Ranking the 50 Best Managers Under 50 in European Football Right Now

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterApril 2, 2015

Ranking the 50 Best Managers Under 50 in European Football Right Now

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    Who are the top 50 managers under 50 years of age managing in European football? Who are the next bright lights to follow in the legendary footsteps of Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Ottmar Hitzfeld and more? 

    B/R UK presents a ranking of the next golden generation—the best young tacticians making their name in the game. Some have already won major honours, while others are just a year or two into the job. We have graded each candidate on key factors of the job to produce a definitive ranking.

    Intrigued to see who makes the cut and who ranks among the best? Read on to find out.

Who's In? Who's Out? The Ranking Criteria Explained

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    We've ranked the top 50 managers located in Europe under 50 years of age on four scoring categories:

    • Tactical ability and coaching.
    • Man-management skills.
    • Transfer-market acumen.
    • Handling of the media.

    To be eligible for the list, a manager must be aged 49 or under and be managing (or, in the case of the unattached, have recently managed) in Europe. It's a comparison of those who frequent the continent—the most dominant and skilled portion of the football world—so those currently plying their trades further afield have not been included or measured.

    Managers of European nations are eligible, but those who have only held youth/junior coaching roles are not.

    This disqualifies a few worthy candidates. Figures such as Ange Postecoglu and Herve Renard would likely feature were it not for their ties with Australia and Ivory Coast, respectively. 

    Please note, each scoring category is out 25, forming a total score of 100 for each manager. In the event of a tie, we simply asked ourselves which manager we would rather have in our employment right now.

50. Andrea Stramaccioni, Udinese

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    Score: 58/100

    Andrea Stramaccioni gets it in the neck for being a qualified lawyer—when things turn sour, he's often told to back to the books—but when his big brain stumbles across a working system, his team perform superbly.

    He had a golden few months at Internazionale until the shine wore off, and he's currently keeping an Udinese side struggling for talent afloat in mid-table. The feeling, though, is he could extract a lot more out of a midfield containing the underrated Allan and Bruno Fernandes.

    Seemingly wedded to a three-man back line, he's perfectly suited to Serie A tactics and seems unlikely to ever leave the league.

49. Marc Wilmots, Belgium National Team

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    Score: 58/100

    It's tough to gauge Marc Wilmots because, despite being 46, he's had just one season coaching in domestic football (with Sint-Truiden) and is currently two-and-a-half years into his Belgium tenure.

    He did, however, unite the Belgium dressing room ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. That stood as his most important and pivotal task, given the amount of unorganised talent on show. All he needed to do thereafter was make it click.

    He commands the respect of the dressing room as one of few Belgians managing to have played in a World Cup, and he extracted the best football out of Vincent Kompany and Kevin De Bruyne despite Manchester City and Chelsea, respectively, never seeing it.

    He has a young side at his disposal, and it will be interesting to see how it develops in 2016.

48. Fran Escriba, Elche

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    Score: 59/100

    Fran Escriba goes unnoticed, unheralded and without praise in the global press, but then again, the job he's doing at little old Elche hardly demands the column inches.

    The 49-year-old, who until 2012 had taken on four positions as an assistant manager but no figurehead role in mainland Europe, got Los Franjiverdes promoted to La Liga in his first season in charge and has kept them afloat in the top division since.

    He has his best players taken away from him each summer—see: Carlos Sanchez to Aston Villa last summer—but still keeps the team's chin above water. He's an astute tactician, using his key players well and rotating the formation wisely.

47. Eusebio Di Francesco, Sassuolo

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    Score: 60/100

    Eusebio Di Francesco recently had to deny a link to the managerial job at Roma, per Football Italia. That's how highly he's thought of right now. The 45-year-old is not known across mainland Europe due to the small nature of the club he currently manages, Sassuolo, but in Italy there's an appreciation for what he's done.

    He guided the Neroverdi to safety last season after achieving promotion in 2013-14. He was actually sacked in January 2014 and brought back two months later in when things didn't improve, but such action is simply par for the course in the world of Serie A.

    This season, he's invigorated a young squad and played attacking football. He's not experienced, but he's been pressing all the right buttons and getting optimal use out of his players.

46. Paulo Bento, Unattached

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    Score: 60/100

    Paulo Bento's one big issue is that he goes stale; he sticks around without changing things for a little too long, becomes predictable, and his team's form consequently drops off a cliff.

