Football is more than just a game nowadays. Tactics and accuracy in execution of plans has become a must for teams to strive in the dangerous era of cut throat competition. Be it the domestic league, Cup ties or any UEFA competition, teams always need to have a brain behind them to keep them moving in tight situations. In easy words, managers are the driving force in any team. They control the whole process of team building to tracking progress of the players regularly in order to make their team edge past others. Especially in England where the league is so physical and challenging, the managers should always be prepared to execute a plan-B whenever needed which makes the job even harder to hold the position for long. Since its inception in 1992, the Premier League has been blessed to witness top managers from different countries handling some of the best teams in the world. Here’s a rough countdown to the Top 12 Premier League managers of all time: –
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(12) Mark Hughes
Popularly nicknamed “Sparky”, present Stoke City manager Mark Hughes has had a prolific managerial career with its own share of highs and lows. Having played as a forward for numerous big Europeans outfits such as Manchester United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Everton; Hughes was first appointed the manager of his national team Wales in 1999. He left the job in 2004 to join his former team Blackburn Rovers as their head coach. The team performed well under him and even reached the FA Cup semi-final after a long gap of over 40 years. He was hired by Manchester City in 2008 but was sacked the very next year. He joined Fulham in 2010 but following their poor run of winless draws, he resigned after just 11 months at the club. He had an even worse run at his next club, QPR where he was appointed and sacked in the same year. Hughes joined Stoke City as their manager in 2013 and has successfully made a hat-trick of 9th place finishes in the league table ever since.
(11) Mauricio Pochettino
Argentina-born former centre-back Mauricio Pochettino started his playing career at Newell’s Old Boys in 1989 before moving to Espanyol to become a regular starter in 1994 where he spent six and a half years, appearing in 216 matches for the Spanish side. In the winter 2000-01 transfer window, Pochettino moved to French giants PSG. He was also a regular during his stay in Paris before he moved to fellow French club FC Girondins de Bordeaux in 2003. He returned to his former club Espanyol on loan from Bordeaux before joining them permanently the next transfer window. He eventually retired in Spain in the year 2006. Pochettino also boasts 20 national caps for Argentina including a disastrous World Cup campaign in 2002 where Argentina were eliminated in the group stages. He started his managerial career with Espanyol in 2009 and saw his team finish mid-table comfortably for the years to come. He was highly praised for his pressing gameplay during his stint at the club and was also successful in defeating Barcelona at Camp Nou after a period of 27 years. He joined Southampton in 2014 and led them to an 8th position, their best finish since 2002. He joined Tottenham Hotspur in 2014 and has been a revolution ever since, finishing 5th, 3rd and 2nd in his first three years.
(10) Kenny Dalglish
Scottish footballer and manager Dalglish was and still is one of the most decorated mangers to ever grace the Premier League. He still remains a club legend for both Celtic and Liverpool, the only two clubs he has ever played for as a senior team player. Born in 1951, he started his career as a young prodigy at Cumbernauld United in the year 1967. Soon after catching the eyes of numerous clubs throughout the United Kingdom, he made his first team appearance for Celtic in 1969. Having scored more than a hundred goals for both Celtic and Liverpool, the striker retired in the year 1990. He was appointed the manager of Liverpool in the year 1985 following the Heysel Stadium disaster, while he was still playing and guided his team to their first double. He left Liverpool in 1991 and joined Blackburn Rovers as their new boss and helped them break into the top flight for the first time since 1966 and even finished fourth in the first Premier League. After having brief spells at Newcastle (1997-98) and Celtic again (2000), he returned to Liverpool to play the role of the club’s ambassador. After both Rafa Benitez and Roy Hodgson failed to make betterment in the team, he was made their manager only to be sacked in 2012 following the team’s poor run in the league for three successive seasons.
(9) Manuel Pellegrini
Having managed only one Premier league club in his entire career, the ex-Chilean centre back has quite big honours against his name, becoming the first manager from outside Europe to own the Premier League with Man City in his first year in-charge having a mammoth goal-scoring rate; surpassing the 100 mark after just 34 games- the quickest century beating Chelsea’s 2012-13 heroics. He started his career as a footballer at his native club, Universidad de Chile and played for them throughout his career, having made 451 appearances for the Chilean club. He also has 28 caps for the national team and was an instrumental figure within the team at that time. He retired in 1986 and soon after started his career as a manager, having managed many teams (Universidad de Chile 1988-89; Palestino 1990-92, 1998; O’Higgins 1992-93; Universidad Catolica 1995-95; LDU Quito 1999-00; San Lorenzo 2001-02; River Plate 2002-03; Villareal 2004-09) before joining Real Madrid in 2009. He signed Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Xavi Alonso and Karim Benzema in his first season but his team’s inability to perform led to his sacking the following year. He joined City in 2013 after a three-year stint at Malaga. He left Man City in 2016 with the fifth highest win percentage in the Premier League history.
