The 10 best managers in Europe you've probably not heard of... yet

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Miguel Cardoso (Rio Ave)

Miguel Cardoso

He looks like Luciano Spalletti, and could be just as inspirational: Cardoso is yet another face in the seemingly endless line of Portuguese coaches who have never played professionally themselves. Having served as an assistant at numerous clubs, he made a name for himself in rather unusual fashion by moving to the youth team of Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013. Cardoso worked as an assistant to Paulo Fonseca last season, before returning to his homeland in 2017.

In his debut season as chief coach in his own right, the 45-year-old has made a huge impression at Rio Ave – his possession-based style has helped the modest club climb to the dizzy heights of fifth in the Primeira Liga. Cardoso – softly spoken, unorthodox and charismatic – is currently the darling of the Portuguese press. He should get his chance at a bigger club very soon.

Luis Pimenta (Brommapojkarna)

Luis Pimenta

Yep – another Portuguese coach who’s never played professional football. Pimenta, who speaks seven languages fluently, understood very early that he wasn’t good enough on the pitch and studied towards becoming a coach, including a sports psychology course at Liverpool John Moores University.

That's where Pimenta made Norwegian friends, which eventually led to him starting his coaching career in Scandinavia. Kongsvinger, of Norway's second division, gambled on him in 2014, and Pimenta led them to the verge of promotion plus – even more sensationally – a Norwegian cup final appearance.

This year, the 36-year-old took another interesting challenge at newly promoted Swedish outfit Brommapojkarna. We should hear a lot more about him in the future.

Sergei Semak (Ufa)

Sergei Semak

During his playing career, Semak was one of the most liked and respected players in Russia – a born leader who captained the national team that reached the semi-final of Euro 2008. Now, the man who won five league titles with CSKA Moscow, Rubin Kazan and Zenit is starting to make a name for himself as a coach as well.

Semak assisted Luciano Spalletti, Andre Villas-Boas and Mircea Lucescu at Zenit (as well as Fabio Capello and Leonid Slutsky with the national team) before finally taking over at tiny Russian side Ufa in early 2017. The results have been outstanding, and the low-budget outfit have avoided a relegation battle. The 42-year-old Semak is widely considered one of the top candidates to replace Roberto Mancini at Zenit.

Adi Hutter (Young Boys)

Adi Hutter

The only top Austrian footballer born after the Second World War to be named Adolf – Hutter may not be entirely pleased with his parents, and prefers the shorter version 'Adi'. He has made a lot of headlines for the right reasons, however – both on the pitch (where he mostly starred at Salzburg) and now as a coach.

Young Boys haven't won the title since 1986, but they are on the verge of breaking the curse at the expense of heavy favourites Basel, playing magnificently attacking football. Hutter has been in charge at Young Boys since 2015 and made revolutionary changes to the club's vision. He should get a chance in the Bundesliga soon.

Christophe Pelissier (Amiens)

Christophe Pelissier

To put it simply, Pelissier is a miracle worker. In 2014 he led Luzenac, a club from a village of 500 people, to an incredible promotion to Ligue 2 – only to see his dream destroyed by the FA, who refused to allow the club to become professional because of stadium issues.

Heartbroken but not beaten, the coach moved to Amiens and led them to successive promotions. The northern club, from the town where French president Emmanuel Macron was born, were virtually unknown before. Now, though, they're playing attractive and positive football in Ligue 1, and are set to stay in the top division against all odds.

Could the 52-year-old be successful at a club that isn't outright underdog? That's the question around Pelissier now. 

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