The vast majority of professional football managers, unsurprisingly, are former professional football players. Given that professional footballers, on average, retire at the age of 35, very few move into first team management before their late 30’s at the earliest. There are one or two exceptions, typically players who have been forced into early retirements through injury but are determined to remain in the game, but this is rare.
Despite that, when I saw a request to do a video on the 7 best football managers under the age of 40, I still foolishly thought ‘why not, that should be easy’. Well, it wasn’t. There are surprisingly few young managers at the highest level. Take the Premier League for example, even the youngest bosses in the division like Frank Lampard, Eddie Howe and Marco Silva are all over the age of 40, so this was a real challenge.
Here are the 7 best managers in world football under the age of 40 in my opinion:
7. Hannes Wolf
A man who featured on this channel as recently as last month when I did a video on the last 7 Borussia Dortmund II managers, Hannes Wolf started in management at a very young age. With no real professional career to talk of, the peak of Wolf’s playing days came with FC Nurnberg’s reserves, and he made his first moves into management at the age of 24. In 2009, Wolf got a job as assistant manager with Borussia Dortmund’s reserves, and he later enjoyed much success with Dortmund’s under-17’s. He was appointed Stuttgart boss in 2016, where he was successful in guiding the club to promotion back into the Bundesliga, but he was sacked following poor form in the top flight. Last season, Wolf had a season in charge of Hamburg where he was sacked after narrowly avoiding promotion, meaning the 38-year-old is currently without a club.
6. Sebastian Beccacece
Hannes Wolf was a late bloomer in managerial terms in comparison to sixth placed Sebastian Beccacece, who began his managerial career in 2001, aged 20. The Argentine full-back had failed to make the grade as a player, but he gave himself a sizeable head start in coaching. He began his coaching career in the youth team at Newell’s Old Boys, before becoming Jorge Sampaoli’s assistant manager at Peruvian side Sport Boys, aged 23. Throughout Sampaoli’s nomadic success, Beccacece followed, even turning down the chance to become Marcelo Bielsa’s assistant with the Chilean national team. He first tried his hand at first team management with Universidad de Chile in 2016, where he did a mixed job before two stints with Defensa y Justicia, either side of reuniting with Sampaoli for a disappointing spell with the Argentina national team. This summer, Beccacese was handed a huge job at Independiente in Argentina, and this may be the true test of whether the 38-year-old is a good manager or just a good coach.
5. Carlos Corberan
We go from a young coach who turned down the opportunity to work with Marcelo Bielsa in fifth place, to one who seems very loyal to the eccentric Argentine in sixth place. Carlos Corberan wasn’t totally useless as a player, but having struggled to break into the Valencia first team and only turning out for the reserves as a goalkeeper, he retired from playing to focus on coaching at the age of 23. He got his first big break at Villarreal, he became assistant manager at Al-Ittihad on the advice of Pep Guardiola in 2012 and he took up his first managerial post in 2016. That was at Doxa in Cyprus, and he followed that up with a stint at fellow Cypriot outfit Ermis. In June 2017, Corberan was appointed manager of Leeds United under-23’s, being handed a dual first team and under-23 coaching role when Marcelo Bielsa arrived at the club. Corberan, who is still only 36, has done an excellent job at Elland Road. Leeds’ U-23’s won the Professional Development League last season, and they were unbeaten this season up until a defeat to a strong Hull City side at the KCOM Stadium.
4. Florian Kohfeldt
It seems like German clubs are much more willing to take a chance on young managers, and as such, German coaches are much more likely to make an early start on their career path. Florian Kohfeldt is only 36, but he’s already the first team manager of Bundesliga side Werder Bremen, a job he has held since he was 34. Werder are the joint third most successful club in Germany, so that’s a pretty significant position for a man of his age to be in. Werder finished 11th in Kohfeldt’s first season in charge, but they climbed to 8th last season, as well as reaching the semi-finals of the DFB-Pokal, even knocking out Borussia Dortmund. This is Kohfeldt’s first job in senior management, having previously coached Werder’s reserve team.
3. Luis Zubeldia
Unlikely to be a familiar face to many of our viewers, not many of whom are based in South America, Luis Zubeldia is already in his ninth senior managerial position at the age of 38, which is a pretty staggering thought. Once a really promising young midfielder in Argentina, Zubeldia played 12 times for Argentina’s under-17’s and 15 times for their under-20’s. He was forced to retire at the age of 23 though due to a joint disorder which I can’t pronounce, which caused cracks to form in the articular cartilage in his left knee. He became the first team manager of his former club Lanus in 2008, aged 27, making him the youngest manager in the history of Argentina’s top flight. He has since managed SC Barcelona, Racing Club, Liga de Quito, Santos Laguna, Independiente Medellin, Alaves and Cerro Porteno, before returning to Lanus in September 2018. The 38-year-old has a win percentage of over 46.
2. Barak Bakhar
Now, by the time this video comes out I’m pretty sure Barak Bakhar will have turned 40, but at the time of recording he is still 39. You have my apologies for that, but I’m taking a very rare break and going on holiday whilst this video is out, meaning I have had to schedule a few videos in advance for whilst I’m away. Anyhow, Barak Bakhar, who turns 40 this month, is maybe the least well-known manager in this seven, but certainly among the most accomplished. A defender during his playing days, Bakhar was once called up by the Israeli national team, but had his call-up revoked when it was revealed that he had never completed his military service. He retired from playing and began coaching around the time of his 32nd birthday, becoming Ironi Kiryat Shmona boss a year later, and winning an Israel State Cup in 2014. He moved to Hapoel Be’er Sheva in 2015, a club that hadn’t won a league title since the 1970’s. Bakhar guided the club to three league titles in his first three seasons at the helm, more than the club had won in their entire 66 year history prior to his arrival, in addition to winning two Israeli Super Cups.
0. Honourable Mentions
Quick honourable mentions go to 38-year-old Fulham boss Scott Parker, 33-year-old former Schalke manager Domenico Tedesco and 37-year-old ex-Barcelona youth team coach Denis Silva. That’s it for the honourable mentions, feel free to subscribe to HITC Sevens and give us a like if you enjoyed the video, and here is your top spot…
1. Julian Nagelsmann
Not just the best manager in this seven but also the youngest, Julian Nagelsmann’s managerial accomplishments at the age of 32 are seriously impressive. Another player who had little professional career to talk of, Nagelsmann’s playing days were ended at under-19 level due to persistent knee injuries whilst the teenager was contracted to Augsburg. His first coaching role was back at Augsburg as a 20-year-old, where he briefly worked alongside Thomas Tuchel with the clubs reserves. Following success with Hoffenheim’s youth sides, Nagelsmann agreed to become the club’s first team boss in October 2015 for the following season. That date had to be brought forward, but when Nagelsmann took over, Hoffenheim languished in 17th place, 7 points from safety. He guided the club to 7 wins from 14 games to ensure survival, before an extraordinary first full campaign, finishing in 4th place in the Bundesliga, qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in the clubs history. That was followed by a 3rd place finish in 2017-18 and a 9th placed finish in 2018-19. At the end of last season, Nagelsmann agreed to leave Hoffenheim and take over at RB Leipzig, aged 32. On his watch, Leipzig top the Bundesliga table at the time of recording, unbeaten in their first five games.