FourFourTwo's 50 Best Football Managers in the World 2018
Management is no easy lark. Zinedine Zidane may have made it look that way by strolling into Real Madrid and winning three straight Champions League titles, but for mere mortals it's a constant struggle of man-management, tactical brain-storming, media handling and more.
To rank bosses based on their achievements is not an easy task, then: with so many nuances to take into consideration, there's no straightforward way to define success (and therefore the best football managers). Winning the Champions League is the pinnacle, but you're not going to do that with Burnley – so leading such a club to new heights should be considered appropriately.
While this list leans heavily on achievements over the calendar year in 2018, there's a giant nod to overall class here too – one good (or bad) year should not define a career, after all. Some of the best managers here are well-known old-timers; others are among the most exciting up-and-comers on the planet. So delve in...
50. Brendan Rodgers (Celtic)
When Mr Positivity said fans should be “alarmed” by the Hoops’ slow start, he was probably trying to inject some urgency into a club where he has made domestic life even easier than usual. Celtic scooped all three Scottish pots again, but in Europe – the real test – they fell two rounds short of the Champions League group stage.
A rare foray into the Europa League’s later stages would restore Rodgers’ Magic Brendan aura, as would winning a historic ‘treble Treble’. – Huw Davies
49. Simone Inzaghi (Lazio)
He might not have been anywhere near as talented as his brother Pippo during their playing days, but Inzaghi is certainly overshadowing his sibling in the dugout.
Unfortunate not to reach the Champions League last term, his Lazio side have become a team to be feared in Italy, earning some spectacular results with their exciting play. Tactically astute and particularly good at bringing the best from an attack led experly by Ciro Immobile, it would not be a surprise to see one of Italy’s bigger clubs poach Inzaghi Jnr very soon. – Adam Digby
48. Ricardo Gareca (Peru)
The former Argentina striker – once on Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s hit list – made a name for himself across South America, especially at Velez Sarsfield, but it’s his recent work for Peru which amazes.
Not only did Gareca lead the rather modest squad to their first World Cup finals since 1982, he also implemented a fearless attacking mentality which ultimately lost out in the group stage, but won a lot of friends. Expect further progress under the veteran’s specialist guidance. – Michael Yokhin
47. Sean Dyche (Burnley)
After they’d won plaudits aplenty for qualifying, Burnley’s Europa League campaign passed with all the impact of a tree falling in an empty forest – yet Dyche’s achievement is remarkable.
Although the Clarets deserved more coverage and credit for beating a talented Istanbul Basaksehir team (before losing to Olympiakos), Dyche’s true triumph came in 2017/18 as Burnley defied xG models and a negative goal difference to finish ‘best of the rest’ in seventh with one of the Premier League’s lowest wage bills. – Huw Davies
46. Juan Carlos Osorio (Paraguay)
After a nomadic meander around North and South America, Osorio settled in the middle as Mexico coach in 2015, succeeding the volcanic Miguel Herrera. His spell in charge of El Tri was full of highs and lows, featuring a 22-match unbeaten run and frequent touchline combustibility, but the man nicknamed 'The Recreationist' for his for his unorthodox training methods went out in style at this year’s World Cup.
Mexico’s daring and expressive defeat of holders Germany will live long in the memory. Next job, qualify Paraguay for Qatar 2022. – Andy Brassell
45. Ariel Holan (Independiente)
A former field hockey coach who won bronze with Uruguay’s women at the 2003 Pan American Games, Holan is famous for selling his car in order to buy a more modern computer to analyse as much data as possible on his players. Since then, he’s been slowly recovering Independiente’s mystique, displaying an attractive style and leading them to Copa Sudamericana and Suruga Cup titles in the last 12 months.
A progressive and innovative man, Holan almost abandoned the club after a row with the local barra bravas (ultras), but was persuaded to reconsider. El Rojo fans will be glad he did. – Marcus Alves
44. Abel Ferreira (Braga)
Promoted from Braga's reserves to the first team in April 2017, the former Sporting full-back has fast established himself as one of the most promising young coaches in Europe.
Praised for his tactical versatility, devotion to high tempo and good eye for game-changing substitutions, he finished the 2017/18 season in superb fashion and has started the new term even better, taking a joint-lead with Benfica ahead of Porto and Sporting with seven matches played. – Michael Yokhin
43. Rudi Garcia (Marseille)
Garcia nearly became only the third coach in history to lead a French club to victory in European competition when Marseille reached the Europa League final last May. Atletico Madrid dashed l’OM’s dreams on the night, but by guiding the team so far, Garcia enhanced his reputation as a smart tactician and master motivator.
When the ex-Roma boss took charge, Marseille were struggling to pick themselves back up after selling several key stars and finishing 13th. After nearly two years in charge under Garcia, they are in a far better state. – James Eastham
42. Quique Setien (Real Betis)
After years of Real Betis being in the shadow of overachieving neighbours Sevilla, Setien was exactly what they needed – a coach with a plan, vision and attitude. His risky, attack-minded football had made Las Palmas one of La Liga’s must-watch sides outside the big two, until a colossal falling-out with the board led to his exit at the end of 2016/17.
He didn’t start well at Betis but the board kept the faith, and he clinched a return to Europe in style at the end of his first season. Throw in Joaquin and there’s a lot to love. – Andy Brassell
41. Eddie Howe (Bournemouth)
A direct comparison between Bournemouth’s starts in 2017 and 2018 shows a marked improvement; Howe and his players made it through to the second international break unbeaten at home. The picture is of a coach still learning, but for whom that is meant as a compliment: Bournemouth’s defensive standards are far higher than they were a year ago.
Howe’s impressive tactical acumen may not have always won him points, but this is certainly a strategic mind in development. Maybe his real success is shown in his individual players: Callum Wilson’s admirable resurgence after serious injury; the development of Ryan Fraser into a genuine difference-maker at Premier League level; and the continued high performances of Steve Cook and Charlie Daniels. Respectfully, all have been beyond expectation.
He arrested a serious slump last winter, and out of that crisis has grown an altogether smarter side – and probably also a more complete head coach. – Seb Stafford-Bloor