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Greatest soccer managers Print E-mail

Friday, 05 April 2013 00:00

Written by Ian Farquharson

Having a career as a soccer manager must rate as one of the most precarious occupations around and each year there tends to be a relatively steady turnover of managers at big and small clubs alike.  

However, some managers have earned a reputation for gaining success for the teams they manage and this can be at club or international level, with a few managers being successful at both. During the 20th century, soccer rose to be one of the most popular sports around the world and during this time a number of great managers came to the fore. The following are details of some of the greatest of the sport during the 20th century.

Vittorio Pozzo

Most managers of international teams probably have an ambition to win the FIFA World Cup, although the list of those that have is fairly small. Within this there is only one man who has managed the feat twice. His name was Vittorio Pozzo and he was the manager of the great Italian team of the 1930’s which was to claim the World Cup trophy in both 1934 and 1938. Pozzo was manager of the Italian national team for a period of almost 20 years from 1929 to 1948 and this was one of the most successful periods in their history. As well as the World Cup victories, Pozzo also led Italy to 1936 Olympic gold and the Central European International Cup in 1930 and 1935. During the 1930’s Italy went on one of the best unbeaten runs in international soccer history which lasted for 5 years between 1934 and 1939. For his immense achievements in the game Pozzo is rightly recognized as one of the best coaches of the 20th century.

Sir Matt Busby

Sir Matt Busby was a born and bred Scot, although the immense success he was to achieve came with Manchester United in England. He is the longest serving manager in United’s history, having joined the club in 1945 and remained in position until 1969. During this period Busby was to build some excellent teams and bring great success to United. During the early to mid 1950’s the team at United was full of exciting young players and came by the nickname the Busby Babes. They brought success to the club by winning the league in 1956 and 1957, but the unfortunate events of the Munich disaster were to claim the lives of many of the team. Busby survived the plane crash and set about rebuilding the team. Bringing in players such as George Best and Denis Law to name a few, United became one of the best teams of the 1960’s and their triumph in the 1968 European Cup was the pinnacle of their achievements. Sit Matt Busby is considered a legend at United and his successful career there marks him out as one of the best managers during the 20th century.

Bob Paisley

In terms of trophy wins there are few managers that can match up to the success that Bob Paisley achieved at Liverpool during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Paisley inherited a fairly successful team from the previous manager, Bill Shankly although took this to new heights during his reign. In only 9 years in charge he was to lead the team to immense success winning a total of 14 major trophies. This included three European Cup successes and Paisley is the only manager in history to have achieved this feat. During his nine years managing Liverpool they were the dominant team in England by far and won the English League title 6 times. Paisley is widely regarded as the greatest ever Liverpool manager and for his amazing trophy winning success he is definitely one of the best managers of the 20th century.

Ernst Happel

Although Ernst Happel was never to manage any of the sides that are really considered at the very top of soccer in Europe, his managerial abilities ensured that the teams he was in charge of achieved great success. He managed club sides to league and cup winning success in four different countries during his career and this included Feyenoord in Holland, Club Brugge in Belgium, Hamburg in Germany and FC Tirol in his native Austria. He also led two of these teams, Feyenoord and Hamburg to European Cup success and is one of only three managers to have managed two different clubs to European Cup wins. Happel also had a successful spell in international management and led Holland to the final of the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, although there were to end up losing out in this to Argentina. Happel has a record that is matched by few managers and this marks him out as one of the best of the 20th century.

Rinus Michels

In the 1999 FIFA poll of the best managers of the 20th century Rinus Michels was awarded the number 1 spot. He is that man that devised the concept of total football where players have the ability to pay in any position and can easily interchange during the course of a game. Michels began his managerial career at Ajax, the team where he spent his entire playing career. He led them to great success turning them into one of the dominant teams in Europe. During his 6 years in charge of the club they were to win four league titles as well as winning the European Cup in 1971. However, following the European Cup win Michels left to take up the managerial post at Barcelona in Spain. His success as a manager continued here and during his time in charge he led Barcelona to the Spanish League title once. Michels also had a successful spell in national team management and was to lead his native Holland on 4 different occasions. In the first of these he took the team to the final of the 1974 World Cup, although they were to end this as runners up to the host nation, Germany. However his biggest success with Holland came in 1988 when he led the team to glory in the European Championships. Michels is rightly recognized as one of the best coaches of the 20th century and as the 1999 FIFA poll showed many people regard him as the best of all.

There have been many great managers in the history of soccer that have achieved great success. Those named above are some of those that achieved great fame during their careers and they built some fantastic teams at either club or international level. For the success they had they are recognized as some of the greatest managers of the 20th century.


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