Ranked! The 12 best managers never to win the Champions League
Note: Each of these managers has participated in the post-1992 Champions League – purely as it’s unfair to involve gaffers who’ve never even had a crack at winning it. So no place for World Cup winner Joachim Löw, who’s picked many things, but never a lineup for a Champions League game; nor Liverpool legend Bill Shankly, who predates our timespan. Got it? Right...
12. Antonio Conte (Juventus, Chelsea)
Conte is rightly viewed as one of the continent’s best managers, yet the rather large blot on his copybook is a poor record in Europe. A 2012/13 quarter-final with Juventus is the furthest he’s ever taken a club in the Champions League, despite Conte’s domestic trophy tally being as rich and plentiful as his lustrous hair.
After winning Serie B with Bari, Conte kick-started the current Juventus dominance of Serie A with a hat-trick of league titles. A strong spell as Italy manager was followed by a Premier League title and an FA Cup with Chelsea. Yet the 49-year-old’s Champions League track record will be a talking point until he makes his mark in the competition.
11. Unai Emery (Spartak Moscow, Valencia, Sevilla, PSG)
Emery may not have won over everyone at Arsenal yet (source: Mr Ozil of Hampstead, London) and his European record in Paris was remarkable for the wrong reasons (source: Barcelona 6-1 PSG). However, the Spanish gaffer has done well in Europe previously.
At Sevilla, Emery won the Europa League three times in succession, besting Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in 2016 to complete his hat-trick. Previously he’d taken a financially struggling Valencia to Champions League qualification on three occasions. He’ll need to get Arsenal back into that competition to improve his legacy, but winning a record-breaking fourth Europa League this season would be a hell of a way to do it.
10. Didier Deschamps (Monaco, Marseille)
Some claim that France won the 2018 World Cup due to the sheer depth of their talent rather than any tactical brilliance on their manager's part. But far be it from us to ignore the pinnacle of international glory on a manager’s CV, plus – 14 years previously – Deschamps did do something special in the Champions League.
It got lost in the story of Jose Mourinho winning the competition with Porto – because of course it did – but Monaco also had a good run in 2003/04. Deschamps’ overachievers knocked out Real Madrid and Chelsea to make up the Champions League’s most unlikely final. Monaco lost 3-0 to Porto, but a World Cup win and an against-the-odds Champions League runners-up spot takes ‘the water carrier’ into our top 10.
9. Otto Rehhagel (Werder Bremen, Kaiserslautern)
King Otto’s Champions League record isn’t really the stuff of royalty, the sum total being a good run to the quarter-finals with unfancied Kaiserslautern in 1998/99. Yet the German’s record elsewhere is the stuff of greatness.
His 14 years at Werder Bremen are viewed as the club’s golden age: Rehhagel reeled in two Bundesliga titles, a pair of DFB-Pokals, three German Supercups, plus European success with the 1992 Cup Winners’ Cup.
Rehhagel then pulled off the ultimate international upset by managing Greece to Euro 2004 glory; a triumph we sincerely admire almost as much as we sincerely never, ever, want to watch any of those matches again.
8. Kenny Dalglish (Newcastle)
A three-time European Cup winner as a player, Dalglish’s managerial record in this competition amounts to a modest six games with Newcastle in the late 1990s. However, the big asterisk is that Dalglish took a superb Liverpool side to a host of domestic honours in the late 1980s, while English clubs were banned from Europe post-Heysel.
After leading the club through the Hillsborough disaster, and winning a league title in 1990, Dalglish abruptly resigned in 1991. He’d later rubber-stamp his greatness as a gaffer by winning the Premier League with Blackburn in 1994/95, becoming just the fourth manager to conquer the English championship with two different clubs.
7. Mircea Lucescu (Galatasaray, Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter Milan, Besiktas, Rapid Bucharest)
Only six managers have taken charge of a century of Champions League games and Romania’s Lucescu is one of that elite group. The fact that he’s never come close to winning it – quarter-final spots with Galatasaray and Shakhtar Donetsk being his best finishes – in no way reflects his coaching ability.
Outside of a brief spell with Inter in Italy, Lucescu hasn’t exactly managed the type of clubs you expect to win this competition. Yet he has had outstanding success.
A league winner in multiple countries with various clubs, the 73-year-old Lucescu pulled off his greatest feat at Shakhtar. There he merged no-nonsense Ukrainian defenders and freezing Brazilian attackers into a surprisingly cohesive unit, winning eight league titles, plus the club’s first European trophy with the 2009 UEFA Cup.