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5 managers who won league titles with unfancied teams

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Legendary managers like Alex Ferguson have truly made the game special

Leicester’s achievement in the 2015/16 season was truly remarkable as no one could have foreseen it.

Most people underestimate the role the manager plays along with the rest of the backroom staff in such successes. Without the tactical nous of managers, these teams could not have won back to back games let alone the title.

These managers gain stardom as a result of such achievements, with some replicating their successes with better teams whereas some fail to match their previous achievements.

Here we look at 5 managers who managed to win the league with teams who had no right to win these leagues.

#1 Vujadin Boskov (Sampdoria)

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Vujadin Boskov (r): The legend of Calcio

Unknown in most quarters of the managing fraternity despite managing Real Madrid to a league and cup double in 1980, Yugoslav Vujadin Boskov is best known for his achievements with Seria A side Sampdoria in the early 1990s.

With the mercurial talents of Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini in the side, the Yugoslav managed to break the dominance of AC Milan then managed by the legendary Arrigo Sacchi.

Under Boskov, Sampdoria finished the 1990/91 Serie A as champions, their only league title to date. Vialli finished as the league’s top scorer ahead of Roberto Baggio, then of Juventus.

A year later Sampdoria almost surpassed their achievements reaching the UEFA Champions League final only to be beaten 1-0 by Johan Cruyff's FC Barcelona "Dream Team".

Since then Sampdoria has never been even close to winning the Scudetto, cementing Boskov’s legendary status.

#2 Javier Irureta (Deportivo La Coruna)

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Irureta made Deportivo a powerful force in the early 2000s

Like Boskov’s Scudetto win at Sampdoria, Javier Irureta holds the distinction of winning the only league title in Deportivo La Coruna's history.

With the likes of Roy Makaay and Mauro Silva in the side, Deportivo were a really strong team in the early 2000s.

In the 1999-2000 season, Deportivo managed to claim the league title ahead of Barcelona and Valencia. Roy Makaay finished the season with 22 goals to win the golden boot in a season where Real Madrid could finish only 5th despite having talents like Raul, Iker Casillas, and Clarence Seedorf.

Irureta’s performance was no fluke as Deportivo finished second twice and third twice in the following four seasons. This was also complemented by an appearance in the Champions League semi-final. Though later jobs at clubs like Real Betis did not work out, he will always remain a hero to the Depor faithful.

#3 Rene Girard (Montpellier)

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Girard's success was totally unprecedented

A 3-time title winner during his playing days with Bordeaux in the early 80s, Rene Girard joined Montpellier in 2009 without much pedigree in club management.

The club had just been promoted from the 2nd division when Girard took the reigns and the club managed to finish 5th, thus qualifying for the Europa league. A subsequent 14th placed finish meant that a return to the second division looked imminent.

But in the 2011/12 season, against all odds, Montpellier managed to win the league title despite heavy investment by Paris Saint-Germain after being acquired by Qatari owners.

Montpellier was fired to the title by a certain Olivier Giroud whose 21 goals and 9 assists made the world sit back and take notice and he eventually joined Arsenal the following year. All this was achieved with a net spend of measly 2m

#4 Aad De Mos (KV Mechelen)

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De Mos being carried on the shoulder after winning the European Cup Winners Cup in 1988

In the reversal of the usual football manager's career path, De Mos went from a giant club to a tiny one. After winning 2 titles at Ajax by the tender age of 35, De Mos took charge of Belgian minnows KV Mechelen in 1986.

At that time Belgian football was dominated by the likes of Standard Liege and Anderlecht whereas Mechelen had just been promoted from the second division.

However, backed by an electronics millionaire, Mechelen brought in Israeli winger Eli Ohana and legendary goalkeeper Michel Preud’homme from domestic rivals Standard Liege.

As a result of the investments, Mechelen managed to win the league in the 1988/89 season conceding just 62 goals in 102 league games during 3 successful years.

Perhaps more surprisingly, the Belgian side managed to win the European Cup Winners Cup in 1988 beating his former employees Ajax in the final. No Belgian side has laid hands on a European trophy since.

#5 Otto Rehhagel (Werder Bremen)

Rehhagel is Werder's longest-serving and most successful manager to date
Rehhagel is Werder's longest-serving and most successful manager to date

Perhaps more famous for leading the Greek national team to Euro glory in 2004, German Otto Rehhagel is a two-time league winner with Werder Bremen when they were minnows.

Known for his emphasis on defensive cohesion, Rehhagel managed Werder from 1981 to 1995, unleashing 14 golden years at the club.

Rehhagel transformed Werder from perennial relegation candidates into German powerhouse dazzling the supporters with his up-tempo play and a smothering defence.

He led Bremen to two league titles in 1988 and 1993 as well as winning the European Cup Winners Cup in 1992. The Bremen team of 1987-88 season conceded the fewest goals (22) in Bundesliga history until Bayern Munich surpassed the feat with 21 goals in 2007.

Rehhagel’s 14 years with Bremen remains the second longest stint as a Bundesliga manager with a single team.

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Edited by Omene Osuya
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