Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, there remains a suggestion in the sport of football that coaches and managers should have played the game at the highest level if they’re to lead the very best clubs.
However, there’s absolutely nothing to stop football managers from succeeding without formal or professional playing experience, with Manchester United’s current interim manager Ralf Rangnick having never made it past the Stuttgart amateur side.
Throughout history, we’ve seen a large number of coaches win the top trophies and change the game without any professional experience. Here are three of the best!
1. Arrigo Sacchi
Former shoe salesman Arrigo Sacchi was deemed not good enough to play for his local club Baracca Lugo, so he became the team’s manager instead. Despite being younger than most of his players, he went on to coach Serie B side Cesena and Parma, where two Coppa Italia wins against AC Milan saw him appointed manager of the Rossoneri.
Replacing Nils Liedholm, Sacchi overcame intense media scrutiny and suspicion from his players, almost single-handedly abolishing man-marking in Italian football and implementing the zonal high press that we see today.
What’s more, he won eight major honours at Milan, including a single Serie A title, one Supercoppa Italiana and two consecutive European Cups. He even went on to become the manager of the Italian national side, with the Azzurri finishing as runners-up in the 1994 World Cup.
When challenged by journalists on his lack of experience as a player, Sacchi opined “a jockey doesn’t have to have to have been a horse.” This iconic quote has stood the test of time, especially as other such managers have achieved similar success since.
2. Arsene Wenger
While former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger played for local village and amateur sides as a youngster, he had no professional experience when he obtained a Manager’s Diploma in 1981.
Initially making his mark in Japan with Nagoya Grampus Eight, Wenger was ultimately appointed manager of Arsenal in 1996. He quickly adopted a revolutionary approach, introducing nutritional changes to the diets of his players and developing a style of football that was relatively new to the Premier League.
Wenger also enjoyed significant on-field success, winning three EPL titles between 1997 and 2004 and a record seven FA Cups.
3. Julian Nagelsmann
Current Bayern Munich manager Julian Nagelsman has achieved incredible success in his short career to date, while at 34 he currently holds the reins at one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
Interestingly, Nagelsmann was a much-revered youth player, emerging through the ranks at Augsburg and 1860 Munich before missing the whole of the 2006/07 season with a serious knee injury.
He subsequently suffered further damage to his knee after returning to Augsburg the following summer, before being forced to retire without making a single senior appearance.
He enjoyed consistent success at RB Leipzig before taking over at the Allianz Arena, Nagelsman has made a flying start in his new role and won his first major honour in the form of the DFL-Supercup last summer.