The Best Football Managers in 2021

Managing a football team requires tactical skills, a thorough knowledge of the game, and the ability to communicate plans and ideas clearly.

Here at Cometoplay, we are huge fans of the sport and we know why the best football managers make millions and why they are considered the second most valuable participants in the world of football.

So who are the best of the best in the management world? What are their tactics, and how have they managed to get to the top of the game?

Best Soccer Managers Throughout History

From player-turned-super coach Johannes Cruijff to one of Romania’s best managers in football Mircea Lucescu, the sport’s history is full of accomplished managers who have led their teams to victory, not once but multiple times.

But perhaps none is as famous as legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Considered one of the greatest coaches of all time, he won 38 trophies (including 12 Premier League titles), two UEFA Championship Leagues and five FA Cups with the ​​Red Devils. These amazing achievements make Sir Alex Ferguson the manager with the most trophies in the history of the sport. 

11 Best Football Managers Right Now

Setting aside big names like Arsenal’s game-changer Arsène Wenger and British coaching legend Bob Paisley, it’s time to take a closer look at some of the biggest names in football management in 2021. 

Mauricio Pochettino

  • Age: 49
  • Teams coached: Espanyol, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur
  • Current team: Paris Saint-Germain
  • Major titles won
    • Coupe de France (2020/21)
    • Trophée des Champions (2020)

Mauricio Pochettino made a name for himself when he started coaching in the Premier League, first during his single-season spell at Southampton and later at Tottenham. With Mauricio Pochettino at the helm, Spurs made it to the Premier League finale in the 2016/17 season and ended up as the 2019 UEFA Champions League runner-ups.

In 2021, he returned to Paris Saint-Germain as head coach managing one of the most promising young players of the generation, Kylian Mbappe. Thanks to Mauricio Pochettino, PSG defeated Olympique de Marseille with a 2–1 victory in the Trophee des Champions, securing the first major trophy for this football manager. 

When it comes to tactics, Pochettino prefers a high-pressing style of play and often employs the 4-2-3-1 formations with the teams he manages.

Marcelo Bielsa

  • Age: 66
  • Teams coached: Lazio, Marseille, Espanyol, Newell’s Old Boys, Argentina national team, Chile national team 
  • Current team: Leeds United (since June 2018) 
  • Major titles won: 
    • Summer Olympics Tournament Gold Medal (2004)
    • Primera División Argentina (1991, 1992,1998)
    • EFL Championship (2019/20)

Leeds United’s head coach Marcelo Bielsa is one of the most influential coaches today. Born in Rosario, Argentina, he initially played as a defender for Newell’s Old Boys and switched to coaching when he was 25. He developed his career at the same team before moving on to coach other squads, including Athletic Bilbao, Marseille and Lazio. 

He stayed the longest with Leeds United, though, leading this club back to the Premier League after a 16-year absence. 

The key to Marcelo Bielsa’s tactics lies in his signature 3-3-1-3 formation, which he made famous during his coaching of the Argentina and Chile national teams.

Julian Nagelsmann

  • Age: 34
  • Teams coached: 1899 Hoffenheim, RB Leipzig 
  • Current team: Bayern Munich
  • Major titles won: DFL-Supercup (2021)

One of the best young football managers in the world, Nagelsmann took up his first job as coach of Hoffenheim in 2015, becoming the youngest coach in Bundesliga history. He soon rose to fame, moving to Leipzig and then to Bayern Munich for a fee of £21.7 million, turning him the most expensive manager of all time. 

His coaching style signals a new generation of football managers. Nagelsman uses plenty of tech to train his players, including drones, the Footbonaut system and a 6×3-metre screen on the halfway line of the pitch to provide live feedback to players. 

As for his tactics, the two seasons he spent with Leipzig prove his squad can play in many formations, from target man upfront to a false nine.

Antonio Conte

  • Age: 52
  • Teams coached: Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta, Siena, Juventus, Italy national team, Chelsea, Inter Milan 
  • Current team: currently without a team 
  • Major titles won
    • Serie A (2011/12, 2012/13,2013/14,2020/21)
    • Supercoppa Italiana (2012, 2013)
    • Premier League (2016/17)
    • FA Cup (2017/18)

Antonio Conte was one of the most influential players in Juventus before trading in his jersey for a managerial title. 

During his career, Conte managed to move both Bari and Siena from Serie B to Serie A and win three consecutive Serie A titles with Juventus. He was also able to lead Chelsea to the Premier League title in the very first season with the team. But perhaps most impressive of all is breaking Juve’s nine-year winning streak in 2021, when he and Inter Milan made it to the top of Serie A.

When it comes to style of play, Antonio Conte is famous for his trademark 3-5-2 formation, which he made popular again (it had been used very little since 1990). The teams he coaches are also known for their versatility and flexibility since they are able to adopt different formations during a match.

