Europe is perhaps the best when it comes to club football in terms of worldwide fan following, quality of teams, players and managers. Here, I am going to write about the top ten managers who are currently active in European club football. It is true that many players from other continents became famous playing in Europe, but I did not find any notable manager from outside Europe working with a European club.
Before taking you through to the list, I would like to inform you that while making the list I not only considered the number of titles a manager has to his credit, but also his skills in man-management, vision, tactics, finding talented players, making decisive decisions and nurturing young talents. Anyway, the list is totally based on my own opinion and you do not necessarily have to agree with me. Rather, you can share your opinion in the comment section.
Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United)
The 68-year-old has already become one of the most decorated managers in European club football. When he took charge of Manchester United in November 1986, the club was struggling to avoid relegation (being second from bottom); Ferguson then helped the Red Devils to finish 11th in the league table that season.
Now, after 24 years Sir Alex Ferguson Ferguson has won everything with Manchester United: 11 Premier League, 5 FA Cup, 4 League Cup, 2 Champions League and 9 FA Community Shield titles, alongside one title in each of the following tournaments: UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, UEFA Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.
As a manager Sir Alex Ferguson took no time to advocate strict discipline in the team. Another thing that many believe helped him achieve so much success at Old Trafford is his sincerer effort to build young players, besides making necessary signings, and the outcome was players like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Garry Neville and Phil Neville started to come through the youth ranks.
Arsene Wenger (Arsenal)
The Frenchman’s placement at this position in the list may surprise many, but as I sated before, I did not only consider a manager’s success in the form of titles achieved but also take into account his ability to build a team. Arsene Wenger may not have won as many titles as some other managers of this list did, but among these managers only Ferguson can come close to Wenger’s excellent visionary skill in club management and ability in spotting unearthed talents.
Wenger could not win any title over the last 5 years as he had to run with a tight budget due to the club’s stadium debt and rely mostly on home grown young players. But, still he could keep Arsenal at the top four of Premier League every season and guided them to the Champions League final in 2006.
Wenger’s early years at the club, when the financial challenge was not severe, proved to be highly successful as he produced 11 titles including 3 Premier League and 3 FA Cup titles in the space of 9 years. Wenger became the first and only manager in the history of Premier League to lead his team to win the Premier League title without enduring any defeat in 2003-04.
Arsene Wenger set up a much-praised example of youth policy that saw the emergence of the players like Cesc Fabregas, Jack Wilshere and few other talented players. He is also highly skilled at spotting talents. Starting from Thierry Henry to Thomas Vermaelen lately, Wenger bought man young talented players who jus turned into world class players at Arsenal.
Jose Mourinho (Real Madrid)
The Portuguese is perhaps the most hot-shot manager of European club football at the moment. After failing as a player, Jose Mourinho pursued his career in club management. He started as the interpreter of Sir Bobby Robson, who was appointed Sporting Lisbon manager, in 1992 and continued working with Robson as his assistant and interpreter at FC Porto and Barcelona. Later, he also worked as assistant of Louis van Gaal at Barcelona.
Mourinho, nicknamed The Special One, was appointed as the head coach of Benfica in 2000, but his major success came at FC Porto where he won two Portuguese League titles in successive years and a UEFA Cup and Champions League titles in between 2002 and 2004. He continued achieving success with English club Chelsea, winning 6 titles including two Premier League titles in the space of just 3 years.
Mourinho then helped Inter Milan to win 5 competitive tournaments including 2 Serie A and a Champions League titles during his two-year stint. Overall, the current Real Madrid manager has won 17 top-flight titles with 3 different clubs in 3 different European leagues over the last 8 years.
Carlo Ancelotti (Chelsea)
Unlike Ferguson and Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti pursued his career in club management on the back of a highly successful playing career. However, after 15 years in managerial job, he can now feel that his managerial career is no less decorative than his playing career. He has won 1 Serie A, 1 Italian Cup, 2 Champions League, 1 FIFA Club World Cup and 2 UEFA Super Cup titles during his 8-year stay at AC Milan.
Ancelotti also got instant success at his current club Chelsea, leading them to win Premier League and FA Cup double in his debut season, and thus, becoming the only second non-British manager after Arsene Wenger to win the prestigious Double in England.
Carlo Ancelotti is well-known for his excellent personal relationship with the players. His coaching philosophy is not that of a strict disciplinarian. Rather, his intention is to associate with the players as closely as possible and make a friendly atmosphere at the club so that players do not hesitate to reveal what they are feeling about different issues.
Louis van Gaal (Bayern Munich)
The Dutchman is another highly decorative manager of European club football. After a highly successful career as a professional player, Louis van Gaal took club management as his profession. It has been almost two decades he has been in club management and won almost each and every title that came his way. Louis van Gaal is one of those very few European managers who did not endure failure at any club.
Starting with Ajax, Louis van Gaal won 3 Dutch League, 3 Dutch Super Cup, 1 Dutch Cup, 1 Champions League, 1 UEFA Cup, 1 UEFA Super Cup and 1 Intercontinental Cup during his 6-year stint with the Dutch giants. He emulated his success at Barcelona too, leading them to win 2 Spanish League, 1 Spanish Cup and 1 Super Cup titles in just 3 years.