    His early work at Sporting was superb, but he was eventually ousted. It was the same case with Portugal. With the national side, his 4-3-3 was perfectly balanced at Euro 2012—where he led the Seleccao to the semi-finals only to lose to eventual winners Spain—but the same formation was easily undone in Brazil last summer.

    He was also accused of picking his favourites, even if they were out of form. Miguel Veloso and Nani being two prime examples, with the players he brought through at Sporting seemingly getting favourable treatment.

45. Paco, Rayo Vallecano

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    Score: 61/100

    Paco is beloved by some, yet considered mad by others. In true Rayo Vallecano style, he pushes the sliders to "all-out attack" from the first minute of every game, be it Cordoba at home or Barcelona away.

    It's amazing to watch, but the average heart rate of Rayo fans is likely higher than it is among supporters of other teams. There is no protection in front of the back four, they insist on playing out from their own goalkeeper under high pressure and they make a lot of mistakes that lead to goals as a result.

    For this reason, Jemez will likely only ever be a boss of middling teams; a strategy such as his cannot translate to the top-tier game.

    It is great fun, though.

44. Eduardo Berizzo, Celta Vigo

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    Score: 62/100

    Eduardo Berizzo is a bit of a late starter, with just four years of top-level management under his belt at age 45. Only one of those years (the current one, at Celta Vigo) has been in a major league.

    What intrigues about him, though, is that he is a Marcelo Bielsa disciple. That very fact generates a buzz around him, just as it has with Mauricio Pochettino and Jorge Sampaoli. More often than not, a belief in Bielsa's way of management leads to success.

    Berizzo hit a massive road bump earlier this year when his side failed to score for two months, but he's turned things around and proved his board's faith is well placed. He's built on Luis Enrique's great work from last season, and rather predictably, his team moves the ball back to front very quickly in a 4-3-3 base.

    He looks annoyed and angry on the sidelines, but he composes himself well in press conferences and addresses the media well.

43. Vitor Pereira, Olympiacos

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    Score: 64/100

    Vitor Pereira has a mixed reputation. In some facets of his biggest job, FC Porto, he performed superbly, but he dropped the odd clanger on the way to harm his own stock.

    Winning the Primeira Liga title is expected at the Dragao, but to secure it twice in succession—especially after taking the reins from Andre Villas-Boas—is a great achievement. His performance in Europe, though, left a lot to be desired, and that's perhaps why we haven't seen him take on a bigger role on the continent thus far.

    The Liverpool Echo stated that he was a candidate for the Everton job in 2013, with Roberto Martinez ultimately beating him to the post.

42. Willy Sagnol, Bordeaux

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    Score: 64/100

    With Willy Sagnol, we're projecting more than anything; he's on a clean slate, this his first season as a manager in domestic football, and he's impressed so far.

    His first transfer windows in charge of Bordeaux were a real success, securing bargain deals for players such as Whabi Khazri, Clement Chantome, Diego Contento and a good loan in Tiago Ilori of Liverpool. He's been a steady leader in Ligue 1 this season, chugging along trying to help the club recover their not-so-distant glory days.

    The pedigree he holds from his playing days, in addition to his tactical acumen, make him an intriguing prospect to track.

41. Sinisa Mihajlovic, Sampdoria

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    Score: 64/100

    Sinisa Mihajlovic is a complex character. It seems as though for every plus point, there's a concern lingering right around the corner.

    Tactically, he's been superb this season, coaxing some excellent play from Sampdoria using a combination of a midfield diamond and a loose 4-3-3. But it's never all about the on-field stuff when it comes to Mihajlhovic, and you wonder if his personality would ever work at a bigger club with star names.

    His passion is unrivalled but off-field dramas never seem too far away.

40. Phillip Cocu, PSV Eindhoven

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    Score: 65/100

    Phillip Cocu's PSV Eindhoven are currently eight points clear at the top of the Eredivisie and look guaranteed to bring home the title. Unless your name is Ajax, that simply doesn't happen very often.

    PSV's policy of playing young footballers has paid off this year after a rocky, up-and-down campaign last time out. In 2013-14 a blistering start and finish sandwiched a dreadful run in the middle, which botched their chances of Champions League football.

    Cocu still has some doubters—many of PSV's wins have been close, one-goal affairs featuring late winners, and it's not that often they crush someone—but he's certainly one to keep an eye on. His team plays good, pacey football in a 4-3-3 featuring Memphis Depay, who is always a fine sight.

39. Neil Lennon, Bolton Wanderers

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    Score: 66/100

    Bolton Wanderers have struggled since exiting the Premier League in 2012, but in Neil Lennon, they appear to have found a man who can right the ship.

