FourFourTwo’s 100 most influential people in football right now: 70-61
Words: Emyr Price, Jeff Kassouf, Michael Yokhin, Seb Stafford-Bloor, Amit Katwala, Mike Holden
70. Ralf Rangnick
The 58-year-old is undoubtedly one of the best coaches and sporting directors in football. Rangnick was responsible for building Hoffenheim from scratch, taking over in 2006 and achieving promotion from the third division to the Bundesliga. Now he's doing the same with RB Leipzig, who are the most important part of the Red Bull project.
Rangnick, who also acts as the sporting director at Red Bull Salzburg, masterminded the unique development that enabled Leipzig to take Germany by storm and qualify for the Champions League in their maiden Bundesliga season.
They might not be popular, but Rangnick and Red Bull are doing it the right way, purchasing young, talented players and investing in a state-of-the-art football academy. With superstars in the making like Emil Forsberg and Naby Keita in their ranks, the future looks bright for RB Leipzig, who have already qualified for the 2017/18 Champions League in their first Bundesliga season.
While Rangnick continues to be responsible for virtually every aspect at the club, expect the East Germans to become serious rivals to Bayern Munich in the near future. MY
69. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani
Al Thani, one of the world's richest men, was prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar until 2013, and as such was hugely influential in the winning bid to host the 2022 World Cup.
Significant suspicions surrounded the controversial decision, but Al Thani denied that Qatar bribed senior FIFA officials, claiming that critics are driven by Islamophobia. "All the talk is about Qatar, because it comes to a small, Arab, Islamic country," he huffed in 2015.
The World Cup project has proved to be extremely problematic, and FIFA eventually decided to stage the tournament in winter, but it looks like Qatar is set to keep it despite numerous reports that the country uses slaves to build stadiums.
Al Thani doesn't hold an official post at the moment, but he continues to be very influential as a member of the ruling family, and football will be hearing a lot more about Qatar in the next five years. MY
68. Jonathan Barnett
One of the most powerful agents on the planet, Barnett set up the Stellar Group in the early 1990s and now has a vast stable of players including Gareth Bale, Adam Lallana, Joe Hart, Luke Shaw and Gylfi Sigurdsson. "We can go through them all, but you’d run out of tape," said Barnett, smiling, in an interview with The Guardian back in October 2015.
He continued: "As far as global football is concerned, we’re the largest football agency, player-wise and everything else. Jose Mendes is probably the only person close to us. But Jorge is different. He does much more work with clubs; we solely work with players. It’s a different operation."
A lifelong Arsenal fan who orchestrated Ashley Cole’s controversial move to Chelsea in 2006, Barnett made no secret of his pride when he had the world’s most expensive player to his name – and the pleasure he derived from teasing Mendes over the fact. MH
67. Gary Lineker
Depending on your point of view, Lineker is either an immigrant-loving, traitorous saboteur, or a national treasure who’s the closest thing we’ve got to an opposition leader at the moment.
On screen, when he’s not gurning through crisp adverts, Lineker is a consummate professional who you always suspect has better informed and more reasoned opinions than the pundits he’s paid to extract soundbites from.
As the face of Match of the Day and BT Sport’s Champions League coverage, he’s the face most people see when they watch their football, and it was nice to see his genuine fandom coming through as Leicester won the Premier League last season.
Lineker’s social media persona has caused controversy among some of the more right-leaning papers, but it’s not all that different from how he is on screen or in real life – well-informed, eloquent and saying pretty reasonable stuff that most sane people would find it hard to disagree with. If only everyone was more like Gary. AK
66. Aurelio De Laurentiis
Napoli were in danger of disappearing in 2004 after going bankrupt, but De Laurentiis took over and refounded the club in the third division.
Their progress has been phenomenal ever since, and the Partenopei became one of the top Serie A teams once again under the flamboyant president, who loves to take the establishment on and sees Juventus as a true enemy.
The 67-year-old is a film producer, and he tends to treat football as a good script as well. Aside from hurling abuse at departed striker Gonzalo Higuain, one of his big ideas is to build a new stadium with 40,000 fewer seats than Napoli’s current Stadio San Paolo, and in September he vowed to never watch another game there until he’d built his own.
Presenting Gokhan Inler masked as a lion in 2011 was one of his famous jokes, but De Laurentiis is a very serious shrewd dealer in the transfer market who loves to find unexpected jewels that the club can later sell on at a huge profit. The latest arrivals include brilliant young players like Arkadiusz Milik, Piotr Zielinski and Marko Rog, and Napoli fans can legitimately dream of winning a first title since the days of Diego Maradona. MY