50. David Wagner (Huddersfield)
There’s an obvious comparison to be made with Wagner, who cut his teeth at Borussia Dortmund before leading Huddersfield up the Championship table with a blend of gegenpressing, canny signings and his own belly-laughing Germanic charisma.
Perhaps the biggest compliment that can be paid to him, with Huddersfield’s improbable passage to the Premier League now secure, is that those tedious mentions of Jurgen Klopp are beginning to drop away. Wagner has quickly become recognised as a serious manager in his own right – and a seriously good one.
Since swapping Rhine for the Pennines in 2015 (with the remit of keeping the club out of the third tier), Wagner’s capacity to knock together a side whose whole has far outweighed the sum of its parts has bordered on the staggering. Key to his success has been the forging of an unassailable team spirit: Huddersfield’s pre-season trip to a survivalist camp in the woodlands has gotten much airtime, but a deluxe jaunt to Portugal ahead of the play-off final worked similar wonders. Put simply, he knows what’s required for each occasion.
Next season will bring more pressure, and his ability to find a bargain-basement gem – so crucial to this season’s upsurge – will be tested to its limit. The smart money, though, is that regardless of Huddersfield’s fate, Wagner will be a mainstay of the top level for some time.
Words: Alex Hess (opens in new tab)
49. Gheorghe Hagi
The ‘Maradona of the Carpathians’ is unique on this list – and would probably be on any list, come to think of it – for being both the owner and the manager of his club. He himself founded Viitorul in 2009, mainly with the purpose of developing top young prospects (and, of course, selling them).
But then he won the league this season, bettering the traditional powerhouses such as Steaua and Dinamo Bucharest in the process. He did so with a cast of kids and players signed almost exclusively on free transfers – Hagi has spent about €85,000 on transfer fees during the club’s five seasons in the top flight, while selling an €11m worth of players – a feat surely unmatched even by the masters of Football Manager.
Next stop, the Champions League. We wonder if the chairman would fire the manager if he fails to reach the group stage, though?
Words:Alex Holiga (opens in new tab)
48. Emma Hayes
There may not be a more progressive coach in the women’s game than Hayes, whose Chelsea team just won the FA Women’s Super League Spring Series.
The London native has been the driving force behind Chelsea’s rise since she joined in 2012, winning the league and cup Double in 2015. Hayes is a combination of tactical astuteness and master motivator.
If you need any proof of her ability to attract players – if the trophies aren’t enough – look at her successful recruitment of England international Karen Carney, South Korean playmaker Ji So-yun and, most recently, rising American star Crystal Dunn and mercurial Swiss forward Ramona Bachmann.
Hayes has the knowledge and confidence to thrive at any level – whether in the women’s or men’s game – and the 40-year-old is a name to watch for even bigger things down the road.
Words: Jeff Kassouf (opens in new tab)
47. Christian Streich
Freiburg are known for their patience with coaches – after all, Volker Finke was the longest-serving coach in Germany between between 1991 and 2007. That’s why the club were happy to keep faith in Streich when the team were rather unluckily relegated in 2015. The decision proved to be a stroke of genius, as the coach led his team to immediate promotion and then Europa League qualification last season.
Streich is the most local coach imaginable. Born in the Black Forest, he spent 16 years as youth coach at Freiburg, and then served four more seasons as an assistant. His speciality is helping young players to develop their potential.
The likes of Maximilian Philipp, sold to Borussia Dortmund this summer, and Vincenzo Grifo, who moved on to Borussia Monchengladbach, are great examples of Streich's work. The coach is also famous for his outspoken political messages for peace, tolerance and integration, and his press conferences are never boring. Oh, and he's famous for cycling to Freiburg's home games.
Words: Michael Yokhin (opens in new tab)
46. Barak Bakhar
Hapoel Be'er Sheva, a club from southern Israel, have been perennial underachievers for decades. Their last championship title was won in 1976, and fans lost hope of celebrating again. But then Bakhar appeared. The young coach, who is only 37, immediately turned Be'er Sheva into a superb outfit, brilliant tactically and strong mentally.
The best coach in the country by a distance, Bakhar masterminded a first title triumph in 2016 – after 40 years without one – and then defended it in 2017.
Be'er Sheva made some big headlines in Europe last season as well, defeating Olympiakos in the Champions League qualifiers and beating Inter twice in the Europa League. Bakhar is known for his ability to make shrewd tactical changes during the game, with his well-timed substitutions usually paying off.
Thanks to him, the southerners overtook the rich Maccabi Tel Aviv as the top club, and fans hope that Bakhar could become a successful Israeli coach in a top European league in the future.
Words: Michael Yokhin (opens in new tab)
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