5) Arsene Wenger (Longevity): Arsene ‘knows’? Arsene Out? That’s a daily debate around north London these days, but for the impartial observer, Wenger’s achievements should not be underestimated. True- he’s possibly the only manager on the planet that could withstand eight years without a trophy or, at the very least, survive at a club without showing some semblance of forward progress. Yet, while it’s wrong to ignore the obvious deficiencies of the current side, it would be equally ridiculous to overlook the era of billionaire owners and profligate spending which has helped the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City to change the English football landscape.
Wenger is synonymous with the Arsenal brand and he has been undoubtedly one of the most influential figures in the English game since his arrival in 1996. Wenger’s 16-year managerial tenure, has landed the Gunners three Premier League titles (including an unprecedented unbeaten season), four FA Cups, 15 consecutive seasons in the Champions League and an exhilarating brand of football, among the best seen in the British game. He’s developed the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Ashley Cole, Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas into global superstars and helped the club maintain its top four status in every season of his stewardship, despite the financial restrictions imposed by the construction of the 60,000 seater Emirates Stadium. If Wenger ever does decide to seek one final challenge elsewhere, he will receive no shortage of suitors. Perhaps only then, Arsenal fans will realise the magnitude of his achievements.
4) Vicente Del Bosque (Man-management): There are plenty of reasons why you might discredit Vicente Del Bosque’s achievements. First, he inherited an extremely talented Real Madrid side on the cusp of Los Galacticos era. The task of guiding the likes of Raul, Hierro, Roberto Carlos, Iker Casillas, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and Ronaldo to glory? A cinch, surely? Then he took on the Euro 2008 winners Spain; a team consisting of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Casillas, Carlos Puyol, Fernando Torres, David Vila and Xabi Alonso. Once again, a managers dream right?
And you would be right- except it’s not quite as simple as that. Taking on a team of superstars is far from straight-forward; it takes supreme man-management to deal with the different egos within the side and a daily challenge to find innovative ways to keep these star names motivated week after week. Del Bosque is neither a media manipulator, nor a special tactician and he is possibly the least likely candidate in elite level management to explode into rage in front of the TV cameras. Instead, Del Bosque exudes calmness- and his trick is to instil this calm into his players. By treating the players with respect, he in turn expects them to get on with the job to the best of their undoubted abilities.
Del Bosque’s three and a half year spell in charge of Real Madrid (1999-2003) was the most successful spell in Real’s modern history; claiming two Champions League trophies (2000 and 2002), two La Liga titles (2001 and 2003), a Spanish Supercup (2001), a UEFA Super Cup (2002) and the Intercontinental Cup (2002). As the leader of the Spanish national team, he guided his country to its first World Cup triumph, and followed up this achievement by successfully defending the European Championship last year. As the only manager in the history of football to secure the Champions League, European Championship and World Cup, he’s probably due a little bit of credit…
3) Jose Mourinho (Personality/Mind Games): The self-anointed ‘Special One’ has a very special habit of winning trophies. In the last decade, Mourinho has won the Portuguese league twice (Porto), the Premier League twice (Chelsea), Serie A twice (Inter Milan) and La Liga once (Real Madrid), claimed the Champions League twice (Porto 2004; Inter 2010), secured the national cup of each respective league and won a whole host of other domestic trophies. In fact, since 2002, Mourinho has not gone a full calendar year without winning a trophy.
It’s probably safe to say that Mourinho’s public persona has as many detractors as he does supporters. His rather Machiavellian approach towards management has caused controversy at every one of his clubs, often incurring the wrath of opposition managers and players. Arsene Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson, Martin O’Neill, Roberto Mancini, Rafa Benitez, Pep Guardiola and famously Tito Vilanova (he gouged the then Barcelona assistant coach in the eye during a brawl)- they’ve all had their respective spats with the Portuguese over the years, but none have ever convincingly come out on top in the end.
Like the late Brian Clough (although with an admittedly sharper dress sense), Mourinho’s personality is his greatest strength. Never short of a one liner (far too many to mention!), he has provided the media with gold-dust, while cleverly deflecting pressure and undue attention away from his players at the same time. His combustible character can at times alienate certain members of the squad, but rarely at the expense of the team dynamic. That is, until this season. For the first time, Mourinho’s very indiscrete fallings out with Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas have threatened to derail Real’s chances of lifting any silverware. Nevertheless, even if Mourinho does depart the Bernabeu this summer, the pantomime villain of world football won’t be short of job offers…
2) Pep Guardiola (Integrity and strategy) The only manager in our top 10 that’s currently unemployed. That, of course, was entirely of his choosing, and that will all change in the summer when Guardiola takes the reins from Jupp Heynckes at Bayern Munich. Guardiola is currently enjoying a well-earned sabbatical, following four of the greatest years in the history of Barcelona Football Club. In terms of success, playing style and legacy, Guardiola’s achievements have surpassed even the great ‘Dream Team of the early-to-mid 1990s, managed by club icon Johan Cruyff.
Like Vicente Del Bosque, Guardiola stands accused of inheriting a world class set of players, thus making his job one of the easiest in the world. But like Del Bosque, Guardiola has found a way to take an astonishing generation of players and maximized their potential in the process. Xavi and Andres Iniesta are easily the best two players in their position; Lionel Messi is arguably in the top three players of all time.
True, Guardiola enjoys the adulation of Catalonia thanks to his playing achievements, and the players who came through the famous La Masia youth academy were in awe of his presence even before he set foot in management. But it takes more than a name to manage- there are not too many examples of great football players succeeding in management. Guardiola commands respect through his integrity, intensity, ruthless judgement (he happily jettisoned the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Samuel Eto’o despite their feared reputations), tactical observation and flexibility.
Having landed an illustrious treble (La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey) in his first season, it was difficult to see how Guardiola could improve on near-perfection. He never quite repeated his
jaw-dropping debut season in management, but instead, embarked on enhancing his side’s unique tika-taka playing style and adding two further La Liga titles, a further Champions League and Cop del Rey, plus three Spanish Super Cups, two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups. Guardiola has risen to the highest echelons of world football management and is now the most highly coveted and sought after manager in the world.
At just 41-years-old, Guardiola is all set to test his managerial ability in a different environment and a new league. Can he replicate his success in the Bundesliga?
1) Sir Alex Ferguson: (The Greatest) – so much so, we’re dedicating an entire blog to the legendary Manchester United manager! See next blog to see why Sir Alex the great makes it to number 1.