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5 most successful managers in football

Pep Guardiola is one of the most successful managers in world football.
Pep Guardiola is one of the most successful managers in world football.
Modified 18 Sep 2020, 18:23 IST

A football manager has a plethora of responsibilities ranging from making team selections, formulating strategies, overseeing the training of players and keeping them motivated during a match.

Football managers also have a say about the players they want to sign, sell or loan out. Thus, it is not surprising that when teams fail to produce desired results, more often than not, it is the manager who is shown the boot.

Interestingly enough, the term 'manager' is almost exclusively used in British football. In the rest of continental Europe, the more popular term is 'coach' or 'trainer'. However, for the sake of simplicity, we'll stick with the term 'manager' in this article.

The governing body of football in Europe, UEFA, mandates the requirement of a coaching license called UEFA Pro License for a person to become a full-time football manager at a top-tier club on a permanent basis (any duration beyond 12 weeks) and to take charge of teams in the Champions League and Europa League.

Gone are the days when football managers were afforded the time to build their legacies at a club. In the cut-throat world of modern-day professional football, managers are required to hit the ground running and need to be on their toes, exhibit tactical flexibility and think out of the box to outplay and outmanoeuvre the opposition because there is a lot at stake. To be able to accomplish the same, football managers need the right kind of personnel (read 'players') at their disposal.

Often times, football managers become synonymous with their preference for a particular playing style. Pep Guardiola introduced the famed tiki taka style of football that involved a possession-based philosophy featuring a series of short, quick passes, one which yielded rich dividends for Barcelona.

Jose Mourinho initiated the infamous 'parking the bus' style, a tactic known to suffocate the creativity of ball-playing teams. Though it doesn't necessarily make for aesthetic football, it can be a pretty effective tactic to churn out results against supposedly stronger teams.

In more recent times, Jurgen Klopp became renowned for his Gegenpress (counter-pressing) and 'heavy metal' football, one that involves pressing the opponent high up the pitch, reclaiming the ball and scoring in a blitz without allowing the opposition to realise what hit them.

Five most successful football managers

Regardless of the strategy employed, football is a 'result-oriented' game at the end of the day. It is wins and titles that eventually define the legacies of successful football clubs and their managers.


On that note, let us have a look at the five most successful managers in world football in terms of trophies won.

#5 Ottmar Hitzfeld (25 trophies)

Ottmar Hitzfeld won the Champions League for Bayern Munich in 2000-01.
Ottmar Hitzfeld won the Champions League for Bayern Munich in 2000-01.

In a managerial career that spanned over four decades, Ottmar Hitzfeld won the first of 25 trophies with Swiss club FC Aarau in 1985 before grabbing the attention of big boys Grasshopper Club Zurich with whom he won back-to-back Swiss League and Swiss Cup titles and had a lone Swiss Super Cup triumph.

Hitzfeld returned to his native Germany and took over the reins of Borussia Dortmund in 1991. Though trophies were not immediately forthcoming, the North Rhine-Westphalia club experienced an immediate upturn in their fortunes as they finished second in the Bundesliga and qualified for the UEFA Cup next season, where they lost to Juventus in the final.

Three years later, Hitzfeld delivered Dortmund their first trophy in six years when the club won the 1994-95 Bundesliga title. The next year, Dortmund duly defended their league title but European success had to wait for one more year.


In their second meeting with Juventus in a European final in five years, it was Dortmund's turn to smile as Hitzfeld's men beat the Bianconeri 3-1 in the 1996-97 Champions League final.

Hitzfeld won the "World Coach of the Year" for his exploits that year before he left Dortmund to join Bavarian giants Bayern Munich where he would have the most prolific spell of his managerial career during a successful decade-long stint at the club that yielded 14 trophies.

The German led Bayern Munich to the Bundesliga-German Cup double in 1998-99 and 1999-00. Hitzfeld almost won the club their first continental treble in 1999 when the Bavarian giants led Manchester United by a goal leading into injury time only for the English club to score twice to register an epic victory.

However, Hitzfeld wouldn't be denied Champions League success with Bayern Munich for long. Two years later, Bayern beat Valencia on penalties to win their first title in the competition in 25 years. In the process, Hitzfeld became the first of three managers in the Champions League era to win the competition for two different clubs.


Hitzfeld left the club after facing the sack in 2004. Three years later, he returned to win his seventh Bundesliga title and the German Cup, which happened to be the last two titles of his managerial career in club football.

In a subsequent managerial stint in international football, Hitzfeld led Switzerland in the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups before calling it quits for good.

#4 Pep Guardiola (29 trophies)

Pep Guardiola is air-borne after winning the 2008-09 Champions League.
Pep Guardiola is air-borne after winning the 2008-09 Champions League.

Pep Guardiola is one of the most successful managers to have graced the game of football. After a moderately successful career as a player, the Spaniard achieved unprecedented success in a managerial role.

Despite no prior managerial experience in senior club football, Guardiola was catapulted to the Barcelona top job after the club endured a trophyless 2007-08 campaign.

What followed next was an era of unprecedented domination and success for the Blaugrana as Guardiola's brought the tiki taka back to vogue and managed to capture the imagination of fans and experts while leaving the best of opponents clueless and helpless.

The key to the success of Guardiola's tiki taka style of play was the presence of ball-playing defenders and the tireless midfield duo of Xavi and Andres Iniesta, whose inch-perfect passes to Lionel Messi in closely-packed spaces breached open the tightest of defences and yielded rich dividends. Barcelona won the continental treble that season and in 2009, won a record six titles.


Following a hugely successful four-year spell that yielded 14 titles - a tally that included two Champions League and three La Liga titles among other honours - Guardiola left Camp Nou and joined Bayern Munich after a brief sabbatical.

The brilliant Spanish tactician made an immediate impact in Bavaria as he delivered a trio of Bundesliga titles in as many seasons but Champions League success under Guardiola would elude Bayern Munich. Nevertheless, during his short but successful spell in Germany, he became the most successful Bundesliga manager in history in terms of points won per game.

Guardiola arrived in Manchester City in the summer of 2016 and heralded the most successful period in the club's history as City smashed records galore during successive Premier League triumphs.

However, despite winning seven trophies in England, the same number which he won in Germany, Guardiola's reign may prove to be an unsuccessful one if the Spanish tactician is unable to deliver the elusive Champions League - the holy grail of European club football.

Nevertheless, the brilliance of Guardiola would never be tempered by his inability to win the Champions League for a club not named Barcelona.

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Published 18 Sep 2020, 18:23 IST
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