    He enjoyed wild success with Celtic, but his C.V. was doubted by chairmen in England because of the poor standard of the Scottish league. Lennon will have pointed to his relative Champions League success and great tussles with Barcelona, but he was still a huge risk.

    Now, though, he's opted to battle his way into the limelight by taking on the challenge at Bolton. He's shown defensive solidity, tactical flexibility and an ability to motivate players young and old. Hell, he's even getting consistent success out of a 37-year-old Emile Heskey!

38. Javi Gracia, Malaga

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    Score: 66/100

    Javi Gracia has done brilliantly to keep Malaga in a position to challenge for the European places in La Liga. Some find him overly negative and cautious, but how many other clubs held Barcelona goalless over both encounters with them this season?

    He gets plenty of praise in Spain for repairing the leaking ship that was Los Boquerones. Minimal funds have been awarded to him, but he's got on with the job without fuss and made his team very, very difficult to beat.

    Offensively, they are somewhat anemic, refusing to push bodies forward and struggling to build play, but the squad—bar a handful of players such as Ignacio Camacho, Sergi Darder and Juanmi—are pretty average.

    Gracia moves up in estimations weekly.

37. Sean Dyche, Burnley

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    Score: 67/100

    Sean Dyche was treated poorly at Watford, so it's great to see him in the Premier League, managing Burnley, just three years after being dismissed by the Hornets in questionable circumstances.

    He led the north London club to a high finish in the Championship—higher, in fact, than celebrated previous incumbent Malky Mackay—but the Pozzo family bought the club and installed Gianfranco Zola as manager instead.

    The Clarets picked him up gleefully after their experiment with Eddie Howe came to an end, and he's produced a brilliant brand of football on a modest budget with modest players. He achieved promotion to the Premier League and refused to go spend crazy, safeguarding the future of the club and ensuring they actually benefit from the new TV money—even if they end up being relegated.

36. Ronny Deila, Celtic

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    Score: 67/100

    Ronny Deila is your classic slow starter, but if you give him time to turn things around, he will pay back your faith with wins, goals and, most importantly, trophies. After a rough beginning to his time in charge of Stromsgodset, he had them flying up the table and even claimed a Norwegian title—the club's first for 43 years.

    Celtic liked what they saw—a real student of the game, one who travels to study the coaching methods of the likes of Ajax and Borussia Dortmund during pre-season—and saw fit to replace Neil Lennon with him. Again, the start was poor, but things picked up midway through the campaign, the goals flowed and the Bhoys lifted the Scottish League Cup after a brilliant performance.

    If he could just work on that bit at the beginning.

35. Garry Monk, Swansea City

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    Score: 69/100

    Garry Monk, 36, is still doing his coaching badges, but he's proving himself to be a surprise starlet in the managerial world. Taken on by Swansea City as a short-term measure post-Michael Laudrup, he quickly steadied the ship and used his dressing-room influence to jump-start the Swans' motor.

    His relationship with the players is tough to gauge, as many are his former colleagues, but his handling of new players and the unwanted legacies from Laudrup's reign has been impressive.

    Monk has recently switched to a 4-4-2 diamond to incorporate Jack Cork in the XI, and it looks fantastic. Such tactical flexibility is a highly sought-after trait in young managers.

34. Paulo Sousa, FC Basel

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    Score: 69/100

    The fact that FC Basel made the UEFA Champions League latter stages this season is astonishing—even more so when you consider that they managed it despite being drawn in a group with Real Madrid and Liverpool.

    Paulo Sousa is a very talented young manager doing great things away from the focus of the English media. He's taken an obscure path since enjoying mixed fortunes at Swansea City and Leicester City, but he enjoyed success in Israel and Hungary before landing in Basel.

    The Swiss outfit were firmly beaten by FC Porto in the last 16 of the Champions League, but the makings of a great young side have been formed by Sousa. He values youth, plays exciting football and has learnt to construct a great tactical system.

33. Remi Garde, Unattached

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    Score: 69/100

    Remi Garde: currently unemployed but not forgotten.

    In January he attracted serious interest from Newcastle United after they parted company with Alan Pardew, per the Daily Star, but he declined the opportunity to take the job midway through the season.

    If the Magpies go back in for him this summer, it wouldn't be a surprise; Garde had three strong seasons at Lyon before opting against extending his deal ahead of this season. The 48-year-old is a strong tactician but can struggle to find the right buys in the transfer market.

