7 Most Underrated Coaches in World Football

Dan Wheeler@@DanJLWheelerContributor IMarch 29, 2013

7 Most Underrated Coaches in World Football

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    If you are a football club chairman or owner, having an "underrated" manager is the sharpest of two-edged swords.

    On the one hand, you laud his achievements against the odds.

    On the other, you worry over how long he can keep operating below the radar of bigger, more established, clubs who will be only too keen to steal him away.

    Trying to define what makes a manager "underrated" is an interesting proposal since success is relative to a club's size, domestic competition and financial clout.

    So how long can a manager stay "underrated" for? Is one season of success enough to shed the tag? Can a manager of a "big club" be considered "underrated"?

    This list contains some names that fit in the description more comfortably than others, and there will be coaches worthy of inclusion who have not made this list.

    So, feel free to add them below.

Chris Hughton: Norwich City

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    If there was a prize for being the most polite, respectful and modest manager then Chris Hughton would win hands down.

    Having interviewed Hughton many times during his terrific spell with Birmingham City, I can personally testify to his warmth, humility and priceless ability to get the best out of his players.

    He never got the credit he deserved for the job he did at Newcastle when he took them into the Premier League before making a great fist of establishing them there.

    His one season at Birmingham was played out against a debilitating backdrop of relegation and financial meltdown.

    Yet he steered a side of free transfers, loanees and bargain buys to the semifinals of the championship playoff final.

    They also became the first English team to beat Club Brugge in their own back yard as they came within an ace of qualifying for the knock-out stage of the Europa League. 

    Once Birmingham failed to win promotion, Hughton's departure was inevitable and he faced another difficult challenge at Carrow Road, trying to replicate Paul Lambert's excellent first season back in the top flight with Norwich City.

    Although he had to wait eight games for his first win, a club-record 10-match unbeaten run  (in which they beat Arsenal and Manchester United) followed as the Canaries propelled themselves into the top 10.

    Norwich finished 12th last season under Lambert. They are currently 12th under Hughton. 

    But while Lambert contemplates a relegation scrap at Aston Villa, Hughton can think much more comfortably about another season in the Premier League.

Terry Butcher: Inverness Caledonian Thistle

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    Everyone remembers the headline that first thrust Inverness Caledonian Thistle into the spotlight.

    Back in 2000 the Highlanders were playing in the Scottish First Division and caused one of the biggest upsets in the history of football north of the border when they beat Celtic.

    In 2003-04 they won promotion to the SPL and stayed there for five seasons.

    The 2008-09 campaign was a struggle, though, with former England captain Terry Butcher replacing Craig Brewster in January 2009.

    Butcher was unable to prevent the side returning to the First Division, even if their points total was the highest ever for a team finishing bottom.

    Butcher quickly rallied his side the following season and guided them to an incredible unbeaten run away from home that lasted the whole of 2010.

    Cally Thistle won promotion back to the top flight and became the first team in a decade to bounce back at the first attempt.

    This season they have already hit new peaks.

    They are currently third in the SPL (their highest ever position) and have an excellent chance of staying there.

    They are already guaranteed a top six finish—another best.

Lucian Favre: Borussia Monchengladbach

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    Lucian Favre is another manager who has garnered his budding reputation over a couple of seasons in the Bundesliga.

    The Swiss enjoyed two successful years with Hertha Berlin, guiding them to fourth place in the table in 2008-09 and earning himself the title of Germany's Manager of the Year in the process.

    The honeymoon did not last though, and he was sacked after a poor run of results in September 2009 that left Hertha bottom of the pile.

    When he returned to management with Monchengladbach in February 2011, it was a similar situation with the club rock bottom of the table.

    Under Favre's attacking, fluid principles, results picked up, and he narrowly edged them to safety after winning a relegation playoff.

    Last season, Monchengladbach went from strength to strength as Favre took them to fourth spot and qualification for the Champions League, beating Bayern Munich twice along the way.

    Dynamo Kyiv ended their hopes of making the group stages of the Europe's elite club competition but another crack at it next season is firmly on the cards with the Foals in seventh place—a point behind Schalke in fourth.

    The fact that Favre has achieved his success on modest finances and has relied on getting the maximum out of the players he inherits speaks volumes for his ability.

Steve Clarke: West Bromwich Albion

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    If Jose Mourinho is the "Special One", then Steve Clarke is the "Incredible One."