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(8) Antonio Conte
Former Italian centre back Conte started his playing career at Lecce in 1985 and made 71 appearances for the Italian outfit throughout his 6-year long stay at the club. He moved to Juventus in 1991 and starred in 296 matches for the Old Lady. He eventually retired at the club in 2004 having won many accolades along the way, the most notable being Juventus’ triumph in the UEFA Champions League in 1996. He was also a regular in the team when his club won five Seria A titles in a period of nine years. Coming to his national team career, Conte made appearances in the 1994 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2000, having missed out on Euro 1996 after sustaining an injury in the Champions League final. In total, he made 20 appearances for the national team and had scored two goals. He started his managerial career in 2006 with Arezzo but a string of poor games led to his sacking within three months. He was next appointed the manager of Bari in 2007 and was an instant hit in Seria B as they comfortably finished mid table that season. Bari were crowned Seria B champions the next season and Conte moved to Atalanta to replace Angelo Gregucci as their new manager. He spent a brief period of time with Atalanta (2009-10) and Sienna (2010-11) before moving to Juventus where he spent three years. He joined Chelsea and led them to glory in his first year after spending two years with the Italian national team. Conte also became the first manager in history to win three back-to-back Manager of the Month awards (Oct-Dec 16).
(7) Claudio Ranieri
Currently the manager at French side Nantes, Ranieri has a glittering biodata having managed numerous teams (Vigor Lamezia 1986-87; Puteolana 1987-88; Cagliari 1988-91; Napoli 1991-93; Fiorentina 1993-97; Valencia 1997-99; Athletico Madrid 1999-00) before arriving at Chelsea in 2000. He could not win any major titles with the London-based club but paved a way for English prodigies Wayne Bridge, Joe Cole and John Terry into the international scene. He is also credited for making key purchases under Chelsea’s then new owner Roman Abramovich by bringing in Frank Lampard from West Ham, Hernan Crespo and Claude Makelele and also identified Arjen Robben and Didier Drogba as players Chelsea should sign. His words were true infact as the team he wanted to build flourished under the next manager Jose Mourinho. Ranieri made a brief return to Valencia in 2004 and then spent many years in different leagues across the globe, managing some of the best teams (Parma 2007; Juventus 2007-09; Roma 2009-11; Inter Milan 2011-12; Monaco 2012-14) before being appointed as Greece’s head coach in 2014. He was not satisfied with national duties and moved to Leicester City in 2015. He wrote history as he led his team to their first Premier League title ever and was even awarded the prestigious 2016 Best FIFA Men’s Coach Award. He was offloaded the next season though, making way for Craig Shakespeare.
(6) Rafael Benitez
Ex-Spanish defender Rafael Benitez started his youth career at Real Madrid in the year 1973 at just 13 years of age and went on to make his senior team debut at Parla in 1981, on loan from Real Madrid’s secondary club Castilla FC, after being unable to break into the senior squad. Eventually he signed a permanent contract with them and went on to play for four years at the club, having made over a hundred appearances and even helping them gain automatic promotion to Segunda Division B. He retired in 1986 at Linares following a one-year stay at the club, having made 34 appearances in a single calendar year. He failed to represent the Spanish national side but did make it to the Spain Universities XI and played 5 matches during 1979-81. He started his coaching stint at Real Madrid B in 1993 and had managed many teams during a 10-year spell (Real Valladolid 1995-96; Osasuna 1996; Extremadura 1997-99; Tenerife 2000-01; Valencia 2001-04) before moving to Liverpool in 2004 after he helped Valencia win two La Liga titles and an UEFA Cup in a span of just four years. He wrote history with Liverpool, winning the prestigious UEFA Champions League in his first season in charge and later on clinching the FA Cup (2005-06), FA Community Shield (2006) and the UEFA Super Cup in 2005. He left Liverpool in 2010 and had a brief stint at Inter Milan in 2010. He was appointed the interim manager of Chelsea in 2012 and won the UEFA Europa during his one-year stay. He left for Napoli and even had a two-year stay at Real Madrid before returning back to Premier League in 2016 with Newcastle United. He helped them progress back to the top flight after winning the EFL Championship in 2017.