32. Roberto Di Matteo, Schalke

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    Score: 70/100

    You'd probably expect a 44-year-old UEFA Champions League-winning manager to feature higher on this list, but while Roberto Di Matteo is a bright prospect, the statistics and honours list really do him a few favours.

    He took the reins at Chelsea very late in the day and led them, perhaps fortuitously, to victory over Bayern Munich in the 2012 European Cup final. Roman Abramovich backed him with cash the following summer, but he struggled to bear the weight of managing such a club.

    His previous work with Milton Keynes Dons and West Bromwich Albion was strong, and the job he now has at Schalke will be famed for the team's recent 4-3 victory over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu (although they lost on aggregate).

    He constructs compact, defensive sides that play on the counter counter. The 3-5-2 system he is using at the Veltins-Arena looks to be his best to date.

31. Besnik Hasi, Anderlecht

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    Score: 71/100

    Besnik Hasi is part of the Anderlecht family, so that helped the immediate settling in period after replacing John van der Brom in March 2014. It was his first managerial job, so there was trepidation among some the fans, but he's proven himself strong-willed and well suited to the role.

    He has put his faith in youth, even going as far as regularly starting 17-year-old Youri Tielemans in midfield. Leander Dendoncker and Aleksandar Mitrovic (both under 20 years of age) have also profited immensely.

    He's sure of himself and of his approach, plays good football and gives players a chance.

30. Leonid Slutsky, CSKA Moscow

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    Score: 72/100

    With Leonid Slutsky, it's difficult to ascertain whether he's a good young manager or if he's got a pretty cushy job with one of the true Russian powerhouse clubs. Our estimate? A bit of both.

    CSKA Moscow, the club he's been at the helm of since 2009, haven't enjoyed the kind of investment other Russian teams such as Dinamo Moscow and Anzhi Makhachkala have in recent years; they tend to buy low and smart (Ahmed Musa) or bring through youth prospects (Igor Akinfeev and Alan Dzagoev).

    Slutsky pieces it all together nicely, manages the balance of the side well and doesn't pour in foreign talent for the sake of it. It's difficult to compete with the riches of Zenit St. Petersburg, but he's doing it well.

29. Slaven Bilic, Besiktas

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    Score: 72/100

    Slaven Bilic is currently doing great things with Besiktas—a welcome boost to his career after failing miserably in his previous job with Lokomotiv Moscow.

    The Turkish outfit are thought of as the third-most prestigious club in the country, and their international reputation pales in comparison compared to Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, but Bilic has kept the Super Lig title race very, very close this year.

    Signing Demba Ba was a masterstroke, but the Black Eagles have other players performing superbly after Bilic unlocked their best. Olcay Sahan, Atiba Hutchinson and co. all appreciate his work.

    Bilic has an edge to him and doesn't stand for shenanigans. He's a strong figure and, in the right situation, could be a catalyst for excellence. It could, however, also come crashing down around him.

28. Eddie Howe, Bournemouth

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    Score: 73/100

    Eddie Howe benefits from working at a well-run club, Bournemouth, but the individual talent is also plain to see. He, the chairman and the owner have a shared vision of the club, as uMAXit's Raj Bains brilliantly summarised, and the working conditions are conducive to success.

    The 37-year-old has taken the Cherries up the footballing ladder, scrapping out of League Two into League One, up to the Championship and now, as we enter the final stretch, they're a candidate for automatic promotion to the Premier League.

    A good footballing philosophy, a superb relationship with the players and deep love for the game—forged, partially, by a career-ending knee injury—make Howe a prospect to watch. The only red flag? He struggled at Burnley betwixt Bournemouth stints.

27. Aitor Karanka, Middlesbrough

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    Score: 73/100

    Aitor Karanka, better known as Jose Mourinho's assistant manager during their time at Real Madrid, is now an up-and-coming managerial star himself. The 41-year-old has, rather impressively, shown the humility and willingness to start in the lower leagues and work his way up.

    Like Mourinho, he's a renowned man manager and allies himself to a very structured, disciplined approach to the game. As good a coach as he is a strategist, he oversaw Boro's impressive FA Cup run this season (beating Manchester City away in the FA Cup fourth round was a high point) and has them right in the mix for promotion to the Premier League.

    His team is organised, strong, drilled and potent.

26. Thomas Tuchel, Unattached

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    Score: 73/100

    Per Bundesliga.com, Thomas Tuchel is itching to return to the management and will very likely be with a Bundesliga club for the 2015-16 season.

