Real Madrid have a reputation of letting go of their managers at will, but in their 114-year history, the La Liga giants have had 38 full-time managers. Arthur Johnson was the first full-time manager appointed by Los Blancos in 1910 and ever since then, the club has gone on to re-write history books, becoming the most successful club of all time (International trophies).
The Madrid giants have had some absolute superstars play for them such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Alfredo di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas, but you don’t win 32 La Liga titles, 19 Copa del Rey trophies and a record 11 European Cup/UEFA Champions League trophies without some amazing men at the helm.
Here are the best Real Madrid managers of all time:
#7 Zinedine Zidane
There are those who will naturally oppose the idea of Zinedine Zidane in this list, due to his relative ‘youth’ in terms of his managerial career. However, the Frenchman has already achieved some incredible feats in his 400 days in charge of Real Madrid so far.
‘Too much, too soon’ was the headline in the Madrid media when Zizou was announced as Rafa Benitez’ replacement. The Frenchman took over a despondent, underperforming squad, and within 5 months, had turned them into European champions, lifting the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League in May.
Currently, Zidane is the second-most successful manager in Real Madrid’s history in terms of win percentage, as his 72.13% success rate is only second to Carlo Ancelotti’s 74.79%. The Frenchman has guided the Real Madrid squad to beat a number of all-time Real Madrid records, including the most consecutive wins in La Liga (16, level with Barcelona), and going 40 games unbeaten in all competitions – the best streak by a Spanish team, ever.
The Frenchman is only the second Real Madrid stalwart ever to lift the UEFA Champions League as a player and manager. The other? A certain Miguel Munoz – and Zidane is well on his way to emulate the Madrid legend.
#6 Jose Mourinho
It’s rather unfair that Jose Mourinho will forever be remembered for his failure to deliver La Decima than for his very successful spell in charge of the club. ‘The Special One’ took over an underperforming squad in 2010 with the brief to turn them into European champions, but failed to get the job done in three eventful seasons at the club.
The Portuguese tactician, however, has the third best win rate at the club, winning 71.91% of his 178 games in charge of the club. Despite his reputation for being a defensive manager, Real Madrid scored a staggering 475 goals in his time – bested only by Miguel Munoz.
Mourinho ended his Madrid career having won a single La Liga, a Copa del Rey and a Spanish Supercup, but will rarely be remembered for those moments. Instead, alienating dressing room stalwarts like Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas to cause a civil war within the fanbase remains his legacy, as is a controversy-filled rivalry with Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona – which included moments such as the humiliating 5-0 loss in his first El Clasico and the infamous eye-gouging incident with Tito Vilanova.
For all his foibles, Mourinho will certainly never be forgotten in the annals of Real Madrid history.
#5 Luis Carniglia
Luis Carniglia’s spell in charge of Los Blancos is the perfect blueprint of a career of a Real Madrid manager.
A star-studded team made of the best players in the world? Check.
A trophy-laden stint in a short-lived spell in charge of the club? Check.
Sacked after winning a trophy? Check.
The Argentine took over Real Madrid in June 1957 – a side that had the magic of reigning Ballon d’Or champ, Alfredo di Stefano, along with Raymond Kopa and the player with most European Cup titles, Gento. Naturally, he won La Liga and the European Cup in his first ever season, capping it off with a 3-2 win over AC Milan.
Along came Santiago Bernabeu... the most important person in Real Madrid’s history foisted a very overweight Ferenc Puskas on Carniglia, which eventually resulted in the Madrid boss’ downfall. Despite whipping Puskas into shape, Carniglia never fully trusted the Hungarian, leaving him out of the European Cup final in 1959. Real Madrid won the final 2-0, with Carniglia lifting his second European Cup in as many years, and having an unheard of win percentage of 69.13% at the time.
His reward? Sacked. (He did lose out on La Liga that year to Barcelona, after all.)
#4 Carlo Ancelotti
Carlo Ancelotti was in charge of just two seasons at Real Madrid, but one cannot underestimate the effect the legendary Italian manager had on the club. The Madrid that Carletto took over in on 25th June 2013 was broken – Jose Mourinho left the Italian a dressing room full of arguments, and a playing style that was proving to be second best to Barcelona and an antithesis to the club’s identity.
The Italian’s jovial nature was a perfect antidote, and he was given the gift of a world record signing soon after his arrival – Gareth Bale for 100 million euros. Ancelotti reworked his Madrid side to be efficient in attack and defence, lifting the Copa del Rey thanks to Bale’s brilliance.
