Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho didn't have the most illustrious playing career
Being a great player does not equate to being a great manager, the likes of Diego Maradona, Hristo Stoichkov and Graeme Souness prove that. However, it is still rare in the modern game for there to be managers who weren’t at least half decent players. This seven is made up almost exclusively of very successful managers, none of whom had any noteworthy success as players. Here are our top seven managers who were useless as players:
7. Gerard Houllier
Former Lyon, Liverpool and Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier
Well-known in England following his time at Liverpool and more recently Aston Villa, Gerard Houllier never came close to breaking into professional football. Houllier was training to become a school teacher when he was sent to spend a year working in a comprehensive school in Liverpool. A keen footballer, Houllier joined the local amateur side Alsop, but he was just that, a keen player, and never had any noticeable ability. When he returned to France he began playing for amateur minnows AC Le Touquet, where he went on to become player-manager, thus beginning his successful managerial career.
6. Roy Hodgson
Another former Liverpool manager, Roy Hodgson was a product of the Crystal Palace youth system, but he was never good enough to break into the Eagles first team and dropped down to the footballing pyramid to play for non-league side Tonbridge Wells; before moves to Gravesend & Northfleet, Maidstone, Ashford, Berea and Carshalton, odds are you’ve never heard of most of those teams, and that’s no surprising with the fifth tier being the highest level Hodgson ever played. As a manager, Hodgson has had success in Scandinavia, Italy and the Premier League, but more recently had a less enjoyable spell as England manager.
5. Luiz Felipe Scolari
Ex-Brazil and Chelsea head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari
Luiz Felipe Scolari has won 20 trophies as a manager, including the World Cup with Brazil in 2002, but as a player, he was truly dreadful. Deployed as a no-nonsense type defender, Scolari was better at kicking opposition players than the ball. So bad was the young Scolari that he was known locally as “perna-de-pau”, which translates as “wooden leg”, a term commonly used in Portuguese-speaking nations for woeful footballers. In his eight year career, the highest level Scolari even played at was the third tier. Like Hodgson, Scolari had a rather humiliating 2014 World Cup, and he is currently managing Guangzhou Evergrande in China.
4. Bill Struth
A plaque at Ibrox stadium for Glasgow Rangers legend Bill Struth
With 30 trophies to his name, including 18 Scottish League titles, 10 Scottish Cup titles and two Scottish League Cup titles, Bill Struth is one of the most successful managers of all time; yet he never played football at any level as a player. He was a keen sportsman but it was athletics where he excelled, before becoming a stonemason, and a career in football management never seemed likely. Having worked as a trainer at Clyde, he soon joined Hearts and eventually Rangers, where he would have such incredible success, winning 30 trophies in 34 years of management.
3. Carlos Alberto Parreira
The second former Brazil manager to make this list; whilst Luiz Felipe Scolari may have been known as ‘wooden leg’, people could not mock Parreira’s skills on the pitch, because he never took to one. He had zero playing experience, but having been a fitness coach for a number of years, he was asked to become a coach in Kuwait. Skip forward a few decades and Parreira has taken five nations to the World Cup; Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Brazil, the last of which he has taken to two and won one, in 1994. Parreira retired from management in 2010.
2. Andre Villas Boas
Andre Villas-Boas has managed at Porto, Chelsea, Tottenham and Zenit
Andre Villas Boas, or AVB, as he is commonly known, is probably the most high-profile active manager who has never played football at any level. That is to say not at amateur level, not at non-league, not even for any academies that we know of. AVB began working for Sir Bobby Robson at the age of 16, and became immersed in the game from then on. At the age of 21 he was assistant to Jose Mourinho at Porto and managing the Brirtish Virgin Islands national team. By the time he was 29 he was managing in the top flight and in 2011 he became the youngest man to ever win a European title as manager. Formerly of Spurs, Chelsea and Zenit, like Scolari, AVB is now managing in China, at Shanghai SIPG, where he replaced another rubbish former player Sven-Goran Eriksson.
1. Arrigo Sacchi
One-time Italy, AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and Parma manager
“I never realized that in order to become a jockey you have to have been a horse first,” those were the words of Arrigo Sacchi in light of questions over whether someone who hadn't played the game at a decent level could ever manage a club such as AC Milan. There is no greater example of a fine manager who was far from being a fine player than Sacchi. When Italy faced Brazil in the 1994 World Cup final, the two managers were Carlos Alberto Parreira and Arrigo Sacchi, two men who had virtually no playing experience managing the biggest football match on the planet. Sacchi failed to make the grade with lowly Italian sides Fusignano and Bellaria, and became a shoe salesman instead.
He soon got his break in management though, and after impressing with Parma he was given the AC Milan job, where he would make history. He quickly answered his critics in Milan, winning the Serie A title in his debut season, the club’s first for nine years. His greatest achievement in management though was undoubtedly winning back-to-back European Cups in 1989 and 1990. He later managed Italy and Atletico Madrid, before returning to Parma, where he retired in 2001.