Read all about the Frenchman making miracles, Serie A’s old dog and two gurus of high-octane football...
30) Jocelyn Gourvennec (Guingamp)
Gourvennec’s Guingamp have absolutely no inferiority complex. There is a clear message from the coach, who gets the maximum out of every player, demands them to make sacrifices for the good of the team and gives them a lot of confidence
After leading Guingamp from France’s semi-professional third tier to Ligue 1 in the space of three seasons, having taken over at the Stade du Roudourou back in 2010, Gourvennec has spent his last two campaigns working miracles keeping the tiny Breton outfit in the top flight.
Despite a lack of funds and quality players, the 43-year-old has managed to maintain Guingamp’s status in Ligue 1 and even inspired them to Coupe de France success in 2014 with a 2-0 win over Brittany rivals Rennes.
Gourvennec also steered his modest side to the semi-finals of the 2015 edition, chasing what would have been the club’s third title in six years. On top of that, Guingamp also made it out of their Europa League group last term and bettered their 2013/14 Ligue 1 finish of 16th by six places, ending in 10th.
Gourvennec is the closest thing France has to popular German Jürgen Klopp, and the Frenchman is now searching for his own Borussia Dortmund project to propel him to the wider attentions of Europe. The Guingamp tactician has already confirmed that he’ll be staying for one more season before finally moving on. He’ll be in demand. JJ
29) Giampiero Ventura (Torino)
The coach created a great harmony with the speech he made after the last match of the season. Ventura has given so much to Torino; in four years he was the one who took them up again. 90% of the credit is his
Considering he turns 68 in January, Ventura probably isn’t considered a young coach by anyone other than Phil Neville. The Torino boss proved last season, though, that there’s life in the old dog yet.
Many onlookers feared for the club’s Serie A status back in August. In 2013/14 the Granata finished seventh and qualified for the Europa League when boosted by the attacking talents of Ciro Immobile and Alessio Cerci, who contributed over 60% of Torino’s 58 league goals. The subsequent loss of both last summer – together with the extra demands of European football on a squad that was already on the small side – led many to predict a season of struggle for Torino.
Instead, Ventura led Turin’s second club to a ninth-placed finish and the knockout stages of the Europa League, as they finished the season with only three points fewer than the previous campaign.
The former Sampdoria and Napoli boss has produced a well-drilled outfit with a ferocious team spirit, and who are capable of beating teams through both skill and will. Tactically adept and akin to a father figure for many of his players, Ventura may just have had the best season of his 34-year managerial career. GL
28) Didier Deschamps (France)
Since the Ukraine play-off, something’s clicked. We’ve built something – the spirit in the camp has changed. Deschamps has played a really big part in that. It’s a youthful group, but there’s a good relationship between all the players
Currently constructing a controversy-free France national team ahead of Euro 2016 on home soil, Deschamps has endured a mixed start to his international management career.
Les Bleus impressed in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil before making a flat quarter-final exit to Germany, but they’d come perilously close to not being there at all.
Only a heroic 3-0 win over Ukraine in Paris back in November 2013 was enough to take Deschamps’ men to South America after struggling through qualification. The team are now suffering a similarly sticky patch of form as they prepare for the Euros with a series of meaningless friendlies.
Deschamps enjoyed a successful spell at Marseille before taking the France job, winning the 2009-10 Ligue 1 title and three straight Coupe de la Ligue trophies between 2010 and 2012.
France’s 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000-winning captain also led Monaco to an improbable Champions League final in 2003-04 and the 2003 Coupe de la Ligue in his first managerial posting, before leading Juventus out of Serie B in his solitary season in charge in Turin.
Astute tactically and possessing good motivational skills, Deschamps excels in tournament and cup competition formats. JJ
27) Roger Schmidt (Bayer Leverkusen)
He's the best coach I've ever had. Not just professionally, as nobody before him was as good. He knows exactly how he must tackle each type of situation
Schmidt is the first to admit that he didn’t plan on becoming a football coach.
But the Bayer Leverkusen boss is now renowned for bringing a highly entertaining brand of high-pressing football, which he honed during a successful spell with Red Bull Salzburg when his side romped to the title by a terrifying 18 points in 2013/14. It's a system that suits his players, and exactly what the club had been searching for when they hired him at the end of that campaign.
The domestic improvements he's overseen in a season – if not by points – are impressive. But more importantly, it's the improvement in Europe that deserves applause. After previously humiliating defeats in the Champions League, Bayer's performances last season weren’t merely respectable but top level. They took 2014 finalists Atletico Madrid to extra-time, only to lose on penalties. It was a similar situation in the German Cup against Bayern Munich.
Leverkusen were unable to produce a great deal under Sami Hyypia, but Schmidt's intense system breathed new life at the BayArena. He makes his team launch quick attacks, pressuring opponents with or without the ball, but it’s the combined intensity and pressing that makes it so difficult for opponents to adapt. Schmidt is also very likeable; his teams often praise him for his honesty and communication skills – and in a good boss, that’s a fairly important commodity. AH
26) Jorge Sampaoli (Chile)
One day my brother asked if I could meet a man from a town close to my own who was eager to contact me. The man finally came, entered my house and was asking me questions about football for seven hours. A few years later, when somebody showed me a picture, I instantly recognised Sampaoli as the man who had me locked in my house
By now we all probably know that Sampaoli is a Marcelo Bielsa admirer (quite the fan party he’s got) who used to listen to his master’s press conferences as he jogged around. What isn’t so well-known is that he got his first big coaching opportunity after he was spotted on top of a tree, trying to follow a local league game after he’d been dismissed. The picture became quite popular in Rosario and that caught the attention of Newell’s Old Boys’ satellite club.
His road to stardom wasn’t easy, though. He moved around three different countries until becoming the man of the moment in Chile, just when Bielsa was in charge of the national team. His Universidad de Chile side embraced his style until they became one of the most intriguing teams in South America. There was unbearable pressing, a 3-4-3 that encouraged players to roam in the opposition half, superb fitness and a hand-to-hand combat attitude that was enough to make Chilean fans (and players) fall in love with the national team again after Claudio Borghi’s failed experience.
The results were visible in last year’s World Cup, as Chile came close to defeating Brazil in the last 16 and only lost on penalties. He can’t please everyone, though: the way he handled Arturo Vidal’s case during this summer’s home Copa America was criticised for being too lenient. Other times he’s accused of being too strict. In any case, his approach works – as that historic trophy Chile picked up in July demonstrates. MM