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(5) Roberto Mancini
A Sampdoria legend after having made more than 550 appearances and scoring 132 goals for the Italian outfit, Mancini made his senior team debut for Bologna in 1981. He was bought by Sampdoria the following year for £2.2 million and formed a lethal attacking partnership with Gianluca Vialli, and were nicknamed “The Goal Twins”. He went on to play for 15 years at the club and won one Seria A title (1990-91), four Coppa Italia (1984-85, 1987-88, 1988-89, 1993-94), one Supercoppa Italiana in 1991 and an UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1990. He moved to Lazio in 1997 and spent four years at the club, including a last-year loan stint at Leicester City before he eventually retired in 2001. He has 36 caps for the Italian national team including 26 for the U-21 squad too. His managerial career started in 2001 with Fiorentina before moving to Lazio the following year. He moved to European giants Inter Milan two years later and had a terrific run in Cup tournaments, having the record for most consecutive Coppa Italia finals from 2004 to 2008, with Lazio once in 2004 and with Inter in the following four seasons. He joined Man City in 2009 and led them to their first PL title in 2012 in a dramatic final-day showdown after a long drought of 44 years and became only the second Italian to win the PL after Carlo Ancelloti. He was successful in the cup tournaments too, having won the FA Cup (2010-11) and the FA Community Shield in their title-winning season. He was sacked in 2013 following City’s poor run and then joined Turkish giants Galatasaray. He led them to win the Turkish Cup the same season before moving back to Inter Milan in 2014. In 2017, he was appointed as the new head coach at Zenit Saint Petersburg.
(4) Carlo Ancelotti
Recently sacked from the manager’s post at Bayern Munich, Reggiolo-born former Italian midfielder Carlo Ancelotti started his playing career at his home-town club Reggiolo in 1973 before moving to Parma a couple of years later where eventually made his senior team debut the following year. He moved to Roma in 1979 under the then manager Nils Liedholm who developed him into an effective winger and central midfielder. After receiving numerous honours at the club which included one Seria A and four Copa Italia during his 8-year long stay, he moved to AC Milan in 1987 and became a key player at the club in no time. He won two Seria A titles and numerous domestic cups and an UEFA Super Cup (1990) before retiring in 1992. He has 26 caps for the national side and also starred in the 1986 and 1990 FIFA World Cups. After retirement, he was appointed the head coach at Reggiana in 1995 and then spent his time at different Italian clubs (Parma 1996-98; Juventus 1999-01; Milan 2001-09) and even led Milan to clinch two UEFA Champions League trophies (2002-03, 2006-07), UEFA Super Cup (2003, 2007) and the FIFA World Cup in 2007 and numerous other domestic honours. He joined Chelsea in 2009 and led them to their first League and Cup double. Chelsea won the PL in 2010 but their poor show in the following season ultimately led to his dismissal. Since then, Carlo has managed top European clubs (PSG 2011-13; Real Madrid 2013-15) and led Madrid to their tenth Champions League title in 2014 before joining Munich in 2016.
(3) Jose Mourinho
A manager who can turn a home ground into a fortress, Jose “the Special One” Mourinho played as a central midfielder during his game days. Although he never played for a top European club (Rio Ave 1980-82; Belenenses 1982-83; Sesimbra 1983-85; Comercio e Industria 1985-87), he spent most of his time in his native country Portugal before making it big in the later stages of his life as a manager. He started his coaching career as an assistant manager at Porto under Bobby Robson in 1994 and stayed there for a couple of seasons before the duo relocated again, this time to Barcelona. Robson had an attacking mind-set and that synced perfectly with Mourinho’s defensive approach. The English-Portuguese pair developed a strong bond together and Mourinho was quoted saying, “One of the most important things I learnt from Bobby Robson is that when you win, you shouldn’t assume you are the team, and when you lose, you shouldn’t think you are rubbish.” Robson left the club after a year but Mourinho was retained by the Barcelona board as the assistant coach, now under their new manager Louis Van Gaal. He left Barcelona to become Benfica’s head coach in 2000. He left for Portugal the following year to manage Uniao de Leiria before moving to FC Porto where his fortunes took a great jump. He led them to the UEFA Champions League title in 2004 and was immediately hired by Chelsea the next season to replace Claudio Ranieri. Chelsea won the PL title for the next two years including other domestic triumphs. He left the club in 2007 and had brief yet successful stays at Inter Milan (2008-10) and Real Madrid (2010-13) which included a Champions League victory with Inter. He returned to Chelsea, handing them the PL title in 2015, for an eventual two-year long stay before joining bitter rivals Manchester United in 2016 where he won the EFL Cup, FA Community Shield and the UEFA Europa in his first year-in-charge. Between 23 February 2002 and 25 November 2017, Mourinho went 189 home league matches unbeaten: 38 (W36–D2) with Porto, 60 (W46–D14) with Chelsea, 38 (W29–D9) with Inter Milan, 14 (W14–D0) with Real Madrid and 39 with Manchester United (W28–D11).
