Skip to content
0 items

Famous football managers who prioritized leadership over playing

15 May 2024

Famous football managers who never played but went straight to coaching

In the dynamic world of football, the success of teams is not solely attributed to skilled players, but also to football managers who play a crucial role. Their tactics, team management, strategies, and personal approach to players influence the performance of the entire team.

Let's introduce some prominent retired football manager figures who, at the beginning of their careers, chose coaching over playing.


Arsene Wenger: Successful manager from France

Arsene Wenger is a former French footballer. He was born on October 22, 1949, in the Alsatian city of Strasbourg. He grew up with his parents and siblings in the village of Duttlenheim.

He got into football through his father, who coached the local team there. Together, they used to attend football matches in Germany, where they watched Borussia Mönchengladbach play.

Arsène Wenger was raised as a Catholic and often needed permission from the local priest to play football.

Due to the low population in Duttlenheim, assembling a team of eleven players of the same age group was quite challenging. For this reason, Wenger did not play for any football team until he was twelve years old.

His playing career was not very successful, as he spent much of it in amateur clubs.

In 1978, he transferred to the first division team RC Strasbourg, where he spent three seasons and played only thirteen matches.

In 1981, he traded playing for a managerial license, and finally, his successes began to unfold.

Successful managerial career

He started as a manager at AS Cannes as an assistant manager. In 1984, he moved to AS Nancy, where he became the direct manager. However, his first successes came with AS Monaco, with whom he won Division 1 and the French Cup.

He briefly moved to the Japanese team Nagoya Grampus Eight. He then returned to Europe, where he became the manager of English club Arsenal. In the 2003/2004 season, he managed to go undefeated with the team, setting a record of 49 matches without a loss.

Manager with strong intuition

An interesting fact about Arsène Wenger is that every two years he has his players undergo psychometric tests to determine if they are mentally prepared to play for his team. He also encourages their autonomy in problem-solving. Additionally, he can provide support to his players, as was the case with Arsenal captain Tony Adams, who began to struggle with alcoholism.

During his time at Monaco, Wenger gained a reputation as a talent scout. For example, he brought Liberian striker George Weah from a Cameroonian team, who won the Ballon d'Or in 1995. When receiving the award from the FIFA president, Weah invited his former Monaco manager onto the stage and dedicated his medal to him as a token of gratitude.

Wenger has succeeded in nurturing many young players whose careers were uncertain.

In 2007, a survey showed Wenger as the only manager in the Premier League who managed to generate a profit after the transfer window. From 2004 to 2009, he managed to earn an average of £4.4 million annually from transfers. An outstanding example of his savvy in the transfer market was the purchase of Nicolas Anelka. In 1997, he paid only £500,000 for him, and two years later sold him to Real Madrid for £23.5 million.

ANDRE Villas-Boas: coach and athlete

Luís André de Pina Cabral e Villas-Boas was born in Porto on October 17, 1977.

At the age of sixteen, he wrote a letter to his favorite club FC Porto's coach Bobby Robson, asking for an explanation as to why he didn't give more opportunities to the forward Domingos. The coach was so impressed that he later hired him as his advisor.

Under Robson's guidance, he obtained his UEFA C coaching license in Scotland at the age of seventeen and was able to study coaching methods at Ipswich Town. A year later, at the age of eighteen, he obtained his B license, and at nineteen, he received his A license.

Before Villas-Boas began his career as an assistant coach at Porto under José Mourinho's leadership, he briefly served as the technical director of the national team of the British Virgin Islands. He followed Mourinho to Chelsea and Internazionale clubs.

Football coaching career

As a coach, Villas-Boas had a diverse career, during which he led several well-known clubs.

At Porto (2010-2011), he won the Portuguese league (Primeira Liga) and the Europa League. With Porto, he achieved an outstanding performance and became one of the youngest coaches ever to win a European competition.

In 2011-2012, he briefly managed Chelsea, where he became the youngest manager in Premier League history.

He then moved from Tottenham Hotspur to Zenit Saint Petersburg in Russia (2014-2016) and won the Russian Premier League.

