It's impossible, isn't it? The 100 best football managers of all time just simply can't be ranked, surely. How can you compare achievements across eras, clubs and dugouts?
That won't stop us giving it a go, mind. They’ve tweaked, tinkered, engineered and evolved football for decades – often, with its shiniest prizes awaiting them at the end. Now, it’s time to honour these trailblazers.
Presenting FFT’s list of the finest football managers in history...
The 100 best football managers of all time
100. Roy Hodgson
Hodgson’s career reads like a crazed Football Manager save: eight countries, 21 outposts, and challenges ranging from the Swedish second division to European finals.
Five consecutive titles with Malmo launched him, and his innovations left a legacy across Scandinavia. Although Hodgson notably stumbled at Liverpool, he performed miracles with the likes of Switzerland and Copenhagen and even got Inter back on track.
But his greatest hour came at Fulham, who he miraculously saved from the drop before guiding them to the Europa League final following a shock seventh-place finish.
99. Fatih Terim
As a player, Terim was a wily defender, and as a manager his teams have been largely the same.
‘The Emperor’ has coached Turkey on three occasions – guiding them to the semi-finals of Euro 2008 – and Galatasaray on four, instilling a hard-running, hard-tackling style best on show in his Gala sides that won four consecutive league titles from 1997-2000, as well as the UEFA Cup final against Arsenal.
“He’s extraordinary,” former charge Gheorghe Hagi once gushed. “He could coach any side.”
98. Vaclav Jezek
Taking charge of Sparta Prague back in 1964, Jezek introduced an aesthetic style of play that swept all before it in Czechoslovakia, then took on the national team.
He moulded the Czechs into his image and watched as his country shocked the world champions, West Germany, at Euro 76.
Antonin Panenka’s iconic spot-kick won it, but the blend of brawn and grace, woven from the fabric of great Eastern European sides gone by, was all Jezek’s doing.
97. Roberto Mancini
As a youngster at Bologna, Mancini demanded to take every corner, free-kick and penalty. If coaches resisted, he’d walk off.
similarly uncompromising approach in management, ever since cutting short a 2001 loan spell at Leicester to take his first job with Fiorentina, has earned Mancini six domestic cups and four league titles, including Manchester City’s first in 44 years.
The Italian then turned his hand to the international game, guiding the Azzurri to European Championship glory in 2021.
96. Gerard Houllier
“When I go to Liverpool, I’m surprised people are so nice to me,” said Houllier in 2019.
Why the late Frenchman thought any Red would dishonour the man who delivered a cup treble in 2001 is a head-scratcher; although Houllier couldn’t land a league title on Merseyside, he restored silverware at Anfield after a six-year hiatus.
Before that, he had won PSG their first league crown in 1986, and while his 1992/93 tenure as France boss was disastrous, he was later a two-time Ligue 1 champion with Lyon.
95. Hassan Shehata
Shehata led Egpyt into the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations as a man under pressure. Knives were being sharpened when he took off furious star striker Mido with 12 minutes to go in their semi-final against Senegal, only for replacement Amr Zaki to notch the winner within two minutes.
Egypt went on to win it. They repeated the feat in 2008 and 2010, becoming the first country to win three consecutive AFCON titles and climbing up to ninth in the FIFA rankings.
94. Ferruccio Valcareggi
There’s no shame in losing a World Cup final, especially when it’s to a certain Brazil 1970 team; even so, Italians felt that Valcareggi’s negative tactics had cost them in Mexico City, and he needed a police escort upon touching down in Rome.
Yet Valcareggi (third right above) had reinvigorated the Azzurri after their disastrous group-stage exit at the 1966 World Cup – via defeat to North Korea – and turned them into European champions in 1968, making some hard decisions en route.
93. Antonio Conte
Conte is a contradiction of a manager. Icy cool in interviews, he’s turbo-charged on the touchline. His football is relentless, but intelligent.
And while his title triumphs in Italy and England were formed on wing-backs and high-octane attacking moves, securing him a force-of-nature reputation, he’s very astute.
“He’s the best coach I ever worked with,” said Andrea Pirlo. “He makes you give your best at all times – so when he loses, he’s a demon.”
92. Juan Lopez Fontana
Fontana was the first man ever to make Brazil question their footballing philosophy.
In 1950, his disciplined Uruguay side silenced the free-scoring Selecao in one of the World Cup’s great upsets, making a mockery of pre-match headlines proclaiming Brazil as champions and sending the hosts into a state of Maracanazo mourning by identifying weaknesses in their defensive setup.
Fontana later guided Uruguay to the 1954 semi-finals and also scooped two league titles at Penarol.
91. Raymond Goethals
With a trademark cigarette drooping from his lips, Goethals was a meticulous coach with the demeanour of a detective. At Marseille the Belgian immediately reached the 1991 European Cup Final, losing on penalties, then triumphed two years later against Milan.
Subsequent Ligue 1 match-fixing revelations rocked l’OM – Goethals was not involved – but their manager’s work is too easily neglected: a zonal marking pioneer and maestro of the offside trap, he was a mind ahead of his time.
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1