5 best managers under the age of 40

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - APRIL 13:  Head coach Marcelo Gallardo of River Plate looks on during a match between Sao Paulo and River Plate as part of Group 1 of Copa Bridgestone Libertadores at Morumbi Stadium on April 13, 2016 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images)
Gallardo has been very successful at River Plate

In the footballing world, the term “long-term potential” is something that is thrown around quite a bit. While it usually applies to young and budding players who are looking to make their mark in the field, these days it also applies to the potential managerial maestros looking to guide a club to glory.

A manager plays a significant role in deciding the incoming transfers, tactical nuances that define a team, backroom staff, and the club’s brand; he’s also responsible for implementing a holistic approach to the club; deciding the culture, the ethos, the training habits and every other minute detail you can think of.

It is, therefore, no surprise that clubs go to incredible lengths to ensure that they hire the right man; someone who’s vision for the club lines up with their own and is truly capable of leading a club to success, on the field and off it.

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Many in the managerial field got there after an exhausting professional career, hanging up their footballing boots and boasting an abundance of experience. However, for every such manager, there are those who have gone on to experience incredible success without boasting of an extraordinary playing career.

“The Special One,” Jose Mourinho’s footballing resume is one any coach in football would be jealous of. Aged just 41, he guided an unfancied Porto to an unexpected Champions League title; yet he’s never played football professionally at the highest level.

And currently, there are many like him who are quietly going about making their mark, whether at the highest level or in the lower tiers of football who often do not get the recognition they rightfully deserve.

Here, we’ve compiled a list of 5 people who we think are the realm’s finest managerial minds aged 40 and under, i.e. they must be born in 1976 or later.


#5 Marcelo Gallardo

Age: 40

Club: River Plate

Standing at a mere 5ft 5in, not many expected Gallardo to be able to cut his teeth at the highest level, let alone carve a stunning managerial career out of it.

Gallardo started out as an attacking midfielder for Argentinian side River Plate where he won 6 league titles and a Copa Libertadores. He also turned out for Monaco where he captured a Ligue 1 title and was voted the Ligue one Player of the Year in 2000. He also represented Argentina in 2 separate World Cups, amassing 44 caps and scoring 13 goals for his national side.

He started his managerial journey with Nacional Montevideo in the Uruguayan Primera Division, guiding them to the league title in 2012. After making a much-heralded return to River Plate in June 2014 – a club that he captained – he has gone on to oversee a highly successful period at the club.

He has River Plate playing an expansive, free-flowing style of attacking football molded in his own image, winning the Copa Sudamericana title in 2014. Last year, he went one better, beating Mexican side Tigres in the Copa Libertadores final and bringing the most vaunted club trophy in South America to River for the first time since 1996; coincidentally while he was playing for them.

Though he did suffer defeat to Barcelona in the FIFA Club World Cup final, his time at River can’t be classified as anything other than a resounding success.

#4 Lee Johnson

BRISTOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 25:  Lee Johnson the manager of Bristol City during the EFL Cup Fourth Round match between Bristol City and Hull City at Ashton Gate on October 25, 2016 in Bristol, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Lee Johnson has been quietly making his mark at Bristol City

Age: 35

Club: Bristol City

Lee Johnson spent his entire playing career in the 2nd and 3rd tiers of English football, appearing for Brighton & Hove Albion, Yeovil Town, Derby County, Chesterfield and Bristol City; the last of which he is currently managing and making a name for himself as one of the brightest, young managerial prospects in football today.

It also helps that footballing genetics runs in the family. His dad, Gary Johnson is as experienced a manager as they come, having spent a long and fruitful 30-year career in the dugout and is currently managing Cheltenham town in League two.

His father held the helm at Bristol City for 5 years between 2005-2010 while Lee was playing at the club, yet it can be assured that there was no nepotism involved when Lee was handed the job in February. He’d already overseen 2 good years at cash-strapped Oldham Athletic, guiding them to their highest ever league finish in 2013/14. After another year at Barnsley, his former club came calling and he took up the job at Ashton Gate.

After guiding them to 7 wins in 16 and avoiding relegation from the Championship by 12 points, he has overseen a fast start to this season, with the Robins sitting pretty in 9th position.

If he continues this upward trajectory, it won’t be long before some of the bigger guns notice his talent and come calling.