    He's something of a cult hero, known for his innovative tactical developments and ability to develop players quickly. He'd be a quick fix and and long-term answer to many clubs across Europe, and his signature will be in demand.

    His C.V. reads resounding success with minnows Mainz, but not a lot else as yet. How high can he climb?

25. Hubert Fournier, Lyon

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    Score: 73/100

    Hubert Fournier spent four long years churning out results and climbing the footballing ladder at Stade de Reims. It's a shame that portion of his career is largely unknown or overlooked.

    He took Les Rouges et Blancs out of Ligue 2 and led them to impressive Ligue 1 finishes, brought through some excellent youth players, such as Aissa Mandi, and recruited some bargain stars, such as Grzegorz Krychowiak.

    Now, he's managing Lyon, who are challenging Paris Saint-Germain for the title. He displayed his tactical acumen by producing a balanced 4-4-2 diamond that has allowed Alexandre Lacazette and Nabil Fekir to prosper.

24. Julen Lopetegui, FC Porto

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    Score: 74/100

    For six straight years, between 2008 and 2014, Julen Lopetegui coached youth teams in Spain, either domestically (Real Madrid Castilla) or at international level.

    That's reflected in his approach at FC Porto, where he was hired to stop Benfica's dominance of the Liga Sagres. The Dragoes' average age is exceedingly low, with star players Cristian Tello, Oliver Torres, Danilo and Casemiro all aged 23 and under. He's given a debut to Ruben Neves, 18, and rotates Juan Quintero in and out of the setup.

    He's reached the quarter-finals of this season's UEFA Champions League with a free-flowing 4-3-3, reminiscent, at times, of his Spain U20 setup at the World Cup in 2013. He's a thinker, an innovator and a tactician.

23. Murat Yakin, Spartak Moscow

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    Score: 75/100

    Murat Yakin was a sought-after coach last summer—Southampton displayed interest before turning to Ronald Koeman, per the Express—so it was a real surprise to see him opt for Spartak Moscow.

    The Swiss had built a formidable Basel side in his previous job—you may remember it as the one containing Mohamed Salah that tore Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur to pieces in each of the last two seasons.

    He coaches possession football and gets the players onboard with his philosophy. If things go south in Russia, there will be one astute club somewhere who picks him up.

22. Leonardo Jardim, Monaco

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    Score: 75/100

    It's difficult to find a bad campaign in Leonardo Jardim's short managerial career to date, and although he's a little light on titles and honours, big-club presidents will be aware of his remarkable strides in the game.

    He achieved brilliant things in his one-season stints with Braga 2011-12 (third place in the Primeira Liga), Olympiacos 2012-13 (league and cup win) and Sporting 2013-14 (second place in the Primeira Liga, six points ahead of FC Porto). He's this season reached a UEFA Champions League quarter-final with Monaco despite losing Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez and could still win the Ligue 1 title.

    He's a careful defensive coach who values young players; the interest in him this summer should be sizable.

21. Frank de Boer, Ajax

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    Score: 76/100

    Frank de Boer is still in his first and only managerial role, with Ajax, after helping the youth side and coaching the Netherlands as an assistant after his retirement as a player.

    He's well acquainted with the style of Ajax, having played for the club for 11 years between 1988 and 1999, and he's slotted in seamlessly to continue the traditions of how De Godenzonen approach the beautiful game.

    The 4-3-3 is his bread and butter and Ajax dominate the ball against Eredivisie opposition. He brings through young talents, managing the prospects well and giving them the chance to shine.

    His only failure is on the Champions League stage, but the budget disparity between his club and those he faces—Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona were in their group this year—makes a lack of progress forgivable.

20. Roberto Martinez, Everton

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    Score: 76/100

    Roberto Martinez is enduring a nightmare season, but rather than pile on the Spaniard and label him a false prophet, fans would be wise to acknowledge the damaging effects a UEFA Europa League campaign can have on a season—and the injuries the Toffees have sustained.

    The worrying thing is that Martinez has now developed a bit of a reputation for placing all of the onus on attacking. Watching Antolin Alcaraz during the heavy loss to Dynamo Kyiv was not a pretty sight.

    He's a fantastic man manager and generally performs well in the market under constraints, but his sides cannot continue to struggle defensively for much longer. Once thought of as a sure-fire candidate to be an elite manager, his stock has slipped a little this term.

19. Stefano Pioli, Lazio

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    Score: 76/100

    Stefano Pioli is absolutely acing the 2014-15 season with Lazio; at the time of writing, they sit third in Serie A ahead of Napoli and just a point behind Roma.

