FourFourTwo’s 50 Best Football Managers in the World 2017: 25 to 21
25. Ralph Hasenhuttl
Before every match, Hasenhuttl asks his players to stand in a circle, close their eyes and listen to him. It works. The 49-year-old Austrian has achieved wonders at every club he’s been at, and the most recent success was especially impressive.
Having been given the reins at newly promoted RB Leipzig, Hasenhuttl guided them to second place in the Bundesliga and automatic Champions League qualification in brilliant style. He turned promising talents Emil Forsberg, Naby Keita and Timo Werner into top stars.
Quality offensive play has also showed that Hasenhuttl is continuing his development, having built his success at Ingolstadt around defensive organisation and quick counters. The Austrian was seen as somewhat one-dimensional, despite saving the club from relegation to the third tier, then leading the modest outfit to promotion to the Bundesliga in 2015 and keeping them there.
At Leipzig, under the guidance of wily sporting director Ralf Rangnick, Hasenhuttl has produced a much more attractive team. The sky is the limit for him. He finished his playing career with Bayern Munich reserves in 2002, and the Bavarian giants are rumoured to consider him a strong possibility as their next coach.
Words: Michael Yokhin
24. Luciano Spalletti
After a season-and-a-half at Roma in which he built a free-scoring side that was easy on the eye but ultimately not able to keep pace with Max Allegri’s unstoppable Juventus, Spalletti has taken on the poisoned chalice of the Inter job.
The fact he will be the Nerazzurri’s fifth boss in the space of a year goes some way to highlighting the challenge ahead, although the former Zenit boss will undoubtedly be helped by the large investments promised by the club’s new Chinese owners.
The vastly experienced 58-year-old won two Coppa Italia trophies during his first spell in Rome, before securing two Russian titles while in Saint Petersburg. His departure from the Giallorossi this summer didn't come as a surprise – fans were frustrated after another failed title tilt – but leading the club to the runners-up spot with a record goals and points tally remains an impressive achievement.
Roma president James Pallotta perhaps best summed up Spalletti’s second spell in the capital: "He saved my butt last year and this one too."
Words: Alasdair Mackenzie
23. Eusebio Di Francesco
Long regarded as the next big thing in Italian coaching, Di Francesco looks set to finally make the step up to the big leagues, with Roma identifying their former midfielder as the successor to Luciano Spalletti.
The 47-year-old won the Scudetto with the Giallorossi as a player, but a move to the capital has been earned through graft rather than reputation: Di Francesco has worked his way up through the leagues since starting out at Virtus Lanciano nine years ago.
Sassuolo has been the making of the talented coach and vice-versa: he led the club to Serie A for the first time ever in 2013/14, before making more history by guiding the minnows into a maiden European campaign this season after a remarkable sixth-placed finish.
Di Francesco has achieved his success in Emilia-Romagna while using an entertaining 4-3-3 system that has seen the likes of Domenico Berardi, Nicola Sansone and Lorenzo Pellegrini emerge as some of Italian football’s top talents.
Words: Alasdair Mackenzie
22. Luis Enrique
Leaving Barcelona with nine trophies secured from a possible 13 is no fluke. Luis Enrique may have had one of the fiercest forward lines in world football with Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, but the fresh air he breathed into the club only ran out last season.
Having spent one disappointing campaign managing Roma, a quick return to Spain proved key to his career progression. A ninth-placed finish with Celta Vigo built his reputation, before his roots coaching at Barcelona B led to him taking the Camp Nou hot seat in 2014.
In his first season at Barcelona they won the Treble. His more direct style helped get the best from the MSN, but at a price of eroding the club’s footballing identity. After two great years, 2016/17 saw a weak midfield exposed before the Asturian announced his departure. A victim of his previous success.
Words: Simon Harrison
21. Jorge Sampaoli
Without a doubt, Sampaoli is one of the most exciting coaches in football. His startling work with Universidad de Chile, in which he cultivated a breathless, free-flowing style that secured silverware, was followed by a switch to Chile’s national team. There, he ended a curse on the South American nation and delivered their first major trophy with the 2015 Copa America.
It was on to fresh challenges for Sampaoli in 2016 as he took the helm at Sevilla. There were doubts over how he’d take to European football, but they were soon shrugged off as the club stormed into an unprecedented La Liga title charge. His methods can be exhausting, however, and in the second half of last season Sevilla were burned out, unable to maintain the tempo they started with under Sampaoli and duly being knocked out of the Champions League by Leicester.
Still, a fourth-place finish in La Liga was not shameful by any means. What’s next for Sampaoli is intriguing as he attempts to restore the good name of Argentine football as national team coach – and the small matter of helping Leo Messi land a trophy with his country.
Words: David Cartlidge
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