial career to date. He won 14 trophies in his 4 years managing Barcelona and has won consecutive Bundesliga titles at Bayern Munich. However Guardiola will always be the apprentice to the man who has had the most influence on his career.

1. Johan Cruyff


Of course the master that is Johan Cruyff, who sadly passed away a fortnight ago to lung cancer.  Cruyff was one of the main proponents of the ‘Total Football’ movement that was so dominant in the Ajax, Barcelona and Netherlands sides that he spearheaded. In 1999 Cruyff, was voted the best European player of the century in a poll by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS). Cruyff retired from playing in 1984 with 9x Eredivisie (Dutch League),  6x Dutch Cup, 3x European Cup, 1x Continental Cup, 1x La Liga and 1x Copa del

Rey. Following a prosperous three-year spell at Ajax, Cruyff returned to Catalonia and certified his legacy at the club with 4 consecutive La Liga titles, 1x European Cup (the first in the club’s history), 1x Copa del Rey, 1x Cup Winners’ Cup, 1x UEFA Super Cup and 2x Spanish Supercups. His influence on modern football is unmatched by any other as many teams from around the world play under a derivative  of the Total Football movement that he made popular.


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