    Much of the talk this season revolved around the Giallorossi taking the next step and truly challenging Juventus, but at this late stage in the campaign, it's the Biancocelesti charging, having put together some stunning winning streaks.

    Pioli made his name at Bologna, working with limited resources yet still avoiding relegation thanks to a solid, entertaining 3-5-2 formation. At Lazio, it's more varied now he has better players. He has the club trending the right way.

18. Christophe Galtier, Saint-Etienne

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    Score: 78/100

    Christophe Galtier has kept Saint-Etienne in the upper echelons of Ligue 1, breathing down the necks of the financially buoyed Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco despite having a fraction of their budgets. He's made astute signings since his became the club's manager, picking up bargain buys and making them look like €10-15 million players.

    That centre-backs Paul Baysse and Loic Perrin (the latter was linked to Arsenal in January, per the Daily Mail) have both looked so impressive this season is testament to the defensive solidity of Galtier's side. They've conceded the joint-second-fewest number of goals in Ligue 1 this season (24)—just three more than Monaco (21).

    French football journalists wax lyrical about what Galtier has done over the past half-decade, and rightly so.

17. Marcelino, Villarreal

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    Score: 80/100

    What Marcelino has achieved in two years with Villarreal is impressive. In 2012, Miguel Lotina took them down to the Segunda division. In 2015, Toral has all but guaranteed a sixth-place finish, maintained a challenge on the top four and overseen a Europa League campaign that stretched to the latter stages.

    He's had a up-and-down career, but this season has absolutely been the making of him. Playing out of a fast-moving, free-flowing 4-4-2, the Yellow Submarine have been technical and potent in front of goal. He's messed up the league-cup balance this year and tried to rest players when he shouldn't, but the youthfulness of this team means it has bags of potential.

    He identifies key traits in positions of need and picks up unfancied players and makes them better. Denis Cheryshev, Giovani dos Santos, Jonathan dos Santos, Joel Campbell and Eric Bailly are among those to have benefitted from his guidance.

16. Jocelyn Gourvennec, Guingamp

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    Score: 80/100

    That Guingamp are where they are right now—10th in Ligue 1 having recently exited the Europa League latter stages after a sensational campaign in 2013-14—is largely down to Jocelyn Gourvennec, who has done an incredible job.

    He's been at the club since 2010 and doesn't have a global C.V., but anyone who looks into what he's achieved at such a minnow side over the last five years will be blown away.

    He's used the market superbly to buy base-rate players and earned the complete trust of his squad, rotating well to ensure the dip in league form caused by European adventures was minimal.

15. Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham Hotspur

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     Score: 80/100

    When Mauricio Pochettino was announced as Southampton manager on January 18, 2013, the appointment was met with disgust from the fanbase. It was nothing to do with the man himself but because of the ruthless treatment of Nigel Adkins, who had achieved successive promotions for the club only to be fired midway through his first Premier League season.

    But those on the St Mary's terraces soon saw what Nicola Cortese did—an astute, progressive young manager whose tactics and man management were worth keeping. Soon after establishing Saints as a force, he departed for Tottenham Hotspur, where he's already reached a cup final and is challenging for a top-four place.

    Poch is building an excellent young team, and if he can keep Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Hugo Lloris at the club, he has the foundations of an exciting project in north London.

14. Didier Deschamps, France National Team

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    Score: 81/100

    Didier Deschamps did superbly with France at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and he was unfortunate to see his side exit at the quarter-final stage. If he can build on that performance and become less reliant on Karim Benzema, it will stand him in good stead.

    The pressure will be cranked up in just over a year's time when he leads France to Euro 2016 on home soil. As a former winner of the tournament as a player, in 2000, many believe he has the composure and experience required to lead Les Bleus to glory.

    Tactically, he's very good, and he's got a strong relationship with the key players in the side. He knows which players to get on board, the ones to coddle and those to push, and he's not afraid to make big selection decisions, either.

13. Unai Emery, Sevilla

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    Score: 82/100

    Unai Emery is man wedded to the 4-2-3-1 formation. He's a practical coach and gets results by, at times, sacrificing flashy play. He's a firm believer in the next-game philosophy—that is, your only focus is on the very next fixture—and that shows in his placing emphasis on the short term.

    This tendency makes him difficult to judge, but what is undeniable is that he gets results. He's passionate from the sideline and gets the best from his players, often working with a small squad and extracting the very best out of a select group of men.

    His transfer acumen is tough to gauge as Sevilla have a director of football, but he certainly knows what traits he wants in his players and relays that to the board.

