Ranked! The 20 best Premier League managers ever

Best Premier League managers ever
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Luckily, there's one easy metric for determining the best Premier League managers ever: the number of winners' medals in their collection is a decent place to start.

But obviously, that doesn't tell the whole story. Not least because only 11 have ever actually achieved that feat, and we've got 20 spots to fill.

We've tried to judge these managers solely on their Premier League performances as best we can – though you'll find a few references to cup competitions

Best Premier League managers ever: 20. Gerard Houllier (Liverpool, Aston Villa)

Gerard Houllier, Best Premier League managers ever

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Best finish: 2nd

Houllier may not have won the Premier League title with Liverpool, but he won pretty much everything else.

Over six years at Anfield, the Frenchman brought through Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen, building a team that won a League Cup, UEFA Cup and FA Cup treble.

19. Roy Hodgson (Blackburn, Fulham, Liverpool, West Brom, Crystal Palace, Watford)

Best finish: 6th

Hodgson has enjoyed a long, globe-trotting managerial career, but he’s found time to take his place among the Premier League greats, especially during a wonderful spell at Fulham.

The Cottagers were 18th when Hodgson took over in December 2007, but he led them to safety before guiding them to seventh the following season, their highest-ever finish, and the Europa League final the year after that.

His spell at Liverpool was a disappointment, but Hodgson bounced back at West Brom with a top-half finish – their best finish since 1981 – and later saved Crystal Palace’s season after a disastrous start under Frank de Boer before recording the Eagles’ highest-ever points total in 2018/19 with 49. 

His personal best finish, however, came with a 6th place at Blackburn in 1997/98.

18. Harry Redknapp (West Ham, Southampton, Portsmouth, Tottenham, QPR)

Harry Redknapp, Best Premier League managers ever

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Best finish: 4th

Only Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson have overseen more Premier League matches than Redknapp, who has led five clubs in the top-flight starting with West Ham, where he brought through Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand and qualified for Europe.

Other highlights include an FA Cup win with Portsmouth in 2008 and Champions League qualification at Tottenham, an achievement that saw him named Premier League Manager of the Year.

17. Sam Allardyce (Bolton, Newcastle, Blackburn, West Ham, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Everton, West Brom)

Best finish: 5th

His methods might not as pretty or sophisticated as some other managers on this list, but Big Sam deserves his place for his unmatched fire-fighting abilities.

Allardyce ranks fifth for most games managed in Premier League history after spells with eight clubs, with his achievements including guiding Bolton into Europe and masterminding unlikely top-flight survivals at Sunderland and Crystal Palace.

16. Sir Bobby Robson (Newcastle)

Best finish: 3rd

Robson took over Newcastle in September 1999, with the club bottom of the table. In his first home game, the Magpies thrashed second-bottom Sheffield Wednesday 8-0.

Finishes of fourth, third and fifth between 2002 and 2004 took Newcastle back into Europe, and showed that 'Wor Bobby' had not lost his touch, despite a lengthy period away from the English game.

15. Mauricio Pochettino (Tottenham)

Mauricio Pochettino, Best Premier League managers ever

(Image credit: PA Images)

Best finish: 2nd

Poch may have fallen short of winning any titles with Spurs, but he took the club closer than they had been for years and built a strong and entertaining side in north London.

After leading Southampton to eighth, their highest finish in a decade, Pochettino took Spurs to their highest-ever Premier League finish when they came second in 2016/17 with a record 86 points, before guiding them to the Champions League final the following year.

14. Carlo Ancelotti (Chelsea, Everton)

Carlo Ancelotti

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Best finish: 1st

The serial trophy-winner has found success wherever he has gone across Europe, and his time in England was no different.  

Ancelotti has only spent four seasons of his long career in the Premier League but left a permanent mark; he pipped Manchester United to the 2009/10 title by one point with a record goal tally of 103, before clinching the FA Cup too, and his win percentage of 61% is among the best in league history.

13. Kevin Keegan (Newcastle, Manchester City)

Best finish: 2nd

Keegan's 'Entertainers' at Newcastle provided one of the most memorable title races in history in 1995/96, nicely filling the period between Dalglish's Blackburn and Wenger's Arsenal as rivals to Ferguson's Man United – though without the winners' medals to show for it.

He returned to the top flight with pre-megabucks Manchester City in 2002, and guided them to a top-half finish and European qualification (albeit through the fair play league) in 2002/03.

A brief return to Tyenside in 2008 included a seven-game unbeaten run to guide the Magpies away from relegation danger, but left after a falling out with owner Mike Ashley – cementing further his iconic King Kev status with Newcastle fans.

12. Claudio Ranieri (Chelsea, Leicester, Fulham, Watford)

Claudio Ranieri, best Premier League managers ever

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Best finish: 1st

It’s highly unlikely that any manager will ever achieve a shock success quite like Ranieri’s 2015/16 Premier League title win at Leicester.

Priced as 5,000/1 outsiders at the start of the season, the Italian’s tactical nous and composed manner helped the Foxes clinch the most stunning title ever, possibly in any sport. It was the first title of Leicester’s 132-year history, a fairytale success story that earned Ranieri legend status forever.

Sadly, he couldn't see out the next season, sacked in February with the club one point above the relegation zone.

A decent four-year spell as Chelsea boss in the 2000s was only overshadowed by the success of his successor, while two short and undeniably unsuccessful periods with Fulham and Watford diminish his standings here.

11. Manuel Pellegrini (Manchester City, West Ham)

Best finish: 1st

The Chilean enjoyed a superb debut season at Manchester City in 2013/14, winning the Premier League and League Cup double, making history by becoming the first manager from outside Europe to win the league.