Subsequently, he spent some time at Shanghai SIPG, where he became the coach of the Chinese club.

From 2019 to 2021, he served as the coach of the French club Olympique de Marseille.


Rally driver turned coach

In November 2017, it was announced that Villas-Boas would participate in the 2018 Dakar Rally with a Toyota Hilux. His co-driver was former top motorcycle class racer Ruben Faria. However, he did not finish the rally and withdrew after crashing into a sand dune during the fourth stage in Peru, injuring his back. On March 17, 2018, he participated in another off-road rally with a Can-Am Maverick X3.

After leaving Marseille in 2021, Villas-Boas made his first appearance in the World Rally Championship from May 20 to 23, where he competed in the WRC3 category at the 2021 Rally de Portugal. His co-driver in the Citroën C3 Rally2 was Gonçalo Magalhães, and they finished in 12th place.

Maurizio Sarri: From Banker to Football Manager

Maurizio Sarri was born on January 10, 1959, in Naples, Italy. He participated in football only at an amateur level for the Figline team while working as a banker. He worked in the morning and trained and played football in the afternoons and evenings.

In 1990, at the age of 30, he got a job with the lower-league team Tegoleto and decided to leave his job to focus exclusively on his coaching career.

In 2005, he landed his job in Serie B with Pescara. From 2012 to 2015, he coached the Italian side Empoli, leading them to Serie A in 2014. In their debut season among the elite teams, he guided Empoli to 15th place, securing the team's survival in the top flight.

He was then hired by Napoli, where he earned several individual awards.

In 2018, the 59-year-old Sarri moved to the English club Chelsea, where he won the UEFA Europa League in his only season.

In 2019, he returned to Italy's Juventus and became the oldest manager to ever win the Italian league competition.

Currently, he is appearing on the coaching bench of Lazio in Rome.

Sarri a styl práce

Sarri is known for his intelligence, attention to detail, and meticulous approach in preparing for matches. One of the main features of his organized system is the four-man defensive line, offside trap, and zonal marking system. He demands synchronization in movements from his defenders, anticipation of actions, and tracking the ball as a point of reference, not opponents.

Sarri's players often attack from the wings, aiming for quick exchanges.

In defense, Sarri's teams often employ energetic pressing, tight lines, and high pressure on the field to quickly regain possession.

In addition to his tactical prowess, Sarri is known for his openness. He also stands out with his attire. Unlike many other managers in Italian football, he usually wears a tracksuit during matches.


Sarri's accusation of insults

  V sezóně 2015/2016 se Sarri ocitl v rozepři s Robertem Mancinim, tehdejším trenérem Inter Milán. Mancini obvinil Sarriho, že na něj namířil homofobní urážky. Sarri odvětil, že není homofob a že veškeré dění hřišti, zůstává na hřišti. Následně byl pokutován částkou 20 000 eur a zákazem dvou zápasů Coppa Italia organizací Lega Serie A za směřování extrémně urážlivých epitet na trenéra soupeřícího týmu.

V březnu 2018 Sarriho zkritizovala média při obvinění ze sexistických komentářů v odpovědi na otázky novinářky Titti Improta z Canale. Trenér se následně omluvil a později připustil, že si dělal legraci. Obhájil sám sebe jako otevřeného člověka, který není homofobní, sexistický ani rasistický.

Rafael Benítez: Demanding coach from Spain

Rafael Benítez Maudes was born on April 16, 1960, in Madrid, Spain. In 1979, he was selected to represent the Spanish under-19 team at the World University Games in Ciudad de México. In the opening match, he scored a penalty, but in the next game, he was injured by a harsh tackle from an opponent.

In 1981, he joined the Parla team in the Tercera División, helping them to promote to the Segunda División B.

In 1985, he signed a contract with the Linares club in the Segunda División B, where he started working as a player/coach under coach Enrique Mateos. Due to further injuries, he ended his playing career.

Career of a Football Manager

He joined the coaching staff of Real Madrid at the age of 26. He gradually worked his way up as a youth coach, reserve team coach, and assistant coach of the senior team.