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(2) Arsene Wenger
Nicknamed “Le Professeur” by fans and the British media, Arsene Wenger played as a midfielder and started his youth career in France at FC Duttlenheim in 1963 before moving to Mutzig in 1969. He made his senior team debut at Mulhouse in 1973 and later on made appearances for ASPV Strasbourg and RC Strasbourg before retiring in 1981. The first team he managed was AS Nancy in the year 1984 and had a three-year stay which saw the team struggle in the league, given the sub-standard and limited budget provided by the club. He moved to Monaca in 1987 and guided them to their fifth Ligue 1 title in his first year at office. However he could only win one more title (Coupe de France 1990-91) in his seven-year reign at the club. He left for Japan’s Nagoya Grampus Eight in 1995 following widespread bribery and corruption cases amidst French football, the notable one being Marseille found guilty of match fixing in 1994. He led his team to the Emperor’s cup and J-League Super Cup triumphs before Arsenal hired him as their next coach in 1996 after the dismissal of Bruce Rioch. He is widely regarded as a pioneer who helped to bring about a change in English football by introducing the emphasised importance of diet and nutrition in a player’s daily life and helped the team realise the aesthetics of the game. Probably the highest moment in his Arsenal career was when the London-side finished the League unbeaten in 2004, with 90 points, 11 points ahead of second-placed Chelsea. They earned the tag “Invincibles” and were even presented a gold trophy saw them rise as a European power in the years to come. Arsenal made their first UEFA Champions League final appearance in 2006 which they eventually lost to Barcelona. Under him, Arsenal have won three PL titles (1997-98, 2001-02, 2003-04), seven FA Cups and seven Community Shields and is currently the longest-serving manager at the club, also being the most successful.
(1) Sir Alex Ferguson
Arguably the best manager ever, Sir Alex Ferguson has achieved such honours only few would dare trying to achieve. Born in Glasgow, Scotland; he went on to make his senior team debut as a striker at Queen’s Park in 1957 and later went on to play for numerous clubs across the United Kingdom (St Johnstone 1960-64, Dunfermline Athletic 1964-67, Rangers 1967-69, Falkirk 1969-73) before retiring at Ayr United in 1974. Although he could not play for the Scottish national team, he did make it to the Scotland Amateurs (1960), Scotland XI (1967) and Scotland Football League XI (1967). In June 1974, Ferguson was appointed by East Stirlingshire FC as their new manager at a comparatively raw age of just 32. He joined St Mirren the same year and led them to glory as they won the Scottish First Division a couple of years later. He left St Mirren for Aberdeen in 1978 and the team won three First Division titles, four Scottish Cups, one League Cup, the Drybrough Cup, the UEFA Winner’s Cup and the UEFA Super Cup in just eight years. After a brief stint as the Scotland manager (1985-86), he joined Manchester United in 1986 and his first silverware was a cup double in 1990 when United won the FA Cup and the Community Shield (shared with Liverpool as no extra time/penalties rule existed). In his illustrious 27-year long stay at the Manchester club, he elevated the level of the side and made it into one of the best in Europe, coaching some of the best talents in Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, Roy Keane, Wayne Rooney, Eric Cantona and many others over the years and helping United win numerous honours along the way in being the most successful club in England (13 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 10 Community Shields, 2 UEFA Champions League, 1 UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup, 1 UEFA Super Cup, 1 Intercontinental Cup and 1 FIFA Club World Cup).