As those of you who subscribe and keep up-to-date with the channel will know, we have now taken a look at the 7 best players in every position during the 2010’s. With the players done and dusted, ahead of my video on our ultimate XI of the decade, today we turn our attention to managers. To those of you who are new to the channel and/or series and might want to watch the whole thing, there is a playlist solely for these videos on our channel and obviously feel free to subscribe today to stay up-to-date in the future.
It was more difficult picking my seven best managers of the decade than it was picking the seven best players in any position. A manager’s career is much more prone to inconsistency, very few managers have gone the entire decade without getting sacked in a cut-throat industry, and the result is that you also have to account for the amount of time spent outside of the game with some.
Whilst the player sevens are based on the players talents and performances over the last 10 years, meaning trophy cabinets were noted but were not a defining factor, with a manager the success and failure of an entire team falls firmly on their door. It’s very difficult comparing the decades of someone like Eddie Howe who has performed miracles at Bournemouth but hasn’t won or come particularly close to winning a major trophy with someone like Zinedine Zidane, who has only managed for about three years this decade, the jury is largely still out with regards to just how good a manager he is, but he did win a remarkable trio of Champions League titles.
Ultimately, the players ratings were based heavily on consistency and talent over an entire decade, so I see no reason to change that when it comes to managers. There’s also no point shying away from the fact that trophies are the currency of managers at the highest level, and surely for the purposes of a seven like this we have to be looking at managers at the highest level, so trophies will play a big part – sorry Mauricio.
Here are my views on the 7 best managers of the decade:
7. Antonio Conte
Getting us started in this seven is the man whose team currently top the Serie A table. Antonio Conte is undeniably one of the finest managers in world football. Aged 50, he began the decade in charge of Atalanta, where he resigned in January 2010. He dropped down to Serie B with Siena, winning promotion in his debut campaign and immediately being plucked into perhaps the biggest job in Italy… Juventus boss.
Juventus were still recovering from the Calciopoli scandal when Conte arrived, and they had finished 7th in each of the previous two seasons, a million miles away from winning the Scudetto. Conte had a 24 point gap to make up on the previous seasons title winners AC Milan, but he did so successfully, winning the league in 2011-12 and the Old Lady have been crowned Italian champions ever season since.
Following three titles in three seasons, Conte was appointed Italy boss after the 2014 World Cup. In his only major tournament, Italy performed above expectations, topping their group, knocking out reigning European champions Spain and only losing to the reigning world champions Germany on penalties. Then came a move to the Premier League with Chelsea, where Conte turned the Blues around from mid-table mediocrity to a comfortable Premier League title. Last summer, he joined Inter Milan, who now look like the biggest threat to Juventus’ monopoly when it comes to Serie A titles.
6. Didier Deschamps
One of the other tricky elements to this managers seven is comparing the talents and achievements of club managers with that of international managers. International management is very different to club management, but Didier Deschamps is someone who has excelled in both this decade. The 51-year-old began the decade with his former club Marseille, where he won a Ligue 1 title in May 2010. In three seasons with Marseille, Deschamps won six trophies and over 50% of his games.
His results at Marseille earned him the France job in the summer of 2012, with Laurent Blanc resigning after Euro 2012. Deschamps had a lot of talented young players available to him with France, and he wasted no time giving them the chance to impress. At the 2014 World Cup, France won their group and only lost 1-0 in the quarter-finals to eventual winners Germany. His team had matured by the time Euro 2016 came around, where France would also have home advantage. They won their group and beat Ireland, Iceland and Germany en-route to the final, where an Eder stunner in extra-time denied them. They bounced back two years later in Russia, where they and Belgium always looked like the strongest sides. France beat Belgium in the semi-finals and Croatia fairly comfortably in the final, as Deschamps guided France to their first World Cup in 20 years, having won the first as captain and the second as manager.
5. Carlo Ancelotti
Looking ahead to the start of the next decade in football, and there are many fascinating topics to follow, one of which will be how Carlo Ancelotti gets on at Everton. Ancelotti is the joint most successful manager of all time when it comes to European trophies, and he has won the Champions League three times as a manager. Only one of those three, in 2014 with Real Madrid, came this decade, but Ancelotti has still had an impressive ten years.
He began the decade at Chelsea, where he won a Premier League and FA Cup double in his debut campaign, but still lost his job in May 2011. The Italian then spent a year-and-a-half at PSG, guiding the club to their first Ligue 1 title in almost 20 years in his only full season in charge of the Parisians. Ancelotti left PSG after getting a call from Real Madrid about replacing Jose Mourinho in 2013, and he took over at the Bernabeu with Paul Clement and Zinedine Zidane as his assistants.
Ancelotti won a remarkable 75% of his games in charge of Real, helping the club to four trophies in two seasons. The next stop was Bayern Munich, where Ancelotti won three trophies in 14 months but was sacked following a poor start to his second season in Bavaria. Following almost a year out of the game, the pragmatic 60-year-old joined Napoli, finishing second in Serie A last season but losing his job earlier this month. Ancelotti has spent almost the entire decade managing at the highest level, he’s won far more games than he has lost and he’s won a hatful of trophies. The 2020’s could prove to be the real test though, and if he can make Everton a force within the English game, that’ll help cement his reputation as an all time great.
4. Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho was one of the finest managers of the 2000’s, and he has been one of the finest managers of the 2010’s as well. Not everything Jose has touched has turned to gold, hence why he doesn’t make the top three, but his achievements are still remarkable. His finest achievement came right at the start of the decade, when he won an unprecedented treble at Inter Milan. In Madrid, he went toe-to-toe with the finest team of the decade and one of the finest of all time, and he did manage to loosen Pep Guardiola’s stronghold over the La Liga title in 2011-12. He returned to Chelsea and won a league and cup double in 2014-15, before winning three trophies as manager of Manchester United, most notably including the Europa League.
Now, that’s the good stuff. On the flip side, Guardiola did still get the better of him in Spain, he followed up his double-winning season at Chelsea with total collapse and a sacking, and although he won trophies at Old Trafford, fans and the board felt the club wasn’t progressing long-term and they sacked him as well. On the balance of things, I think fourth place is about right for the special one, and were this a seven covering the last 15-20 years, he would make the top two.
3. Diego Simeone
It was an easy decision putting Diego Simeone in our top three as far as I was concerned, and I’ll explain why. The 49-year-old has spent the vast majority of this decade with Atletico Madrid, where he has completely transformed the club. Appointed in December 2011, he inherited a club that had finished 7th the previous season and looked unlikely to finish that high in the 2011-12 campaign. There was an immediate new manager bounce in the Spanish capital, and not only did Simeone inspire the team to a fifth place finish, he also guided them to a Europa League triumph.
The following season the club climbed to third in the La Liga table, and Simeone’s side haven’t finished outside the top three in Spain’s top flight since. In the last two seasons, the club finished second in La Liga above their near neighbours Real Madrid, but their finest achievement came in the 2013-14 season. Simeone had clearly built a strong, resolute and well-drilled side, but few expected them to win a La Liga title.
However, in 2014, for the first time in almost 20 years, that’s exactly what the club did. Simeone also masterminded a Copa del Rey success in 2013, a second Europa League trophy in 2018, and two runners-up medals as losing finalists in the Champions League in 2014 and 2016. In terms of overachievement, consistency and success, few managers can hold a flame to Diego Simeone this decade, and the Atletico boss deservedly takes bronze.
2. Jurgen Klopp
You probably knew what was coming with our top two, and I don’t think even the most ardent Liverpool fan can have too many complaints about how I’ve ordered those two. Jurgen Klopp had built a fine reputation for himself in Germany with Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, but he has elevated that with the way in which he has transformed Liverpool FC in the second half of the decade. Klopp began the decade 18 months into life at Borussia Dortmund, and he won back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2010-11 and 2011-12, in addition to reaching a Champions League final in 2013. Klopp was often operating with his hands tied behind his back at Dortmund, as Bayern hoovered up talent but his side kept plugging on and played a brilliant brand of football that the German has now become synonymous with.
He inherited a really mixed group of players at Anfield in 2015 when he replaced Brendan Rodgers, and if you compare his current squad with the one he inherited it is quite something. The disparity between those two teams is reflected in their performances on the pitch. Liverpool finished 7th in Klopp’s first season, and they were only denied a Premier League title by a special Man City side last season. Klopp won’t win a Premier League title this decade, but he may well win one right at the start of the next, and he has reached consecutive Champions League finals with the Reds, winning one. Klopp’s overachievement at Dortmund and at Liverpool, combined with the trophies he has won, make him a safe bet for the top three in my book.
1. Pep Guardiola
I haven’t tended to do honourable mentions in this series for a couple of reasons, but I’ll quickly reel off the names of Zinedine Zidane, Jupp Heynckes, Massimiliano Allegri, Vicente Del Bosque, Joachim Low, Mauricio Pochettino and Roberto Mancini, all of whom made my shortlist for this seven but didn’t make the final cut.
In top spot, I don’t think there can be too many arguments with the claim that Pep Guardiola has been the best manager in the world over the entire course of the last ten years. He began the decade half-way through four unbelievable seasons at Barcelona, during which time his side played some of the finest football the sport has ever seen. The result was 14 trophies in four seasons, including eight trophies in the two seasons this decade. Pep took a sabbatical between 2012 and 2013, before taking the top job at Bayern Munich.
He was unable to replicate his Champions League success in Bavaria, but he did make the club untouchable in the Bundesliga. He won three league titles in three seasons, along with four other trophies, and had a win percentage in excess of 75. In the summer of 2016, Guardiola was appointed Man City boss, and he came under real scrutiny following a third place finish in his debut campaign. People said he’d have to change the way he played, that the Premier League was too physical, etc, etc. Guardiola continued to be an idealist, and over the next two seasons Man City won 198 points, the two best campaigns in Premier League history in terms of points tallies.
The Citizens have also won five other trophies under Guardiola, taking his total tally for the decade up to 22. Discounting his one-year sabbatical, that’s an average of 2.5 trophies per season, which isn’t bad going. The criticism of Guardiola has always been that he inherited great teams and gets lots of money to spend, which is true to a certain extent, but it’s true of many other managers too, none of whom improve their players, win relentlessly and play a beautiful brand of football quite like Pep.