The best football managers of the 2010s

Pep Guardiola
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Behind every great football team, there's a great manager, and the 2010s were certainly no exception in that regard.

From iconic international tacticians to trophy-hogging club coaches, we've racked our brains to rank the best bosses from the decade.

Let's dive straight in, shall we?

32. Mark Robins

Mark Robins

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Coventry City were heading for rock bottom when Mark Robins returned as manager in 2017, on their way down to the fourth tier of English football for the first time since 1959.

Then the miracle-working began: Robins – who scored the goal to save Alex Ferguson the sack at Manchester United – steered the Sky Blues to an immediate return to the third tier, before taking them to the Championship just two years later – and to the play-off final another three years after that.

31. Jorge Sampaoli

Jorge Sampaoli

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An instantly recognisable presence on the touchline, Jorge Sampaoli’s ferocious passion belies his diminutive five-foot-six frame.

In 2015, the heavily tattooed Argentine made history by guiding Chile to their first ever Copa America triumph, overseeing a penalty shootout victory over his homeland in the final.

Earlier in the decade, Sampaoli won the Chilean title and Copa Sudamericana with Universidad de Chile.

30. Heimir Hallgrimsson

Heimir Hallgrimsson

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Did your dentist coach Iceland to the quarter-finals of their first ever Euros and lead them to a draw with Argentina at their maiden World Cup? Thought not.

As he (and co-manager Lars Lagerback) masterminded the (in)famous 2-1 win over England in the last 16 of Euro 2016, Hallgrimsson was still employed as a gnasher inspector back in his home village.

29. Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate

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“Southgate you’re the one, you still turn me on, football’s coming home again!”

Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium had never heard the like – and this was after England had agonisingly been knocked out of the 2018 World Cup semi-finals by Croatia.

Gareth Southgate restored pride in the national team after years of disillusion – and he took the Three Lions one better three years later, reaching the final of the Euros on home soil (and almost winning them).

28. Marcelo Bielsa

Marcelo Bielsa

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One of the most influential coaches of all time, Marcelo Bielsa’s appointment by Leeds United in 2018 was seen as a major coup – and he made himself a major legend in West Yorkshire, bringing the good times back to Elland Road by ending the Whites’ 18-year Premier League exile in 2019/20.

In the early 2010s, the bucket-perching Argentine taskmaster had excelled at Athletic Bilbao, finishing as a Europa League and Copa del Rey runner-up.

27. Rene Girard

Rene Girard

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Just before PSG started to dominate Ligue 1, the French top flight witnessed an almighty surprise: Montpellier – who had only been promoted from the second tier three seasons previously – won the title for the first time in the history.

The man in the dugout for the unfancied side from France’s south coast was Rene Girard. “It just goes to show that everyone can beat everyone and that money isn't the be-all and end-all,” he said.

PSG went and lifted the four titles…

26. Gian Piero Gasperini

Gian Piero Gasperini

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The 2019 Serie A Coach of the Year, Gian Piero Gasperini became a hero in the small city of Bergamo by securing local club Atalanta’s first ever Champions League qualification.

Appointed in 2016, Gasperini had La Dea regularly punching above their weight with his audacious brand of offensive football, predicated on his favoured 3-4-3 formation.

25. Zlatko Dalic

Zlatko Dalic

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Named Croatia boss in October 2017, it took Zlatko Dalic barely eight months to take his country’s national team to incredible new heights: the 2018 World Cup final.

Croatia may have been beaten by France, but Dalic – who won the 2014/15 UAE Pro League title with Al Ain – had proven that the Balkan nation with a population of less than 4m could compete with the world’s very best.

24. Erik ten Hag

Erik ten Hag

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He would go on to take one of the biggest jobs in football management – Manchester United – but Erik ten Hag cut his teeth in his native Netherlands (and in Germany with Bayern Munich’s reserve team), almost restoring Ajax to their former glory.

In 2018/19, as well as doing the Dutch domestic double, Ten Hag steered a young Ajax side to the semi-finals of the Champions League – and to within minutes of the final, only for Tottenham to mount a frankly outrageous comeback.

23. Thomas Tuchel

Thomas Tuchel

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Having proven his managerial credentials as Mainz, Thomas Tuchel got his first taste of silverware by winning the 2016/17 DFB-Pokal (German cup) with Borussia Dortmund – having recorded a second-placed Bundesliga finish in his first campaign at the helm, as Jurgen Klopp’s successor.

It soon got even better for the giant German: he steered PSG to the Ligue 1 title in his maiden season as boss.

22. Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers

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Liverpool’s collapse to miss out on the 2013/14 Premier League title was quite remarkable, but it shouldn’t be understated how much Brendan Rodgers did to transform the Reds’ fortunes – and he was recognised with the LMA Manager of the Year award.

Either side of his time in the Anfield hotseat, the possession-obsessed Northern Irishman won the Championship play-offs with Swansea City and all three Scottish domestic honours with Celtic.

21. Roberto Martinez

Roberto Martinez

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In 2013, Roberto Martinez pulled off one of the greatest shocks in FA Cup history as Wigan – the club where he spent six years as a player – beat Manchester City to lift the trophy for the first time in their history.

Following that bittersweet victory – Wigan were relegated from the Premier League the same season – Martinez moved on to Everton, before stepping into international management with Belgium – whose golden generation he guided to third place at the 2018 World Cup.

20. Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger

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Arsene Wenger’s 22-year Arsenal tenure ended somewhat toxically as fans pleaded increasingly vociferously for their legendary manager to go – but the revolutionary Frenchman was not as far past his sell-by-date as the rhetoric would have you think.

Wenger’s final five years in charge of the Gunners yielded three FA Cups, seeing them usurp Manchester United as the most successful club in the esteemed competition’s history.

19. Unai Emery

Unai Emery

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Unai Emery just loves the Europa League: between 2014 and 2016, the brilliant Basque tactician made history by winning it three times in a row with Sevilla.

He then reached the 2018/19 final as head coach of Arsenal – where following in Arsene Wenger’s footsteps was always going to be a seriously tall order – having done the 2017/18 French double with PSG.

18. Fernando Santos

Fernando Santos

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After four years in charge of the Greek national team, Fernando Santos took over as manager of his native Portugal in 2014.

Two years later, he led the country to their greatest moment: victory over hosts and favourites France in the final of Euro 2016 – before picking up the inaugural Nations League title in 2019.

17. Jupp Heynckes

Jupp Heynckes

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Long since established as one of the greatest managers of all time, Jupp Heynckes continued to add to his haul of silverware during the 2010s.

A 1997/98 Champions League winner as Real Madrid boss, Heynckes repeated the feat with Bayern Munich in 2012/13 – also claiming the Bundesliga title, which he did again five years later in his third and final spell in charge.

16. Roberto Mancini

Roberto Mancini

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As soon as the money arrived, it was only a matter of time before Manchester City got their hands on the Premier League title – but they needed a manager to make it happen, and that was Roberto Mancini.

A triple Serie A champion as Inter Milan boss during the 00s, the effortlessly cool Italian had “AGUEROOOOO” to think for City’s dramatic 2011/12 triumph, as they pipped arch-rivals Manchester United to their first championship in 44 years.

15. Mauricio Pochettino

Mauricio Pochettino

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Rather an unknown quantity when he arrived at Southampton in 2013, Mauricio Pochettino wasted no time in establishing himself as one of the most promising managers around – and just over a year later, Tottenham came calling.

In North London, the high-pressing ‘Poch’ became an absolute legend, transforming Spurs’ fortunes by guiding them to three straight top-three Premier League finishes – most notably second place in 2016/17 – and their first ever Champions League final.

14. Antonio Conte

Antonio Conte

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As a Juventus player in the 90s, Antonio Conte won it all. In 2011, the surly shot-caller returned to manage Italy’s biggest club – and he picked up where he left off, securing three consecutive Scudetti.

After two years in charge of the Italian national team, Conte took up the role of head coach at Chelsea – who, in 2016/17, became the first English champions to play a back three since 1963.

He followed that up with FA Cup victory the next season.

13. Max Allegri

Max Allegri

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Antonio Conte’s Juventus successor, Max Allegri ensured the Bianconeri continued to dominate Serie A, sweeping up every title from 2014 to his departure in 2019.

Allegri also led Juve to four out of a possible five Coppa Italia triumphs, in addition to reaching the Champions League finals of 2015 and 2017. Not bad going, all in all!

12. Claudio Ranieri

Claudio Ranieri

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Claudio Ranieri had nine managerial jobs over the course of the 2010s – but only one of them really matters: Leicester City.

Eyebrows were raised when the ‘Tinkerman’ was appointed in the summer of 2015. Less than 12 months later, those eyebrows were back firmly in their natural position as Leicester completed one of the greatest stories in sporting history by being crowned Premier League champions at odds of 5,000/1.

Dilly ding, dilly dong!

11. Luis Enrique

Luis Enrique

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Already a Barcelona icon from his playing days, Luis Enrique returned as manager following stints in charge of Roma and Celta Vigo.