However, Louis van Gaal had a disappointing coaching stint with Netherlands as he failed to guide the Dutch national side to qualify for the 2002 World Cup. Following a short second stint with Barcelona, he joined Dutch club AZ in 2005 and guided them to win the Dutch league in 2009, the same year he joined German club Bayern Munich. The 59-year-old showed his magic in his debut season at Bundesliga, leading Bayern to an unprecedented domestic Treble and the final of Champions League.
Roberto Mancini (Manchester City)
Roberto Mancini is another highly successful player who moved into club management. The current manager of Manchester City has earned much fame for what he achieved at his previous clubs- Inter Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina. Overall, he won 3 Italian League, 4 Italian Cup and 2 Italian Super Cup titles since 2001.
Mancini started his managerial career even before his retirement as a player. During his last years of playing career, he served as a player and assistant manager at Lazio. After his retirement in 2001, he took charge of cash-trapped Fiorentina and led them to win the Italian Cup the same year before joinin another financially stricken club Lazio. It was at Lazio where Mancini for the first time showed his skill in building a team and tactical skill, and led the club to win Italian Cup in 2004, despite losing key players and running on a tight budget.
In 2004, Mancini joined Inter Milan where he enjoyed a highly successful 4-year stint, winning three consecutive Italian League titles. However, he failed to produce any notable success in Europe and this is perhaps the reason he was sacked in 2008, despite achieving enviable domestic success.
Rafael Benitez (Inter Milan)
Rafael Benitez is another notable manager currently involved in European club football. He is now at the helm of Italian club Inter Milan following his successful 6-year stint with Liverpool during which he guided the English club to win Champions League in 2005, besides achieving 1 FA Cup, 1 UEFA Super Cup and 1 FA Community Shield titles. However, there are many who believe that failing to produce a Premier League title at Liverpool was the failure of Benitez.
At 50, Rafael Benitez already has 24 years of experience at coaching as he started his coaching career at the age of 26 after failing to lift his playing career. He coached at various levels in Real Madrid including its reserve side, U-19 team and finally as the assistant for the senior team’s manager. He left Real Madrid for Real Valladolid in 1995 and in the next five years he managed 3 more clubs with little success.
Benitez got the breakthrough when he joined Valencia in 2001. During his 3-year-stint at Valencia, he won 2 Spanish League and 1 UEFA Cup titles. Overall, the Spaniard has already earned some prestigious titles in his career and it would be interesting to see how much success he can achieve at Inter Milan.
Pep Guardiola (Barcelona)
Josep Guardiola, better known as Pep Guardiola, is the youngest and least experienced manager in this list. However, the 39-year-old started his managerial career with a bang, leading Barcelona to win 6 titles in a year.
In his debut season (2008-2009) as manager, Guardiola guided Barcelona to win the Treble including Spanish League, Spanish Cup and Champions League. Winning the Champions League title, he became the youngest ever manager to achieve this success. In 2009, Barcelona also won Spanish Supercopa, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup titles under his guidance and defended the Spanish League title in 2009-10 season.
No doubt, Pep Guardiola has already earned lots of attention though his success with Barcelona and many believe he has everything what it takes to become a legend. He always prefers attacking and flowing style of football and his coaching philosophy is reflected in Barcelona’s performances over the last couple of years.
Frank Rijkaard (Galatasaray)
The Dutch legend started his coaching career in 1998 when he took over as the coach of Netherlands national team, but he resigned two years later following Netherlands’ semi final defeat to Italy in Euro 2000. He then had a short stint with Dutch side Sparta Rotterdam before joining Barcelona in 2003.
At Barcelona, Rijkaard started showing his managerial skills. During his 5-year stay at the Catalan side, he won 2 Spanish League, 1 Champions league and 2 Spanish Super Cup titles. The most important thing is that he produced beautiful attacking style of football with his Barcelona side that not only won tournaments but also gave enjoyment to the fans.
Alike his great compatriots Rinus Michels and Johan Cruijff, Rijkaard always advocates attacking style of football and believes in playing as a unit without relying on individual performances.
Didier Deschamps (Olympique Marseille)
The World Cup winning former France international has already showed that he has the quality to emulate his success as a player in his managerial career. He started his career as a manager in 2001 when he was appointed manager of French club AS Monaco.
During his managerial stint, he guided Monaco to win the French League Cup title in 2003, and most importantly, led Monaco to the final of Champions League for the first time in 2003-04. Though Monaco lost to Porto in the final, it remained as one of the biggest achievements in the history of Monaco.
In 2006, Didier Deschamps joined Juventus and led them to win the Serie B title, and thus, earning promotion to Serie A. Despite the success, Deschamps resigned and took a break of 2 years before returning in 2009 as the manager of Olympique Marseille. He started his Marseille career in style guiding the team to win a prestigious domestic Double including French League and French League Cup titles.