    That's the view of Mourinho, who has always held the Scot in the highest esteem from their days together at Chelsea.

    After spells as an assistant to Gianfranco Zola at West Ham and Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool, Clarke finally got the top job when West Bromwich Albion came calling in the summer of 2012.

    Trying to maintain the excellent job done by Roy Hodgson was always going to be difficult, but Clarke has taken to it like a seasoned master.

    He has not just consolidated Hodgson's legacy; he has improved on it. 

    Albion are better virtually all over the pitch and have the cut-and-thrust to beat anyone in the division.

    Clarke has quickly earned the respect of his players and supporters—who are looking forward to their best finish in the top flight since the 1980s.

    When Clarke has been tested off the field, he has also acted with maturity and grace —unlike Peter Odemwingie during the collapse of his relationship with the club following the fiasco of his attempted move to QPR.

    Mourinho likes to think he is never wrong about much. Clarke is starting to prove that.

Manuel Pellegrini: Malaga

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    The man nicknamed "The Engineer" has certainly lived up to that moniker at Malaga after a rather ignominious season with Real Madrid three years ago.

    In his stint at the Bernabeu, he spent £200 million on players—including £80 million on Christiano Ronaldo—and still won nothing.

    His departure was inevitable, but at Malaga he made a much better fist of things. 

    He still had the financial clout to compete with the bigger guns thanks to the billions of the club's Qatari owner.  

    It is what Pellegrini has done in apparent adversity that pushes him towards some kind of redemption for his Madrid nightmare.

    Their qualification for this season's Champions League, by finishing fourth in La Liga last season, was blighted by crippling financial problems following the owner's decision to stop bankrolling the club. 

    Players wages were not paid and only the enforced sale of star man Santi Cazorla to Arsenal in the summer of 2012 kept Malaga afloat.

    However, they could not avoid a penalty from UEFA which bans them from European competition from next season.

    So they better continue making the most of this season's tournament with their quarterfinal against Borussia Dortmund on the horizon.

    Pellegrini's exploits have seen him linked with moves to the Premier League with Chelsea and Manchester City supposed destinations. 

Antonio Conte: Juventus

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    Antonio Conte makes this list by the skin of his teeth.

    The former Juventus player is having a ball back at his old club and by the end of the season, should be celebrating his second-successive Serie A title at least.

    When he does, he will be underrated no more.

    The job he has done in Turin has been boys'-own-stuff.

    He took the Old Lady from mid-table obscurity to champions of Italy in his first season.

    They did it in style, too, becoming the first team ever to go unbeaten in an entire 38-game campaign.

    Their 94 points in 2012 was also a record.

    Conte is demanding, passionate and a master motivator. It has worked wonders.

    Finishing off this season by winning the Champions League would seal his reputation as a top coach, and if they can see off Bayern Munich in the last eight, you would not back against it.

Michael Laudrup: Swansea City

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    With a glittering playing career behind him Michael Laudrup is doing his best to prove that great players can make great coaches.

    Having won league titles in Italy, Spain and Holland with Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Ajax, Laudrup cut his teeth as a manager in his native Denmark with Bronby.

    He won four trophies in four seasons—including the league title and Danish Cup twice—as he quickly established himself as a coach keen for his side to play the game in his own graceful image.

    Stuttering, short spells followed at Getafe, Spartak Moscow and Real Mallorca before he was announced as Brendan Rodgers' replacement at Swansea in the summer of 2012.

    Like Chris Hughton and Steve Clarke, he had a hard act to follow after Rodgers' brand of exemplary passing football got the Swans to 11th place in their first season back in the top flight for a generation.

    Like Hughton and Clarke, Laudrup has taken the foundations and improved things still further.

    His pick-up of Michu for only £2 million has proved one of the best bargains in recent history, and the Spaniard's decision to extend that deal for another four years merely confirms Laudrup's influence.

    By far his greatest achievement, though, was winning the Capital One Cup. 

    It was the Welsh club's first major trophy in its history and confirmed Laudrup as one of the game's brightest managerial prospects. 

    His success has led to obvious speculation about his future with Swansea already thinking about a contingency plan should Laudrup leave.

    Brendan Rodgers got the Liverpool job by finishing 11th.

    Swansea, already with a trophy, are 9th at the moment.

    As a player Laudrup had the world at his feet. It won't be long before the same thing applies as a manager.