Greatest Ever: Football: Top 10 Managers of All Time

Barney Corkhill@@BarneyCorkhillSenior Writer IApril 1, 2009

1989:  Portrait of Nottingham Forest Manager Brian Clough. \ Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK /Allsport
Getty Images/Getty Images

The 25th installment of Barney Corkhill's Greatest Ever series is here!

In this series, I will look at the greatest talents to grace various sports. Here, I continue to look at football, this time counting down the topΒ 10 managers of all time. This was another tough one, and there are some big names left off!


10. Sir Matt Busby (SCO)

It takes a great manager to build a great team. It takes an extraordinary manager to build two. Sir Matt Busby built three. He joined Manchester United in 1945 and, 24 years later, left having experienced the highest and lowest feelings in football.

His first great side won an FA Cup and league title, as well as finishing as runners-up in the league four more times. The ageing stars were then replaced by the best young players in the country, a team the media dubbed "The Busby Babes." The players, including Bobby Charlton and Duncan Edwards, showed great potential before most of them were cruelly wiped out in the Munich Air Disaster of 1958.

Ten years later and Busby had built another great team, including Charlton again. He also added the flair and skill of George Best and Denis Law. This team won the '68 European Cup, the trophy Busby had been chasing when the Munich disaster struck.

All in all, Busby won five league titles, five Charity Shields, two FA Cups, and a European Cup.

9. Brian Clough (ENG)

"I wouldn't say I was the best manager in the business, but I'm in the top one." Sorry Cloughie, you're going to have to make do with the top ten! Widely regarded as the best manager England never had, Brian Clough did the seemingly impossible by taking provincial side Derby County to the First Division title.

What is even more amazing, however, is that he managed to repeat the feat with Nottingham Forest. Questions remain as to Clough's capabilities without Peter Taylor at his side, highlighted by his doomed stay of just 44 days as Leeds manager, but Clough was undoubtedly the main driving force in their highly successful relationship.

Clough won two First Division titles, four League Cups, and a Charity Shield, as well as the 1979 European Cup. A year later, he retained that trophy, a remarkable feat considering Nottingham Forest were virtually unheard of in Europe before.

8. Arsene Wenger (FRA)

One of the most shrewd and tactically sound managers to grace the game, Arsene Wenger is best known for changing the "boring, boring Arsenal" into the team that play the best football in the country.

This was never more evident than in the 2003/04 season, where he lead an Arsenal side containing the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, and Dennis Bergkamp to an unbeaten season, the first of it's kind in over a century.

Despite being accused of lacking a "killer touch" at times, Wenger's trophy cabinet isn't exactly empty. He has won two French league titles, a French Cup, a Japanese league title, three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, and four Charity Shields. He was also voted World Manager of the Year in 1998.

7. Helenio Herrera (ARG)

Helenio Herrera is one of the most important, influential, and successful managers in football history. He pioneered the use of psychological motivating skills and ensured that all his players believed they were going to win.

It obviously worked, as Herrera picked up 16 major trophies in his time as a manager. With Atletico Madrid he won two league titles, adding another two to that tally with Barcelona later on. He also won two UEFA Cups with Barcelona and a Spanish Cup.

His most successful spell came with Inter Milan, where he won three league titles and two European Cups. He added an Italian Cup with AS Roma later on.

6. Jock Stein (SCO)

Jock Stein's death following a heart attack on the touchline while managing Scotland sent shock-waves through world football. He was part of a group of four great Scottish managers, consisting of Bill Shankly, Matt Busby, himself, and Alex Ferguson.

His achievements, for a long time, outshone all of them. He took Celtic to ten league titles, including a record nine successive successes. He coupled this with eight Scottish Cups and six Scottish League Cups.

He came to worldwide acclaim in 1967, however, as he lead his "Lisbon Lions" to a historic victory over a strong Inter Milan side to become the first British side to win the European Cup.

5. Vittorio Pozzo (ITA)

Vittorio Pozzo may well have benefited from Benito Mussolini's reign in Italy, but his management skills are still without question. In the early days of the World Cup, Pozzo helped his Italy side dominate the competition.

Along with star striker Giuseppe Meazza, Pozzo lead Italy to two successive World Cups (1934 and 1938), a feat which is still to be matched. In this time he also oversaw an unbeaten streak that lasted almost five years.

He also won two Central European International Cups, a tournament which contained Austria's "wunderteam," and a gold in the 1936 Olympics.

4. Bob Paisley (ENG)

If Bill Shankly built the foundations of Liverpool, Bob Paisley built a great house on top of them. His period in charge of Liverpool lead to the most trophy-laden era in the club's illustrious history.

In just nine years, Paisley collected 19 trophies, including six league titles, three League Cups, and five Charity Shields. Perhaps his greatest achievement, however, is leading Liverpool to success in three European Cups, becoming the only manager to win that competition three times.

He was voted Manager of the Year six times in nine years, dispelling any fears that Shankly's abrupt departure would end Liverpool's dominance.

Mind you, he was there for the bad times too, one year he finished second.

3. Ernst Happel (AUS)

Ernst Happel is one of very few managers who have enjoyed great success at both international and club level. He has won league titles and domestic trophies in four different countries, and has impressed on the European and World stage as well.

He won a Dutch championship, a Dutch Cup, three Belgian championships, a Belgian Cup, two German championships, a German Cup, and two Austrian championships during his illustrious managerial career. He also guided the unfancied Feyenoord to the European Cup, and took Hamburg to the same title 13 years later, becoming the first manager to win the trophy with two different clubs.

He was in charge of the Dutch team in the 1978 World Cup, and reached the final, only to go down to hosts Argentina.

2. Rinus Michels (NED)

If this list was judged on merely style of football the manager's team played, Rinus Michels would be several streets ahead of everyone else, for he was the man that gave us "Total Football." Luckily for him, he had players the calibre of Johan Cruyff who could implement his master-plan on the pitch.

He won four Dutch league titles, a Dutch Cup, a Spanish league title, a Spanish Cup, and a European Cup in his club managerial career, and continued that success at international level. He employed his Total Football for Holland as well, leading them to the 1974 World Cup final, and fourteen years later he brought it back to guide Holland to success in Euro '88.

In 1999, Michels was declared as the Manager of the Century by FIFA.

1. Sir Alex Ferguson (SCO)

Alex Ferguson has not just surpassed Matt Busby as Manchester United's greatest ever manager, he has surpassed everybody as the greatest ever manager, and he isn't done yet.

Before he went to United, he made a name for himself by breaking the Old Firm duopoly in Scotland, leading Aberdeen to three league titles. He added four Scottish Cups and a Scottish League Cup, as well as making history by leading Aberdeen to success in Europe, beating Real Madrid in the final of the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.

When joining Manchester United, he proclaimed that he wanted to "knock Liverpool off their fucking perch". 23 years later, he can safely say that he succeeded. He has won ten Premier League titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups, eight Charity Shields, a Cup Winners' Cup, and two European Cups.

He has been named English Manager of the Year eight times and has picked up the World Manager of the Year award a remarkable four times.

If he completes the potential quadruple this season, his name will be firmly down in the record books as the very best. In my mind, however, Sir Alex Ferguson is already the greatest manager of all time.

Other articles from this series include:

Top Ten Goalkeepers of All Time

Top Ten Right-Backs of All Time

Top Ten Centre-Backs of All Time

Top Ten Left-Backs of All Time

Top Ten Right Midfielders of All Time

Top Ten Centre Midfielders of All Time

Top Ten Left Midfielders of All Time

Top Ten Strikers of All Time


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