#3 Eddie Howe

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05: Eddie Howe, Manager of AFC Bournemouth looks on during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Sunderland at Vitality Stadium on November 5, 2016 in Bournemouth, England.  (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)
Eddie Howe has been Bournemouth’s savior

Age: 38

Club: Bournemouth

Eddie Howe is undoubtedly one of the best English managers around. He has overseen the remarkable rise of AFC Bournemouth from the footballing abyss to establishing itself as a Premier League Club.

He spent 2 separate spells coaching Bournemouth, with a spell in Burnley in between and they have amounted to nothing short of a fairy tale. It was, therefore, little surprise to see him linked to the vacated England job; the poisoned chalice that it is, however, it is still an incredible honor to be managing the national team.

Howe had an unremarkable playing career, often interrupted by injury. By 2007, aged just 29, he decided it wasn’t for him and switched to coaching the Bournemouth reserve squad.

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In 2009, aged just 31, he managed to haul the Cherries away from League Two relegation despite a 17 point deficit; in the process preventing them from becoming a footnote in the history books.

Fast forward 7 years, and successive promotions has seen them become a Premier League club, harboring ambitions of top-half finishes and playing an exciting and attacking brand of football. All this while being comparatively financially restrained and the constant threat of having the best players being poached by better clubs.

It wouldn’t come as a surprise to see Howe managing a bigger club in the near future; his talent definitely warrants it.

#2 Andre Villas-Boas

KHIMKI, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 01: Head coach Andre Villas-Boas of FC Zenit St. Petersburg gestures during the Russian Premier League match between PFC CSKA Moscow and FC Zenit St. Petersburg at the Arena Khimki Stadium on November 01, 2014 in Khimki, Russia.  (Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images)
Boas is the youngest ever manager to win a European competition

Age: 39

Club: Shanghai SIPG

You get the feeling Villas-Boas’ talent is being wasted away in the Chinese League. After all, this was one of the most highly touted managerial prospects in generations. He’s still only 39, though it feels as though he was been around for a very long time.

It is only natural that someone who’s touted as the successor to Mourinho’s throne truly began his managerial journey at Porto, the club where Mourinho first made his name. He took the world by storm, leading them to an undefeated season in the Portuguese league, winning the title by more than 20 points and conceding only 13 goals all season.

He followed up on this success by guiding Porto to the Portuguese Cup and the Europa League becoming the youngest ever manager to win a European competition and completing an unprecedented treble in the process.

He ended up taking charge of Chelsea, another club where Mourinho is considered a legend; however, things didn’t turn out as planned with Boas trying to change too much too soon and not lasting the season.

He was given another shot at English football with Tottenham Hotspur, where he guided them to their highest ever points tally for a season at the time and overseeing the development of Gareth Bale into one of the most feared wingers on the planet.

A further stint at Zenit St. Petersburg saw him guide them to the league title and the round of 16 in the Champions league before leaving for China.

Boasting of considerable experience already and still 11 months shy of his 40th birthday, he can still develop into the elite bracket of managers that many know he’s capable of becoming.

#1 Julian Nagelsmann

Bayern Muenchen v TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - Bundesliga : News Photo
Nagelsmann is the youngest coach in Bundesliga history

Age: 29

Club: Hoffenheim

Nagelsmann has been taking the Bundesliga by storm this season, with the perennially relegation-threatened Hoffenheim sitting at a lofty 3rd on the table. When he was initially hired as the manager in February, becoming the youngest permanent coach in Bundesliga history, many in the local media dismissed it as a “public relations stunt” and “a crackpot idea.”

Yet the man nicknamed “baby Mourinho” has completely turned around fortunes at the club. When he was hired, they’d won only 2 of their past 20 games, were next to bottom of the table and 7 points from safety. They won 7 of their next 14 games to finish one point off the relegation play-off spot and in the 9 months since he took charge have scored in all but 2 of their 24 league games.

Any initial concerns have been swept away in their entirety and he has since been highly praised by the likes of Carlo Ancelotti and Dortmund boss, Thomas Tuchel; under whom he briefly played for Augsburg’s second team.

He is still a year shy of his 30th birthday. In fact, he only turned 29 last Saturday and if he continues this current trend will probably be managing Hoffenheim in a European competition next season.

A man who cites the styles of Villareal, Barcelona and Arsenal as his influences, Nagelsmann is an astute young tactician who will no doubt be courted by bigger clubs in the coming seasons.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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