Diego Simeone

  • Age: 51
  • Teams coached: Racing Club, Estudiantes, River Plate, San Lorenzo, Catania
  • Current team: Atlético Madrid
  • Major titles won
    • Argentine Primera División (2006, 2008) 
    • La Liga (2013/14, 2020/21)
    • Copa del Rey (2012–13)
    • Supercopa de España (2014)
    • UEFA Europa League (2011/12, 2017/18)
    • UEFA Super Cup (2012, 2018)

Diego Simeone is an Argentinian-born former player and a legend among Atlético Madrid fans. Managing the Spanish club since 2011, Simeone has transformed Atlético Madrid from an underachieving club to one of the most consistent sides in Spanish La Liga. Under his guidance, the club won two La Liga trophies, two UEFA Europa League titles and the Copa del Rey. Simeone also took Atlético to the UEFA Champions League finals twice. 

Diego Simeone tactics centre around his primary formation  4-4-2. He alters it from time to time to match the opposing team, using 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 to stop attacks, but mostly a quartet has its place in the midfield, and the front players play as a pair.

Thomas Tuchel

  • Age: 48
  • Teams coached: FC Augsburg II, Mainz 05, Borussia Dortmund, PSG
  • Current team: Chelsea
  • Major titles won
    • DFB-Pokal (2016/17)
    • Ligue 1 (2018/19, 2019/20)
    • Coupe de France: (2019/20)
    • Coupe de la Ligue (2019/20)
    • Trophée des Champions (2018, 2019)
    • UEFA Champions League (2020/21)
    • UEFA Super Cup (2021)

Thanks to his tactical skills and flexible management style, as well as his innovative training techniques, Thomas Tuchel is one of the best managers in the world right now. 

Ending his career as a player at the age of 25, Tuchel started coaching the Stuttgart youth teams. He then moved to Mainz 05, leading them to the UEFA Europa League for the first time in the club’s history.

Tuchel also spent two and a half years with Paris Saint-Germain, winning two French league titles and getting to the Champions League final for the first time in his career. 

His latest in the string of successes is winning the UEFA Champions League with Chelsea during his first season with the club.  

Zinedine Zidane 

  • Age: 49
  • Teams coached:  Real Madrid Castilla, Real Madrid
  • Current team: Retired 
  • Major titles won
    • La Liga (2016–17, 2019/20)
    • Supercopa de España (2017, 2019/20)
    • UEFA Champions League (2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18)
    • UEFA Super Cup (2016, 2017)
    • FIFA Club World Cup (2016, 2017)

In addition to being one of the best number 10s of all time, Zinedine Zidane proved himself as a successful coach, leading Real Madrid to victory more than once. In fact, during the first two and a half seasons, this former French player became the first coach to win three consecutive UEFA Champions League titles. Under Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid also won the UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup, La Liga and Supercopa de España (twice each). 

Zidane has received a lot of praise for his flexible formations and style, as well as leadership skills that have allowed him to manage several world-class players and unite the dressing room—something not a lot of managers can say. He was also commended for his use of in-game substitutions, which have proven successful on several occasions. 

Carlo Ancelotti

  • Age: 62
  • Teams coached: Reggiana, Parma, Juventus, Milan, Chelsea, PSG,  Bayern Munich,  Napoli, Everton
  • Current team: Real Madrid
  • Major titles won
    • Copa Intertoto (2000)
    • Coppa Italia (2003)
    • Serie A (2004)
    • Supercoppa Italiana (2004)
    • UEFA Champions League (2002/03,2006/07,2013/14)
    • ​​UEFA Super Cup (2014)
    • Copa del Rey (2013/14)
    • Italian Cup (2003)
    • Serie A (2004)
    • Premier League (2009/10)
    • FA Cup (2009/10)
    • ​​FA Community Shield (2009)
    • Bundesliga (2016/17)
    • DFL-Supercup (2016, 2017)
    • UEFA Super Cup (2003, 2007, 2014)
    • Ligue1 (2013)
    • FIFA Club World Cup (2007,2014)

Carlo Ancelotti is a name every football fan knows. Widely accepted as one of the greatest football managers of all time, he has worked with some of the best footballers in the Premier League and Serie A. 

This former Italian player is the only active coach to win the Champions League three times—once with Real in 2014 and twice with Milan in 2003 and 2007.  He is also one of only seven people that have won the Champions League or European Cup both as a manager and a player.

The mild-mannered Italian’s coaching style is one of adaptability and versatility. He tends to adjust his tactics depending on the opposition and plays formations that best suit the attributes of his players. 