12. Laurent Blanc, Paris Saint-Germain

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    Score: 82/100

    The pressure surrounding the Paris Saint-Germain job is fierce, but Laurent Blanc has done an excellent job coping with media glare and big-money players in what is, admittedly, a "lesser" league in Europe.

    It's not often spoken about, but the ability to handle star names and egos such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi is one of Blanc's best traits. With everyone looking to Ibra as the star in the dressing room, Blanc asserts himself and his tactics rather well.

    He's committed to playing young players—even if most are bought at a big cost (Marquinhos, Lucas Digne) rather than produced—and he's dueled with the likes of Barcelona and Chelsea in epic matchups in the recent past.

    Some questions were raised about his double right-back experiment ahead of Euro 2012, but he's glossed over his faults since.

11. Nuno, Valencia

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    Score: 84/100

    After a very brief stint with Rio Ave, in which Nuno achieved the miraculous by hauling the minnow club into the Europa League, Valencia spotted his potential and snapped him up on a one-year deal.

    He's been a huge success with Los Che thus far too, showing great tactical flexibility (4-3-3, 3-5-2, 4-4-2 have all been used) and enabling the club to challenge Atletico Madrid for third spot in La Liga. He's perhaps a little careful and defensive at times—perhaps a product of him being a former goalkeeper—but he's been getting the best out of his players and fostered a great left-sided duo in Jose Gaya and Pablo Piatti.

    He's firm and fair in his selection policy, stating at the beginning of the season that Antonio Barragan would play ahead of Joao Pereira and has brought in some strong signings.

    The new money at Mestalla will help mould success, but it's plain to see Santo is a rising star.

10. Roger Schmidt, Bayer Leverkusen

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    Score: 85/100

    Roger Schmidt, formely of Red Bull Salzburg and now of Bayer Leverkusen, is a tactical visionary. He's as close as it gets to a hipster's dream football manager.

    He conducts all sorts of crazy tactical experiments—Spielverlagerung's Rene Maric (in German) details them superbly—and has brought an attacking edge to the BayArena that screams fearlessness. It's gone a long way toward changing the reputation of the club cruelly nicknamed Neverkusen.

    He's the manager who brought the best out of Kevin Kampl (now of Borussia Dortmund) and Sadio Mane (now of Southampton) and has transformed Leverkusen into a pressing monster. Hakan Calhanoglu and Son Heung-min are loving life in Germany right now.

9. Luis Enrique, Barcelona

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    Score: 87/100

    Fresh from Barcelona's 2-1 victory over Real Madrid in El Clasico, Luis Enrique will be feeling pretty chuffed with himself right about now.

    There was a point earlier in the season when it seemed as though he'd be fired. No lineup was ever the same, the team lacked consistency and Lionel Messi was unhappy, per the Daily Mailbut he's recovered in style and now leads arguably the most in-form team in Europe.

    He's reconciled with the squad, got Luis Suarez clicking, moved Messi to the right to rediscover his form and introduced a more direct style of play via Ivan Rakitic, giving Barcelona an extra edge.

    He led Celta Vigo to ninth in La Liga last season and did well with Barcelona B before that. The only blot on his copybook is his stint at Roma, which was, frankly, a bit of a mess.

8. Antonio Conte, Italy National Team

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    Score: 87/100

    Domestically, Antonio Conte's reign with Juventus was just one big, fluffy success story. Three seasons, three Scudettos and two Supercoppa Italianas.

    However, questions remain over his ability to impact at the highest level. His 3-5-2 formation dominated Serie A, but it was torn apart by Jupp Heynckes' Bayern Munich in 2013 and suffered in the group stage of the Champions League the following season.

    He is adored by his players—you only have to look at Andrea Pirlo reversing his decision to retire from the national side to appreciate the pull he has—but tactically, there will always be questions.

    Perhaps he can answer them by leading the Azzurri to a trophy?

7. Massimiliano Allegri, Juventus

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    Score: 88/100

    Massimiliano Allegri went very stale at Milan, and when he was fired, it was a relief. When Juventus hired him, it was the turn of a new fanbase to fret over what he would do with their club's fortunes. 

    But Allegri, thus far, has been a sparkling success. He dispels the worry hanging over his head with each passing week and wins a few more Juventini over in the process. As times goes on, we're realising how well he did to keep Milan competitive. Take a look at them now.