Emulating the great Pep Guardiola is no mean feat, but Luis Enrique did exactly that by overseeing a treble triumph in 2014/15.

He took over as Spain boss after the 2018 World Cup.

10. Diego Simeone

Diego Simeone

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Having spent most of his managerial career back home in Argentina, Diego Simeone returned to Atletico Madrid in 2011 – and commenced one of the longest top-level tenures of modern times.

A 1995/96 La Liga champion with Atleti as a player, the famously fiery Argentine – whose teams play very much in his image – broke the Barcelona-Real Madrid stranglehold by doing it again as boss in 2013/14.

That same season, he took Atleti to their first ever Champions League final – then their second two years later.

9. Carlo Ancelotti

Carlo Ancelotti

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Undoubtedly one of the finest managers in history, Carlo Ancelotti began the 2010s by doing the double with Chelsea – before claiming the 2012/13 Ligue 1 title with PSG.

In 2013, Don Carlo took charge of Real Madrid – where he became just the fifth person to coach multiple clubs to Champions League glory.

He even had time to add a Bundesliga title with Bayern Munich before the decade was out!

8. Joachim Low

Joachim Low

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We were tempted to put Joachim Low a bit lower down this list due to ‘scratch and sniff-gate’ – but then we thought, ‘That just adds character’.

Plus, at the end of the day, he’s a World Cup winner – and he became so in some style in 2014, overseeing Germany’s gobsmacking 7-1 semi-final drubbing of hosts Brazil, before seeing off Argentina in the final.

7. Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho

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Love him or hate him, you cannot discount Jose Mourinho from the conversation for greatest manager of all time.

‘The Special One’ kicked off the 2010s in strong fashion by leading Inter Milan to the treble – before lifting the La Liga title with Real Madrid, then returning to Chelsea to get his hands on another Premier League crown.

But there was room for more! Mourinho steered Manchester United to the lesser seen Europa League-EFL Cup double.

6. Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane

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The ultimate Galactico, Zinedine Zidane probably would have been fine to turn up and do anything but a terrible job as Real Madrid manager.

Zizou was never likely do that, though, was he? As if he wasn’t great enough already, he led Real to not one, not two but three Champions League triumphs – on the spin, a first for any coach.

Remarkably, he only actually won the domestic title once – but you can’t have it all, can you?

5. Didier Deschamps

Didier Deschamps

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Eric Cantona labelled Deschamps the player as a ‘vulgar water carrier’ earlier in his career and then he went on to lead France to World Cup glory in 1998 and then win the European Championship in 2000. 

As a manager he became only the third manager after Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer to win the World Cup as a player and a manager when France lifted the trophy in 2018 - beating Croatia 4-2 in the final. Not bad for a ‘water carrier’.

4. Jurgen Klopp

Jurgen Klopp puts on his winners medal at the Premier League trophy presentation on The Kop following the Liverpool v Chelsea Premier League match at Anfield on July 22nd 2020 in Liverpool (Photo by Tom Jenkins/Getty Images)

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You only have to look at the reaction to Jurgen Klopp’s shock departure announcement in January 2024 to see how utterly revered he is by Liverpool fans.

Appointed in October 2015 to replace Brendan Rodgers, the giant grinning German turned the Reds back into one of world football’s dominant forces, clinching the club’s sixth Champions League triumph in 2018/19 – then ending their painful 30-year wait for the title the next season.

BOOM!

3. Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson

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The greatest of all time? Probably – and Sir Alex Ferguson certainly wasn’t going to fade away at the end of his 27-year reign as Manchester United manager.

In 2010/11 and 2012/13, the watch-tapping, gum-chewing Scottish master added his 12th and 13th Premier League titles – retiring on the ultimate high after the latter – having already lifted the 2009/10 League Cup.

2. Vicente del Bosque

Vicente del Bosque

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Rarely has international football seen a team dominate like Spain did around the beginning of the 2010s – when they won their maiden World Cup in 2010 and retained their Euros crown two years later.

Overseeing it all was moustachioed managerial mastermind Vicente del Bosque – whose legendary side, featuring Xavi, Andres Iniesta et al, tiki-taka’d their way past pretty much everyone who came their way.

1. Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola

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If Sir Alex Ferguson isn’t the best manager of all time, it’s Pep Guardiola – and we don’t really need to tell you why (but we will anyway).

Having won his second Champions League and third La Liga title in his penultimate campaign at Barcelona, 2010/11, Pep added three Bundesliga crowns with Bayern Munich between 2014 and 2016.

Then it was off to England – and whaddya know, the trophies kept coming. Two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and a League Cup at Manchester City before the end of the decade.

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