FourFourTwo’s 50 Best Football Managers in the World 2016: 40-36

Moving on up with a title winner, Italy's next big boss and a much-beloved ladies' man

Words: Jeff Kassouf, Tom Kundert, Joe Brewin, Chris Flanagan, Adam Digby

40. Mark Sampson (England Women)

A great manager and coach, able to change our tactics depending on who we've been playing and give that element of surprise to the opposition

- Steph Houghton

Sampson is the definition of a players’ coach. Look no further than the scenes after England’s semi-final loss in the 2015 World Cup. Defender Laura Bassett had just scored one of the most unlucky own goals ever seen, finding the top corner of her own net in stoppage time against Japan to end England’s hopes of a passage to the World Cup final against the mighty United States.

Bassett was inconsolable, crying on the field as Japan celebrated a second straight trip to the final. Dejection in those moments is palpable and often contagious, but the manager's head didn’t drop. He rallied his team both privately and publicly, holding court in one of the most inspiring post-match press conferences for some time. Sampson praised Bassett as a hero, demanding that his people at home welcome back her and the team as such.

England went on to beat Germany in the third-place match, a remarkable recovery and a marker of the team’s progress, having been blown off the pitch nine months earlier by Die Nationalelf in a Wembley friendly. Sampson since has the Three Lionesses unbeaten in Euro qualifying and living up to their world No.4 ranking, as shown earlier this year in gritty matches against France, Germany and the United States. Aged just 33, he has done all this after taking over the job from Hope Powell, whose time was up after 15 years in charge of England.

As the FA have just concluded their search for the next manager to guide its men’s team past another major-tournament disappointment, the suits can take solace knowing that their women’s manager is both tactically sound and motivationally superior. Sampson isn’t just a coach; he’s a manager, and his players’ belief in him shows. JK