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5 great managers who had mediocre playing careers

Jose Mourinho is one of many managers who had mediocre playing careers.
Jose Mourinho is one of many managers who had mediocre playing careers.
Sanstab Das
ANALYST
Modified 25 Apr 2021
Top 5 / Top 10

It was a common perception that the best football coaches or managers are the ones who were the best footballers of their generation.

There has been a renaissance of that idea in recent times, with some of the top clubs headed by former greats such as Ole Gunnar Solskjær at Manchester United and Andrea Pirlo at Juventus, to name a few.

However, over the years, it has also been seen that a great footballer does not necessarily make a great manager. A case in point would be Chelsea legend Frank Lampard who failed to inspire his men to the heights he reached as a player.

Top five managers who had mediocre playing careers:

While a career in top-flight football provides an in-depth perspective of the game, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. Likewise, there are many who are regarded as some of the finest managers in the game, despite having unremarkable careers as a player.

On that note, let's have a look at five great managers who had mediocre playing careers. Without further ado, let's get started.

#5 Rafael Benitez

Rafael Benitez
Rafael Benitez

Rafa Benitez has one of the most illustrious managerial resumes in world football. He has managed some of the top clubs in Europe, including Real Madrid, Liverpool, Inter Milan and Valencia, to name a few.

While he is best remembered for his Champions League triumph with Liverpool or winning two La Liga titles with unfancied Valencia, Benitez had an almost forgettable playing career. He had joined Real Madrid as a youth player, representing Real Madrid U17 and Real Madrid Castilla. But he never came close to breaking into the first team and eventually retired at 26.

His exploits at Liverpool and Valencia are the most talked about, but Benitez has also won the Italian Super Cup and Club World Cup titles with Inter Milan. The Spaniard also has a Europa League trophy with Chelsea and a Coppa Italia triumph with Napoli in his illustrious managerial career.


#4 Marcelo Bielsa

Marcelo Bielsa
Marcelo Bielsa

'El Loco', as he is endearingly called by South American fans, is one of the best footballing brains in the history of the game.

Regarded as a 'guru' and the best manager in the world by the likes of Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino, Bielsa had a rather unremarkable career as a professional footballer.

The Argentine started his professional career late - at the age of 22 - and had one that lasted for barely three years, encompassing 65 appearances. The current Leeds United manager joined Newell’s Old Boys as a youth player and made it to their first team but was moved on after just a year at the club.

However, Bielsa will forever remain endearing to the Old Boys faithful, as he led the Argentine club to two league titles and the final of the prestigious Copa Libertadores.

The Old Boys stadium is now named after Bielsa, who first introduced the 3-3-3-1 formation - the ideology of high-intensity pressing.

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Published 25 Apr 2021
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