That was a mere sideshow, though – Real Madrid were obsessed with La Decima ever since winning their 9th European Cup in 2002, and Ancelotti brought the wait to an end, defeating Atletico Madrid 4-1 in extra time to win his third UEFA Champions League trophy as a manager.
The loss of Xabi Alonso and Angel di Maria in the summer proved to be brutal, as Ancelotti narrowly missed out on all the major competitions the following year, which resulted in his departure as Madrid finished the 2014/15 season empty handed. The Italian did finish with a record 22 match winning streak and a win percentage of 74.79% – the best of any Real Madrid manager.
#3 Jose Villalonga
The man that started it all – much is made of Real Madrid’s European dominance from 1956 to 1960, but Jose Villalonga was the one in charge for the first one. What’s even more incredible? Aged 36 years and 184 days, the Spaniard was the youngest manager to ever win the European Cup, a record that still stands to this day.
Villalonga took charge in the middle of the 1954/55 season (10th December 1954) and went on to rejuvenate a Real Madrid squad that finished the season as La Liga champions, also winning the Copa Latino.
Di Stefano, Raymond Kopa, Gento, Hector Rial and Miguel Munoz were all a part of Villalonga’s all-conquering side, who then went on to lift the first of Real Madrid’s 11 European Cups in the 1955/56 season, coming from behind twice to beat Stade de Reims 4-3 in the final. Madrid did lose out to Bilbao in the Liga title race that year, though.
In his final season at the club, Villalonga left in the best manner possible, winning a treble as Real Madrid won La Liga, the European Cup and Copa Latino in 1956/57, although early on in the season, Bernabeu undermined Villalonga in the dressing room, asking Di Stefano to ignore the manager’s instructions to stay up front. Sadly for Villalonga, it worked.
It was no surprise then, that he left the club in the summer – although a win percentage of 62.86% in 2 and a half seasons was no mean feat.
#2 Vicente del Bosque
‘A quiet, unassuming, moustachioed veteran from Salamanca’ is hardly the description of the only man in football to have won the FIFA World Cup, the Euros, the Intercontinental Cup (now the FIFA Club World Cup) and the UEFA Champions League as manager. Vicente del Bosque, however, is a singular man among many.
Real Madrid were fresh off of ending their 32-year wait for a European title in 1998 but were still struggling to replicate the success of the 1950s and 1960s. Enter Del Bosque.
The Madrid boss ushered in a 4-year spell of success at the turn of the millennium - a feat that looked impossible when John Toshack was sacked midway through the 1999/2000 season, with del Bosque taking over full-time (after a couple of temporary spells in charge of the club in 1994 and 1996).
2 UEFA Champions League titles (2000 and 2002), 2 La Liga trophies (2001 and 2003, ending a 5-year wait for the league title), a Spanish Super Cup and an Intercontinental Cup was Del Bosque’s legacy, as he ushered in the era of the Galacticos. However, Florentino Perez is Florentino Perez, and just a day after Real Madrid won the 2003 La Liga title, Vicente del Bosque was let go in one of the biggest blunders ever made by the club, who went the next four seasons without any major trophy.
#1 Miguel Munoz
Who else could it be?
For a club that’s so trigger happy with their managers, it takes a special person to last 14 years and 16 seasons in charge. Miguel Munoz is that special person.
The Spaniard was already a Madrid legend even before he occupied the dugout. As a player, he won 4 La Liga titles, 3 European Cups and 2 Copa Latina trophies. Munoz briefly took charge for a 2-month spell in 1959, before being appointed full-time on 13th April 1960.
Less than 30 days later, Munoz was in charge for one of the greatest matches to be ever played, as Real Madrid beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in the 1960 European Cup final. It began a staggering spell of success for Real Madrid, who began a 5-year streak of winning La Liga, from 1960/61 to 1964/65. Munoz managed to refresh an ageing squad of a 40-year-old Puskas with the likes Pirri, Gento and Amancio, lifting his second European Cup in 1966.
In his 5078 days in charge of Real Madrid, Munoz oversaw 604 games, winning 357 of those at a win rate of 59.10%. 1225 goals were scored by Munoz’ teams, with the Spaniard ending his career with a staggering 9 La Liga titles, 2 Copa del Rey trophies, 1 Intercontinental Cup and 2 European Cups.
There will never be another like him.