Throughout soccer history, there have been very successful coaches, and some have simply struggled. Coaching professional soccer is no small feat. In this article, we want to recognize coaches who made an impact on their teams and the way soccer is played today.
These coaches have been selected based on their achievements, the impact they have had on the sport, and their innovative tactics. Whether it is winning multiple league titles or leading their teams to victory in the World Cup, these coaches have proven themselves to be the best of the best.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the best soccer coaches of all time and what makes them stand out from the rest.
Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson is widely regarded as one of the greatest soccer coaches of all time. He spent 26 years as the manager of Manchester United, leading the team to many domestic and international titles.
Manchester United Era
During his tenure at Manchester United, Ferguson won an unprecedented 38 major trophies, including 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League trophies. He also led the team to five FA Cup wins, four League Cup victories, and a FIFA Club World Cup title. His success at the club was built on a foundation of strong team spirit, hard work, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. Wow!
Ferguson was known for his ability to build and rebuild teams, and he was never afraid to make tough decisions when it came to player transfers and team selection.
He also had a reputation for being a strict disciplinarian, but his players respected him for his fairness and his commitment to their success. During his tenure, this was the most effective form of coaching.
Rinus Michels was born on February 9, 1928, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and passed away on March 3, 2005. Michels was known for his innovative tactics and his ability to motivate players.
Michels is best known for his development of “Total Football,” a style of play that emphasizes fluid movement and interchangeability between positions. This style of play was developed during his time as coach of Ajax Amsterdam, where he won three consecutive European Cups from 1971 to 1973. You also might have seen it played in the hit TV show, Ted Lasso.
Total Football requires players to be versatile and adaptable, able to play multiple positions and switch between attacking and defensive roles seamlessly. This style of play was influential in the development of modern soccer tactics, and many coaches have since adopted elements of Total Football into their own strategies.
Arrigo Sacchi is an Italian former professional soccer coach who is famous for his innovative tactical approach and his success with AC Milan in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
AC Milan Era
Sacchi joined AC Milan in 1987 and immediately made a huge impact. He implemented a high-pressing, zonal marking system that helped Milan dominate Italian and European soccer. In his debut season, Milan won the Serie A title, and then went on to win back-to-back European Cups in 1989 and 1990.
Sacchi’s Milan team was known for its disciplined defense, quick counter-attacks, and devastating attacking play. He had a talented squad that included players like Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, and Franco Baresi, but it was his tactical genius that made Milan one of the greatest teams in football history.
Johan Cruyff is widely regarded as one of the greatest soccer players and coaches in history. He began his career with the Ajax youth academy team at the age of 10. He later went on to play for Barcelona and the Dutch national team, where he helped lead them to the World Cup final in 1974.
Barcelona Dream Team
Cruyff’s most significant coaching achievement came with Barcelona in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He took over as head coach in 1988 and quickly implemented his “Total Football” philosophy, which emphasized fluid, attacking play and a high press. He also assembled a team of talented players, including Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup, and Hristo Stoichkov, who became known as the “Barcelona Dream Team.”
Under Cruyff’s leadership, Barcelona won four consecutive La Liga titles from 1991 to 1994 and their first European Cup in 1992. The team’s style of play was widely praised and had a significant influence on modern soccer tactics.
Pep Guardiola is one of the most successful soccer coaches of all time, having won numerous titles with Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Manchester City. He is widely regarded as one of the best tacticians in the game and has been praised for his innovative and attacking style of play.
Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Manchester City Era
Guardiola began his coaching career at Barcelona in 2008, taking over from Frank Rijkaard. In his first season, he led the team to an unprecedented treble, winning the La Liga, Copa del Rey, and UEFA Champions League. He continued to dominate Spanish football, winning the league three times in a row and the Champions League twice more.
After a year-long sabbatical, Guardiola took over at Bayern Munich in 2013. He led the team to three consecutive Bundesliga titles and two German Cups, but was unable to win the Champions League with the German giants.
Most recently, Pep is the manager of Manchester City, who has found lots of success under his leadership. He has been managing the club since 2016 and has won numerous domestic titles, including three Premier League titles, one FA Cup, and four Carabao Cups.
José Mourinho was born in Portugal on January 26th, 1963, and began his coaching career in the early 1990s. He quickly gained a reputation as a tactically astute and charismatic coach who was able to motivate his players to achieve great things.
