Ranking the Best Soccer Coaches in the World in 2021

By Zarko Naric in Soccer
| October 11, 2021 10:19 am PST

“An army of sheep led by a lion is better than an army of lions led by a sheep,” – whether Alexander the Great really said this or not doesn’t matter in this context. What matters is that with a lion for a coach, an average soccer team can turn into a world-beater.

It happened many times in the past. In 2004, for example, Otto Rehhagel led the Greece national team to the European Championship win. That feat still remains one of the biggest surprises in the history of the game.

Unfortunately, Rehhagel is no longer involved with soccer, but there are plenty of active managers who have the brains to pull off something similar.

I’m now going to discuss those guys – the best soccer coaches in the world today.

So, here are my top 10 picks.

10. Claudio Ranieri (Unemployed)

Of course, Ranieri is on my list of top managers! This is the man who led Leicester City to the first Premier League title in the club history.

He famously used the sort-of-forgotten 4-4-2 system in the 2015-16 season when the Foxes caused the greatest upset in the history of English soccer.

The fact that outright odds-on Leicester City winning the Premier League title were as long as 5,000.00 tells the whole story.

9. Diego Simeone (Atletico Madrid)

Two seasons ago, Diego Simeone was the highest-paid soccer manager in the world with a yearly salary of just under $50 million.

Atletico Madrid has the utmost faith in the guy. No surprise there, as he’s led them to two Spanish La Liga titles, as well as two UEFA Europa League titles.

He also led Atleti to the final of the Champions League on two occasions.

In the 2021-22 season, Simeone is no longer the manager with the highest salary. In fact, he’ll make under $15 million this year.

What’s interesting is that it’s the way he wanted it.

When the 2020 pandemic put Spain in a state of emergency, about 430 non-playing members of Atletico Madrid were about to lose their jobs. However, Simeone and all the Atleti players stepped in, agreeing on a 70% pay cut to help the club get through hard times.

8. Mauricio Pochettino (PSG)

Tottenham Hotspur owners are famous for not throwing money at their players. It’s estimated that the total salary of the Spurs players is almost three times lower than that of Man United.

The Spurs were even more frugal a couple of years ago when Mauricio Pochettino was their manager.

Still, despite not having the budget to sign elite players, the Argentine manager somehow managed to lead Tottenham to glory.

Well, near it. With him at the helm, Tottenham finished as the Premier League runner-up in the 2016-17 season. Two seasons later, he led the Spurs to the Final of the Champions League, where they lost to Liverpool.

In 2021, he’s no longer at Tottenham. After being sacked by the Spurs’ management in 2019, he found himself an even better job. Pochettino is now the boss of PSG, a club famous for spending a lot of money on player transfers – Angel Di Maria, Neymar, and even Lionel Messi.

7. Marcelo Bielsa (Leeds United)

Pochettino has some elite players at his disposal, so winning titles shouldn’t pose a problem for him. When it comes to Marcelo Bielsa, it’s just the opposite.

Pochettino’s mentor from the days when Bielsa was the Argentina manager, is now at the helm of Leeds United.

He was appointed their manager in 2018 with the goal of taking the team back to the top English flight from the Championship. Did he succeed? Of course, he did!

Not only did he lead Leeds back to the Premier League, but he’s turned this team into a side with Euro ambitions.

Before landing the Leeds job, he led several mediocre clubs as well as a few national teams with mixed success. However, when Bielsa is concerned, it’s not about the titles; it’s about turning young players (and coaches) into the world’s elite.

Some of the soccer greats who consider Bielsa their role model includes Pep Guardiola, Diego Simeone, and the Pochettino.

6. Thomas Tuchel (Chelsea)

Chelsea was in the #9 position in the Premier League on the day Thomas Tuchel took over in the 2020-21 season.

At that point, no one thought the London Blues were going to do achieve much, but just four months later, they became the European champions.

Not only did Tuchel led his team to the Champions League title, but with him in charge, Chelsea ended fourth in the Premier League, as well as finished as the runner-up of the English FA Cup.

5. Carlo Ancelotti (Real Madrid)

Now a 62-year-old, Ancelotti has been in the coaching business since 1995. He started out as the manager of his local club, Reggiana. However, just a year after the start of his managerial career, he landed a job in the Italian top-flight.

He managed Parma from 1996 to 1998, leading the team to second place in Serie A, which remains the club’s best league achievement in history.

From there, he went on to lead some of the world’s best soccer clubs.

  • Juventus (1999-2001)
  • AC Milan (2001-2009)
  • Chelsea (2009-2011)
  • PSG (2011-2013)
  • Real Madrid (2013-2015, 2021-)
  • Bayern Munich (2016-17)
  • Napoli (2018-19)
  • Everton (2019-21)

With those clubs, he’s won the Champions League on three occasions, as well as domestic titles in five different countries – Germany, Spain, France, England, and Italy.

4. Zinedine Zidane (Unemployed)

Before Carlo Ancelotti was appointed the Real Madrid manager, the boss of Los Blancos was Zinedine Zidane. He was their manager from 2016 to 2021, with a one-season break.

During his time at Real Madrid, Zidane won three consecutive Champions League titles, a feat no other manager has achieved.

At the moment of writing, Zidane remains without a job, probably just waiting for the right opportunity to come by.

3. Jose Mourinho (AS Roma)

The Special One as he likes to be called is one of the most decorated soccer coaches in the world.

Mourinho’s rise to stardom started in the 2003-04 season when he led Porto to the Champions League title, which still remains one of the biggest underdog stories in the history of the game.

From Porto, he went on to coach Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and Manchester United, winning at least some kind of trophy with each of those teams.

In 2021, he’s the manager of AS Roma. Although it’s still too early to tell, Mourinho seems to be doing a very good job with his new team.

2. Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool)

Here’s the guy who turned Liverpool from a struggling side into one of the world’s best teams.

In fact, Klopp was the manager who led this team to their first domestic title in the Premier League era, which started back in 1992.

Not only did he end Liverpool’s Premier League drought, but he also led the Reds to the Champions League title in 2019.

In the new season, his team is once again among the top candidates for both of those trophies.

1. Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)

Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Manchester City – these are the only three clubs he’s coached so far.

With Barça, he perfected the playing style called tiki-taka, which helped his team win the Champions League two times, as well as three La Liga titles.

He won another three domestic titles in Germany as the Bayern Munich manager, as well as in England, as the boss of Manchester City.

With those clubs, he set all sorts of records, including the one for the most league games won consecutively.

What’s interesting is that he hasn’t won the Champions League since his Barça days. In fact, it’s been over a decade since he’s done it. Maybe the 2021-22 season is when his drought ends?

If it does, Pep Guardiola will be able to put a clam on the GOAT status for soccer managers.

Honorable Mention – Roberto Mancini (Italy National Team)

All the managers I’ve discussed so far are currently employed as the bosses of soccer clubs. However, I can’t put an end to this topic without mentioning one national team manager.

The man in question is Roberto Mancini, who’s currently at the helm of the Italy national team. Since taking over, he’s guided Italy to their second European title in summer 2021.

A few months after winning the Euro 2020, Mancini’s Italy broke the world record for the longest unbeaten run, with 37 matches without a loss.

Their next game is on the program on October 5, 2021, when they welcome Spain in Milan as a part of the UEFA Nations League playoffs.

Will Mancini’s boys prolong their unbeaten streak? Yep, I think so.

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