José Mourinho

  • Age: 58
  • Teams coached: Benfica, União de Leiria, Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur
  • Current team: Roma
  • Major titles won
    • Primeira Liga (2002–03, 2003–04)
    • UEFA Champions League (2003–04, 2009–10)
    • UEFA Cup (2002–03)
    • UEFA Europa League (2016–17)
    • Premier League (2004–05, 2005–06, 2014–15)
    • FA Cup (2006–07)
    • Football League Cup (2004–05, 2006–07, 2014–15)
    • FA Community Shield (2005, 2016)
    • Serie A (2008–09, 2009–10)
    • Coppa Italia (2009–10)
    • Supercoppa Italiana (2008)
    • La Liga (2011–12)
    • Copa del Rey (2010–11)
    • Supercopa de España (2012)

José Mourinho has won major competitions with almost every team he has coached (with the exception of Spurs). He is the fifth coach to have won a domestic title in four different countries (Portugal, England, Italy and Spain) and one of five managers to have held the UEFA Champions League trophy with two clubs (Porto in 2004 and Inter Milan in 2010).

Named Portuguese Coach of the Century in 2015, Mourinho is also on the list of the most expensive football managers—his transfer from Inter Milan to Real Madrid for a fee of £7 million is one of the costliest coach deals in the history of the sport. On top of that, he is the first manager to cross the one billion mark on transfer fees with the signing of Romelu Lukaku in 2017.

Armed with tactical knowledge and an ability to adapt to different situations, as well as a charming, albeit controversial personality, José Mourinho is definitely one of the most famous and best managers in soccer.  

Jurgen Klopp

  • Age: 53
  • Teams coached:  Mainz 05, Borussia Dortmund
  • Current team: Liverpool
  • Major titles won
    • Bundesliga (2010/11, 2011/12)
    • DFB-Pokal (2011–12)
    • DFL-Supercup (2013, 2014)
    • Premier League (2019–20)
    • UEFA Champions League (2018–19)
    • UEFA Super Cup (2019)
    • FIFA Club World Cup (2019)

No list of the current best football managers would be complete without mentioning the man who transformed Liverpool from a club that couldn’t qualify for the Europa League to the champion of Europe and England. 

Before leaving Germany, Klopp had already successfully coached Mainz 05 and guided Borussia Dortmund to their first-ever domestic double title and the finals of the 2012-13 UEFA Champions League.

In 2015 he took over Liverpool, earning their first Premier League title after a 30-year wait and breaking a couple of records in the process. For his accomplishments, he was awarded as FIFA Coach of the Year both in 2019 and 2020. 

Klopp is a firm believer in Gegenpressing, a tactic that involves the team attempting to win back possession of the ball immediately after losing it, which he says, is more effective for creating chances. 

Pep Guardiola

  • Age: 50
  • Teams coached: Barcelona, Bayern Munich
  • Current team: Manchester City
  • Major titles won:
    • La Liga (2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11)
    • Copa del Rey (2008–09, 2011–12)
    • Supercopa de España (2009, 2010, 2011)
    • UEFA Champions League (2008–09, 2010–11)
    • UEFA Super Cup (2009, 2011,2013)
    • FIFA Club World Cup (2009, 2011,2013)
    • Bundesliga (2013–14, 2014–15, 2015–16)
    • DFB-Pokal (2013–14, 2015–16)
    • Premier League (2017–18, 2018–19, 2020–21)
    • FA Cup (2018–19)
    • EFL Cup (2017–18, 2018–19, 2019–20, 2020–21)
    • FA Community Shield (2018, 2019)

The number one spot on our list of the best football managers of all time is reserved for Man City’s head coach Pep Guardiola. The Catalan is not only widely recognised as the best of the best, but he also holds the record for the most consecutive league titles won in three different countries and is the youngest manager ever to win a UEFA Champions League title.

Guardiola has had major success with every team he coached, including winning the treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League during his season with Barcelona and securing three consecutive Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich.

In 2016, Guardiola took over Manchester City and brought the club to the top of English men’s football. Pep Guardiola and Man City won the Premier League with a record 100 points in his second season, while the following year, they got their second Premier League title, as well as the EFL Cup and the FA Cup, turning Guardiola into the first coach to win the domestic treble in English soccer. 

Although his managerial style has evolved over the years, Pep Guardiola’s tactics still place much emphasis on retaining ball position as well as pressing off the ball, a style that, thanks to him, is now commonly seen in football across the country. 

Final Thoughts 

From up-and-coming Julian Nagelsmann to seasoned managers like Carlo Ancelotti, our list of the best football managers right now shows that it takes more than talent to coach a team. Coaches also need to ensure that players are in top physical shape, they must work out strategies and tactics, study the opposition and most importantly, motivate and bring individuals players together in a united squad. So the next time you are thinking of trying your hand at football management, take some tips from the very best in the business.

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