Porto and Chelsea Era
Mourinho’s first major success came when he was appointed as the head coach of Porto in 2002. In his first season, he led the team to victory in the UEFA Cup, and the following season he guided them to victory in the UEFA Champions League. He also won two Primeira Liga titles and a Taça de Portugal during his time at Porto.
After leaving Porto, Mourinho was appointed as the head coach of Chelsea in 2004. He quickly turned the team into one of the best in Europe, winning two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, and two League Cups during his three-year tenure. He also created a formidable team spirit and a winning mentality that has become synonymous with his coaching style.
Vicente Del Bosque
Vicente Del Bosque is known for his calm demeanor, tactical acumen, and ability to manage star-studded teams. Del Bosque has won numerous titles with Real Madrid and the Spanish national team, cementing his place among the best coaches of all time.
Spain National Team Era
Del Bosque took over as the head coach of the Spanish national team after their victory in the 2008 European Championship. He led Spain to their first World Cup victory in 2010 and followed it up with a triumph in the 2012 European Championship. During his tenure, Del Bosque was able to maintain the team’s winning culture and helped them become one of the most dominant teams in soccer history.
Marcello Lippi was born on April 12, 1948, in Viareggio, Italy. Lippi is known for his tactical prowess, motivational skills, and ability to build winning teams. He has won numerous titles and awards throughout his illustrious career.
Juventus and Italy National Team Era
Lippi’s coaching career began in 1982 when he was appointed as the head coach of Serie C1 team, Pistoiese. He then went on to coach a number of other Italian teams, including Atalanta, Napoli, and Juventus. It was at Juventus where Lippi had his most successful era. He coached the team from 1994 to 1999 and again from 2001 to 2004. During his time at Juventus, Lippi won five Serie A titles, one UEFA Champions League title, and one Intercontinental Cup.
Lippi also had a successful stint as the head coach of the Italy national team. He was appointed in 2004 and led the team to victory in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Italy’s triumph in the World Cup was largely attributed to Lippi’s tactical acumen and his ability to motivate the players.
Carlo Ancelotti has managed some of the biggest clubs in the world and has won numerous trophies throughout his career.
AC Milan and Real Madrid Era
Ancelotti began his coaching career at Reggiana in 1995, but he rose to prominence during his time at AC Milan. He managed Milan from 2001 to 2009 and led them to two UEFA Champions League titles in 2003 and 2007. During his time at Milan, he also won one Serie A title, one Coppa Italia, one Supercoppa Italiana, and one FIFA Club World Cup.
In 2009, Ancelotti moved to Chelsea and won the Premier League title in his first season. He then moved to Paris Saint-Germain in 2011 and won the Ligue 1 title in his first season. In 2013, he was appointed as the manager of Real Madrid and led them to their tenth UEFA Champions League title in his first season. He also won the Copa del Rey in his second season at the club.
Best U.S. Soccer Coaches of All-Time
The most notable coaches, as you probably guessed it, are found in Europe. But, let’s not forget that the United States has produced some great soccer coaches. Here are the top U.S. soccer coaches of all-time:
- Bob Bradley: Bob Bradley is another highly successful American soccer coach. He led the U.S. Men’s National Team to the knockout stages of the 2010 World Cup and won the 2007 Gold Cup. He also won an MLS Cup with the Chicago Fire and coached in Egypt and Norway.
- Jurgen Klinsmann: Jurgen Klinsmann is a former German international player who coached the U.S. Men’s National Team from 2011 to 2016. He led the team to the knockout stages of the 2014 World Cup and won the 2013 Gold Cup. He also coached Germany to the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup.
- Bruce Sarver: Bruce Sarver is a former U.S. Men’s National Team player who went on to coach the team from 1984 to 1995. He led the team to the 1990 World Cup and won the 1991 Gold Cup. He also coached in the MLS and won a U.S. Open Cup with the Chicago Fire.
- Jill Ellis: Under Ellis’ leadership, the United States women’s national soccer team won two consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cup titles in 2015 and 2019, becoming the first team to do so since Germany in 2003 and 2007. Ellis retired from coaching the USWNT in 2019, finishing her remarkable career with a 106-7-19 overall record, earning 99 more wins than she had losses. She is widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches in the history of women’s soccer.
These coaches have all made significant contributions to American soccer and are highly respected in the soccer community.