    He's all but scrapped the 3-5-2 used by Antonio Conte and introduced a 4-4-2 diamond. It makes them stronger in Europe, and their 5-1 aggregate demolition of Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League round of 16 affirms that. With more resources and better players—Milan didn't actually spend any money, and he was seriously hamstrung by that—he's excelling.

    The Scudetto is done, and Juve will make it four in a row. Allegri now has his sights on a Champions League semi-final berth.

6. Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool

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    Score: 89/100

    Brendan Rodgers can be his own worst enemy at times, confusing himself in among piles of formations and strategies. It's a product of his deep love for the analytical side of the game.

    From a man-management perspective, there are few better. He holds all of his players in great esteem and treats them with respect, and his handling of Steven Gerrard's decline has been fantastic.

    Rodgers excelled at Swansea City, and he had them playing superb football, and he has continued a steep upward trajectory at Liverpool. If he could just string together one entire season of good play without dips, he might win a Premier League trophy inside the next five years.

    The one thing holding Rodgers back from the top five? The transfer market. He has wasted a lot of money.

5. Jurgen Klopp, Borussia Dortmund

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    Score: 91/100

    Jurgen Klopp's reputation has taken a bit of a hit this season with Borussia Dortmund nosediving in the Bundesliga and being dumped out of the UEFA Champions League by Juventus.

    But he is still a great manager—don't doubt that for a second. This BVB side needs a bit of a factory reset, as the players Klopp has brought in to replace key losses haven't worked out, but that remains his only tangible weakness.

    He occasionally gets it wrong tactically, but the perception of him is influenced heavily by the fact he's dropped a few clangers on the big, big stage, such as playing three at the back against Schalke in the Ruhr Derby despite not training in it and playing a narrow diamond against Juventus.

    His weakness is in the transfer market, but his strength is man management and the ability to absorb media attention on behalf of his players.

4. Vincenzo Montella, Fiorentina

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    Score: 91/100

    Vincenzo Montella shot to prominence as a coach in 2013, leading his Fiorentina side to a fantastic Serie A season in which they troubled the Champions League spots. He dropped off the radar a little the following year, but he pulled off the masterstroke of signing Mohamed Salah on loan in January and is consequently at the forefront of our consciousness once again.

    He's tactically very astute; you only need to watch his 2013 Viola side stifling the best or the recent Europa League triumph over Tottenham Hotspur, during which he was proactive and decisive in turning the tie in his favour, for proof of his acumen in that regard.

    A good man manager by all accounts and able to get the best out of limited resources, Montella will soar in the football world soon enough.

3. Andre Villas-Boas, Zenit Saint Petersburg

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    Score: 92/100

    Andre Villas-Boas was essentially hounded out of the Premier League by the English media, but don't let that taint your view of his managerial skills. He was naive at Chelsea and gave the wrong impression, but he's been good or great in every other job he's had.

    His accomplishments at FC Porto led to comparisons to Jose Mourinho, given that he won the UEFA Europa League at 33 years of age and led the Dragoes to the Primeira Liga title with a 20-point gap to second after only conceding 13 goals. The high defensive line didn't work at Stamford Bridge, but he's learnt to be more adaptable as a tactician.

    At Zenit, he is dominating and repairing his reputation, and he will get another big job soon.

2. Diego Simeone, Atletico Madrid

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    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Score: 94/100

    Diego Simeone has signed a new deal with Atletico Madrid to extend his stay at the Vicente Calderon until 2020. It's a serious coup for the club.

    The Argentinian—infamous in England for goading David Beckham into a red card in the 1998 FIFA World Cup—has created an immense Atletico team in his footballing image: hard-nosed, tough to beat and stubborn as hell.

    He's a sensational man manager, getting the best from a squad stretched thin across all competitions and has made several players—Tiago, Mario Suarez and Juanfran to name but three—play well above their stations.

    Last summer, he lost Filipe Luis and Diego Costa to Chelsea but replaced them adequately and is preparing to contest a UEFA Champions League quarter-final. The Blues, notably, were knocked out in the last round.

1. Pep Guardiola, Bayern Munich

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    Score: 96/100

    Rather predictably, it's Pep Guardiola who is the king of the under-50 managers in European football.

    He lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy as boss of Barcelona aged just 38, becoming the youngest to ever do so. He repeated the feat two seasons later, sealing the legacy of one of the best sides to have graced the turf at Camp Nou.

    He's a renowned tactician—arguably the best there is—and dedicates his life to his job. He's the first in the door and last out, splitting his time between opposition analysis, film study, coaching and man management.

    Despite strong competition from others, there's no doubt that Pep is the best manager under 50 years of age in the game today.