20. Simone Inzaghi
Five formative seasons at Lazio prepared Inzaghi for the step up to one of Italy’s most prestigious clubs in 2021 - and the Italian hasn’t looked back.
While he has so far failed to lift the Scudetto during his two campaigns at San Siro, Inzaghi has twice won the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana with Inter - not to forget a Champions League runners-up spot either. Narrowly losing 1-0 to Manchester City in the final in Istanbul certainly isn’t a blot on the CV, especially when they defeated AC Milan 3-0 on aggregate in the semis.
Deemed a little too cautious by some naysayers, Inzaghi’s approach to games has been criticised. But given how turbulent the Nerazzurri have been over the last couple years, his calming influence has been most welcome. A title challenge in Serie A is certainly on the cards this term, too, as Inzaghi looks to win his first league title.
19. Imanol Alguacil
Imanol Alguacil took Real Sociedad to the Champions League last season with an exciting brand of play which bucks plenty of the trends of modern football, using players in close proximity to one another to build overloads rather than exploiting space. As a result, La Real have taken the game to plenty – and even re-energised 37-year-old David Silva in the final season of his career.
Having gotten a tune out of Take Kubo when some failed, using Mikel Oyarzabal as a complete forward and building a side on a Mikel Merino/Martin Zubimendi midfield that could rival any in football on its day, Alguacil has turned the Basque outfit into a vibrant attacking unit that attack with directness, despite holding a lot of possession. They’re proving in Europe, too, that they can punch above their weight.
18. Mauricio Pochettino
A year out last season looks to have re-energised Pochettino as he returned to the Premier League with Chelsea, though there have inevitably been plenty of teething problems at Stamford Bridge. Amid a raft of player departures, arrivals and off-field issues, the Argentine has managed to get his side playing some exciting football with promising talent.
Injuries have certainly hampered the team’s progress, however, making it even more difficult for Pochettino to actually figure out his preferred starting XI - once that is nailed down, the Blues could become serious trophy challengers once again.
A coach who will improve Chelsea’s young squad physically, mentally and technically through his man-management skills, Pochettino has proven in the past that he is the perfect boss to be in charge of the Blues as they develop their abundance of talent. What he needs most of all, though, is time.
17. Arne Slot
A Europa Conference League final in his first season was followed by a league title in his second for Arne Slot. Under the Dutchman, the likes of Luis Sinisterra, Tyrell Malacia, Marcos Senesi, Orkun Kokcu, Reiss Nelson and Santiago Gimenez have flourished at Feyenoord, meanwhile – and it’s easy to see why.
Rather like another candidate for the Tottenham job in the summer, Slot favours a back four, inverting full-backs and peppering the goal with wave after wave of pressure. It’s typical Eredivisie to play high-octane and direct, yet Slot is calm and composed from the touchline and already looks cut from the cloth of great Dutch coaches of the past. At 45, his career is just beginning.
16. Ange Postecoglou
Spurs were scrambling for a manager in the summer when they finally landed on Big Ange - but what an appointment it has so far proven to be. Initially doubted - not for the first time, following his previous start at Celtic and spells at sides in Australia - Postecoglou has won his critics over with a high-octane, exciting, possession style football.
Don’t get it twisted, either, the Aussie had an extremely difficult test on his hands walking into Spurs over the summer. Antonio Conte had upset just about every single person at the club and the ownership and chairman were coming under serious pressure from the fans.
Oh, and club record goalscorer and talisman Harry Kane had just departed for Bayern Munich. Not bad for Postecoglou - long may the feelgood factor continue.
15. Jose Mourinho
Egotist. Anarchist. Rebel. Sinner. Winner. Just some of the words that FourFourTwo used on its 2020 cover of then-Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho. So have one more: inevitable.
Not until the River Tiber has run dry and the Colosseum has crumbled to dust will the Special One not be battling for honours – two European finals in a row with Roma, by the way. He moves to a quieter league and he’s still blockbuster (waiting in the car park for a ref, even wearing a wire to talk to one). After leading a tactical wave in the noughties, he’s seemingly behind the crest now – yet no one can out-think him on the night.
At 60, he should be settling down, perhaps with a nice, sunny international job and a timeshare to match. No chance. And we love him for it. Viva Jose.
14. Abel Ferreira
Ferreira has transformed Brazilian football since arriving in 2020, and has quickly become the foreign manager with the most trophies in the country. Three consecutive Copa Libertadores titles were only stopped by a penalty shootout defeat to Boca Juniors in the semi-finals this term, but that would’ve just been greedy anyway.
“The greatest evolution of Palmeiras after Abel’s arrival [was] a feeling of appreciation and a sense of belonging among all the club’s workers, from the cook to the youth squads, to the professional team and the board,” Mateus Augustine, an analyst in Brazil.
He’s box-office, too: he's dedicated wins to his "annoying neighbour", he has the energy of a Duracell bunny on the sidelines and he's transformed the mentality of his Palmeiras side into serial winners. Ferreira is precisely the feel-good factor of Brazilian football and already a legend in South America for his achievements.
13. Luis Enrique
Luis Enrique showed all the hallmarks of a club coach while coaching the Spanish national side: doing very well in league-formatted group stages, implementing perhaps the most cohesive style of play in international football but ultimately being done over by bad luck and Giorgio Chiellini’s mind games.
PSG is an impossible job – but Enrique’s approach has thus far been intriguing, leaning on teenager Warren Zaire-Emery, implementing a one-fit 4-3-3 and trying to ‘Barca-ise’ this side from a mess of Galacticos into a group defined by their culture. It’s a long slog – but Enrique has the background and the trophy cabinet to back his biggest decisions.
12. Erik ten Hag
It’s been topsy-turvy for Erik ten Hag at Manchester United, to say the least. 2022/23 ended largely as a success, with a trophy and Champions League qualification, but the new term has started under trying circumstances.
Issues around Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho, Mason Greenwood and Antony have all tested the Dutchman’s resolve off the pitch - not to mention those pesky owners - and on it his players are unreliable. Ten Hag’s quality as a manager, however, has been proven before.
A Champions League semi-final at Ajax was phenomenal with a young side, and his faith in youth has transferred to Old Trafford. While 2023/24 started with plenty of question marks, his tactical nous truly is undeniable. When he realised David De Gea couldn’t play out from the back, he turned the Red Devils onto scratching after long balls. When his players struggled with games every few days, he switched to a more conservative pressing style.
It’s only a matter of time until Ten Hag turns things around at United.
11. Xabi Alonso
Playing for Guardiola, Ancelotti, Mourinho, Benitez and Del Bosque in your career provides you with a solid education to take into the dugout. Xabi Alonso was perhaps the most obvious management candidate from that Spanish golden generation – and boy has he proved it in a short space of time.
After getting Real Sociedad B to the Segunda Division for the first time in five decades, the former midfield metronome swerved a shot at the Borussia Monchengladbach job to take over Bayer Leverkusen, with the club second-bottom in the Bundesliga. Now, they’re fighting Bayern Munich for the title having qualified for Europe, playing a compact, intelligent 3-4-3 that has ripped apart the rest of Germany. His mentors would be proud.
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