In football, the manager’s job is of great importance. Not only is he entrusted with the job of devising the strategy of his team, he also has to pick the correct set of players and make necessary changes during the course of the match.
He also has the responsibility of honing young talents, and developing them into great players. He also typically carries the weight of expectation of millions of club supporters.
However, every club does not boast of great financial clout and massive support. The smaller clubs often develop talents only to see them being lured away by the bigger ones.
It is a matter of great honour for a small club to even come close to winning a major silverware. The lion’s share of the major trophies are won by top clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, AC Milan, Juventus, etc.
Still, there have been a few managers who have won major trophies with small clubs. We are going to discuss 3 such people in this article.
#1 Jose Mourinho (FC Porto)
Mourinho achieved the impossible by winning the UEFA Champions League with FC Porto in the 2003-04 season. He had had a stint as an interpreter with FC Barcelona prior to that, and put that experience to maximum use for the Portuguese club.
Porto beat Monaco 3-0 in the final, and prior to that, they had beaten Manchester United in the knock-out rounds.
Mourinho built a solid squad at Porto which comprised of some of the players from the golden generation of Portugal, like Vitor Baia, and some young talents like Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira.
Porto also had Deco, who was a vital player in the midfield. Porto were very solid defensively, as all teams coached by Jose Mourinho typically are. They conceded only 4 goals in the knockout rounds of the Champions League that season.
Mourinho went to Chelsea the following season, and took players like Carvalho and Ferreira with him. He went on to achieve even greater heights in his managerial career, but the journey of The Special One started at FC Porto.
#2 Diego Simeone (Atletico Madrid)
Atletico Madrid are not exactly a small club these days, and the credit for that goes to Diego Simeone, their Argentine coach. Atletico have featured in 2 UEFA Champions League finals in the last 4 seasons, and were unlucky to come up against the great Real Madrid side on both occasions. But the greatest achievement for Simeone was to win LaLiga in the 2013-14 season, beating the likes of Real and Barcelona to it.
Simeone has built a solid defensive core at Atletico, with players like Diego Godin, Miranda, Felipe Luiz, Juanfran, and Gabi. They also have skillful players like Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa upfront who have contributed a great deal to the club’s success.
Griezmann has scored 118 goals from 226 matches for Atletico, and remains their talisman. Simeone’s team however relies more on defence, and plays with an uncompromising, solid, defensive shape. He won LaLiga with 90 points from 38 matches, and lost only 4 games.
#3 Claudio Ranieri (Leicester City)
Ranieri has coached in a number of clubs, including Juventus and Chelsea, but had not won major silverware before winning the EPL in 2015-16 with Leicester City.
Leicester’s triumph in the most competitive league in the world, featuring clubs like Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Arsenal, remains arguably the most remarkable feat in the history of modern football.
Ranieri had some solid players in his team like Danny Drinkwater, Kasper Schmeichel, and Christian Fuchs, but the 2 most important players for his team were Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.
Mahrez is an attacking midfielder, and created many moves for his team. He was the creative influence in the Leicester team, and Vardy was the prime goal-scorer. Vardy scored 24 goals in the league that season, and was among the top 3 goal scorers.
Leicester beat teams like Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea in their memorable campaign, and immortalised Ranieri in the process. Leicester lost only 3 of their 38 matches, and finished the league with 81 points, 10 ahead of second-placed Arsenal.