City set an English record by scoring 151 goals that season in all competitions that year, and Pellegrini later returned to the division with West Ham, guiding the Hammers to a top-half finish in 2018/19.

10. David Moyes (Everton, Manchester United, Sunderland, West Ham)

West Ham manager David Moyes, best Premier League managers ever

(Image credit: Getty)

Best finish: 4th

For a long time, Moyes’ reputation was scarred by his ill-fated spell at Manchester United, where he had the impossible task of succeeding Alex Ferguson in 2013.  

But the Scot did a superb job with Everton to earn that role, leading them to fourth place and an FA Cup final during a nine-year spell, and he has excelled in his second stint at West Ham, taking the east London club from relegation trouble to their record Premier League points total and the Europa League semi-finals.  

9. Rafael Benitez (Liverpool, Newcastle, Everton)

Rafa Benitez, best Premier League managers ever

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Best finish: 2nd

He may not have a title to his name, but Benitez made his mark in English football by leading Liverpool to Champions League and FA Cup glory, as well as a second-place finish in the league, during six years at Anfield.

Later, the tactically savvy Spaniard won the Europa League and FA Cup at Chelsea despite his initial appointment being met with protests, while he achieved fan favourite status at Newcastle by staying with the club following relegation to lead them back to the top-flight at the first time of asking. 

The less said about his recent spell at Everton, though, the better.

8. Sir Kenny Dalglish (Blackburn, Newcastle, Liverpool)

Kenny Dalglish, best Premier League managers ever

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Best finish: 1st

The Liverpool legend’s first spell at Anfield doesn’t count here, given that his three league titles were won before the dawn of the Premier League era, but he takes his place among the greats thanks to his stunning success at Blackburn.

After finishing fourth in the inaugural Premier League campaign, Dalglish’s challenged Alex Ferguson's imperious Manchester United for the championship the following year, finishing second.

In 1994/95, a Rovers side fired by Alan Shearer and new signing Chris Sutton went one better and won a nail-biting title race that went down to the final day of the season. 

King Kenny later took Newcastle to second place and turned around a poor start as Liverpool to guide them to sixth in a second managerial spell at Anfield – though both jobs had less fruitful sophomore seasons.

7. Roberto Mancini (Manchester City)

Roberto Mancini, best Premier League managers ever

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Best finish: 1st

Mancini was the architect of City’s first Premier League title, and their first league title in 44 years, captured in the most extraordinary of fashions thanks to that goal from Sergio Aguero on the final day of the season.

The Italian was also responsible for signing some of the club’s greatest ever players like Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure.

6. Antonio Conte (Chelsea, Tottenham)

Antonio Conte, best Premier League managers ever

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Best finish: 1st

The charismatic Italian’s sole Premier League title came in his debut season in England when he guided Chelsea to the league crown in 2016/17, setting a league record for most wins in a single campaign after winning 30 of their 38 games.

Conte returned to England last November to take on the task of making Tottenham serious challengers and he started well, becoming the first ever Spurs boss to go unbeaten in his first eight games.

5. Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool)

Jurgen Klopp, best Premier League managers ever

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Best finish: 1st 

Forever assured of hero status at Anfield overseeing Liverpool’s first league triumph in three decades, Jurgen Klopp has built one of the most entertaining teams around.

They’re also one of the most relentless, carrying out the German’s gegenpressing gameplan with a ferocity few can live with.

It’s taken the Reds to within striking distance of an unprecedented quadruple – which would only amplify Klopp’s reputation as one of the GOATs.

4. Jose Mourinho (Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham)

Jose Mourinho, best Premier League managers ever

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Best finish: 1st

“I am a [yes, a] special one.”

Has any Premier League manager ever made as much of a splash in their opening press conference as Jose Mourinho?

Fresh from guiding Porto to Champions League glory, Mourinho came to England to win – and win he did, immediately ending Chelsea’s 50-year wait for a top-flight title then making it two in a row (before adding another in his second spell nine years later).

He considers his second-place finish with Manchester United in 2018 one of his best achievements, though both that and his time as Tottenham manager finished on sour notes.

3. Arsene Wenger (Arsenal)

Arsene Wenger, best Premier League managers ever

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Best finish: 1st

Dismissed by even his own players at first, Arsene Wenger would go on to prove himself as one of the best in the business, becoming the first-ever non-British coach to win an English top-flight title in 1998.

Leading the Gunners’ ‘Invincibles’ to success in 2003/04 goes down as the Frenchman’s most remarkable achievement (unless, of course, he’s figured out how to zip up that pesky coat by now).

2. Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)

Pep Guardiola, best Premier League managers ever

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Best finish: 1st

Comparing coaches from different eras has its limitations, but there is no doubt that Pep Guardiola is one of the finest managerial minds of all time.

He already held that status when he took over as Manchester City boss in 2016 – but the turtlenecked tactical genius has continued to strengthen it in the Premier League, winning three titles and setting a new record for consecutive games won.

1. Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United)

Alex Ferguson, Best Premier League managers ever

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Best finish: 1st

He did alright for someone who would never win anything with kids, didn’t he?

Never mind the Premier League; Sir Alex Ferguson belongs to the pantheon of the greatest managers ever to grace the game.

It’s a mark of the legendary Glaswegian’s immense influence that Manchester United have not won the league since he retired nine years ago – and his record of 13 titles will probably never be surpassed.

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Conor Pope
Online Editor

Conor Pope is the Online Editor of FourFourTwo, overseeing all digital content, and joined the team in February 2019. He plays football regularly, both on grass and artificial surfaces, and has a large, discerning and ever-growing collection of football shirts from around the world.

He supports Blackburn Rovers and holds a season ticket with south London non-league side Dulwich Hamlet. His main football passions include Tugay, the San Siro and only using a winter ball when it snows.

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