In the 1997/1998 season, he led the Extremadura team from Segunda División back to La Liga, but the team was relegated again the following season.

Benítez moved to Tenerife in 2000, where he won promotion in his only season.

In the 2001/2002 season, he won La Liga as the coach of Valencia.

In 2004, he repeated the La Liga win and also secured victory in the UEFA Cup.

After leaving Valencia, Benítez moved to English club Liverpool in the Premier League. In 2005, he led the team to victory in the Champions League. A year later, he won the FA Cup and reached the Champions League final again in 2007.

After leaving Liverpool in June 2010, he briefly coached Intern Milan, which managed to win the treble.

In November 2012, he became the interim manager of Chelsea for the remainder of the season and subsequently won the Europa League in 2013. He then returned to Italy, where he won the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana with Napoli.

After leaving Napoli, he signed a three-year contract as the coach of Real Madrid, but he was dismissed in January 2016.

Since March 2016, he has been the manager of Newcastle United in an attempt to save the club from relegation. While he couldn't avoid relegation, he won the Championship the following year and promoted the team back to the Premier League.

In July 2019, he was appointed as the manager of Chinese club Dalian Professional, where he also oversaw the development of infrastructure. In January 2021, he mutually agreed to terminate his contract a year and a half into his tenure.

Currently, he serves as the manager of Celta Vigo.

Benítez and his working style

Benítez earned a reputation as a demanding coach in English football, and many players wished to hear words of praise from him. He was uncompromising but highly valued for his tactical erudition. Particularly in European matches, he set up his team to exploit opponents' weaknesses.

His calm demeanor and tactical changes at halftime in the 2005 Champions League final reportedly gave players the belief they could turn the game around from 0-3.

The manager often places key players in unusual positions that suit the formation. He firmly believes in player rotation and zonal defense.

The zonal marking tactic was criticized by expert commentators when Liverpool conceded from set-pieces, although Benítez's teams are usually renowned for their defensive nature and low number of goals conceded.

Graham Taylor: Manager and Commentator

Graham Taylor was born on September 15, 1944, in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, and passed away on January 12, 2017. As the son of a sports journalist, Taylor found his love for football in the stands of the Old Show Ground stadium. He briefly pursued a professional playing career as a defender for Grimsby Town and Lincoln City. In 1972, he suffered an injury and never returned to his professional playing career. Instead, he began working as a manager and coach.

Managerial and coaching career

In the 1976 season, he won the Fourth Division title with Lincoln City and then moved to Watford, leading them from the Fourth Division to the First Division in five years. Under his guidance, Watford became the First Division runners-up in the 1982/1983 season and FA Cup finalists in 1984.

In July 1990, he became the manager of the English national team. In 1992, he guided the team to qualify for the European Championship, but they were eliminated in the group stage.

In November 1993, Taylor resigned after the team failed to qualify for the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States.

Taylor subsequently faced heavy criticism from fans and the media.

In 1994, he returned to coaching at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

After a season at Molineux, he returned to Watford, guiding the club to the Premier League in 1999.

His final managerial role was at Aston Villa, where he returned in 2002.

Later Career of Taylor

In 2003, Taylor became the vice-chairman of Scunthorpe United in the third division, where there was a turnaround during his tenure. In his first season in charge of the club, they narrowly avoided relegation to the Conference. The following season, they were promoted to League One, and two seasons later, they were promoted as champions of League One to the Championship.

Since 2004, Taylor had also tried his hand at a commentary role for BBC Radio Five Live and led the celebrity team for the annual Sky One show, The Match.

In January 2009, Taylor returned to Watford, where he was appointed as a non-executive director and also became the temporary chairman of the club. In 2012, he announced his resignation from the chairman role, and until his death in 2017, he held the position of honorary president of the club.

Prev Post
Next Post

Thanks for subscribing!

This email has been registered!

Shop the look

Choose Options

Edit Option
Back In Stock Notification
is added to your shopping cart.
Terms & Conditions
this is just a warning