Top players who became great coaches

Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane ahead of the Champions League game between Real Madrid and Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu in February 2020.
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There is a school of thought which suggests that the very best footballers cannot become top coaches or managers.

Because football comes naturally to the game's geniuses, how can they possibly coach that? It is true to an extent, but there are some exceptions.

If you made a list of the greatest footballers in history, not many will have gone on to become successful coaches or managers, but plenty of top players have done so.

Here, a look at the men who mastered the art of playing and also coaching at the highest level...

32. Graeme Souness

Graeme Souness at Rangers in 1990.

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Despite his reputation as a hard man, Graeme Souness was also one of the best midfielders of his generation. A three-time European Cup winner at Liverpool, the Scot later played successfully for Sampdoria and Rangers.

As a player-manager and later just a manager at Rangers, he won seven trophies, before adding more silverware at Liverpool, Galatasaray and Blackburn Rovers in a coaching career which was at times controversial – notably at Benfica and Newcastle.

31. Gianluca Vialli

Italy's assistant manager Gianluca Vialli celebrates after the Azzurri's Euro 2020 win over England in July 2021.

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One of Italy's great strikers, Gianluca Vialli won 59 caps for the Azzurri and scored 16 goals between 1985 and 1992.

Vialli had successful spells at Sampdoria, Juventus and Chelsea, later managing the Blues and winning a number of trophies – including the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and the UEFA Super Cup in 1998. He also had a spell at Watford and was an assistant to Roberto Mancini as Italy won Euro 2020. The popular former forward passed away from pancreatic cancer in January 2023, aged just 58.

30. Mauricio Pochettino

Mauricio Pochettino waves to Espanyol fans ahead of a friendly against Liverpool at the opening of the club's new stadium in 2009.

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A starter for Argentina at the 2002 World Cup, Mauricio Pochettino won 20 caps in total for the Albiceleste and the former central defender is considered one of the greatest players in the history of Espanyol, where he played across two spells.

Pochettino also began his coaching career at the Catalan club and moved to Tottenham after a successful spell at Southampton. The Argentine led Spurs to a Champions League final and to three consecutive top-three finishes in the Premier League. He went on to win trophies in a season-and-a-half at Paris Saint-Germain and joined Chelsea in 2023.

29. Alf Ramsey

England manager Alf Ramsey supervises a training session, circa 1969.

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A tactically intelligent right-back in Tottenham's push-and-run side of the 1950s, Alf Ramsey was a key part of Spurs' title success in 1950/1951 and earned 32 caps for England between 1948 and 1953.

But his most famous feat came as a manager in 1966, when he led England to the World Cup crown on home soil. He was sacked in 1974 after the Three Lions failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup.

28. Helmut Schon

West Germany coach Helmut Schon lifts the World Cup trophy in 1974.

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Helmut Schon was a prolific striker for Germany in the 1930s and 1940s and scored an impressive 17 goals in 18 international appearances for his national side before the Second World War.

Schon coached the Germans in four successive World Cups and led the team to the trophy in 1974. Die Mannschaft had finished second in 1966 and third in 1970. With Schon in charge, West Germany also won the European Championship in 1972.

27. Aliou Cisse

Aliou Cisse celebrates with the Senegal flag after winning the Africa Cup of Nations in 2022.

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Aliou Cisse was Senegal's captain at the 2002 World Cup, when the African team reached the quarter-finals of the competition, and has enjoyed even greater success as their coach.

In early 2022, Cisse led Senegal to the title at the African Cup of Nations and later that same year, his side progressed to the last eight of the World Cup for the first time since he had been there as a player in 2002.

26. Carlos Bilardo

Argentina coach Carlos Bilardo alongside captain Diego Maradona at the 1986 World Cup.

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Carlos Bilardo started his career as a striker but was converted into a central midfielder at Estudiantes and was the brains of a side which won three Copa Libertadores titles between 1968 and 1970.

He later became their coach and after his second spell in charge, was hired by Argentina. In seven years with the Albiceleste, he took the team to two World Cup finals, winning the trophy in 1986.

25. Xabi Alonso

Xabi Alonso applauds the Bayer Leverkusen fans after victory over Heidenheim in September 2023.

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One of the best passers of his generation, Xabi Alonso was at the heart of Spain's success between 2008 and 2012 and the midfielder also won Champions League titles with Liverpool and Real Madrid in an impressive career.

After three years in charge of the youth team back at his first club Real Sociedad, the Basque began his coaching career at Bayer Leverkusen and quickly earned a reputation as one of the most exciting young managers around with some impressive performances and results for the Bundesliga side.

24. Mikel Arteta

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta pictured during a match in November 2023.

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Mikel Arteta began his career at Barcelona but, due to the presence of Xavi and Andres Iniesta, never made an appearance for the Catalan club. Perhaps more surprisingly, he did not win a single cap for Spain either.

Successful in long spells with Everton and Arsenal, the Basque became manager of the Gunners after working with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and led the north London club to an FA Cup win in 2020 and a second-placed finish in the Premier League in 2022/23.

23. Emerich Jenei

Romania coach Emerich Jenei pictured ahead of his side's Euro 2000 quarter-final against Italy.

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A defensive midfielder in the 1950s and 1960s, Emerich Jenei won three Romanian titles with Steaua Bucharest and represented his country at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Under his stewardship, Steaua later became the first Romanian club to win the European Cup as they beat Barcelona in the final in 1986. Jenei went on to enjoy success with Romania too, leading the team to the knockout rounds in the 1990 World Cup and again in a second spell at Euro 2000.

22. Luis Aragones

Spain coach Luis Aragones pictured during a Euro 2008 qualifier against Sweden in 2006.

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A prolific forward in the 1970s, Luis Aragones scored 173 goals for Atletico Madrid and is the club's second-highest scorer, having been overtaken by Antoine Griezmann in January 2024. He also won three La Liga titles with the Rojiblancos.

Aragones coached the club in seven spells across a long career, winning seven trophies and leading Atleti back up to La Liga in 2002. His greatest success came with Spain, though, as he kicked off La Roja's golden era by masterminding their win at Euro 2008.

21. Roberto Mancini

Italy coach Roberto Mancini celebrates the Azzurri's Euro 2020 win in 2021.

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One of the finest forwards of his generation, Roberto Mancini earned 36 caps for Italy in a 10-year international career between 1984 and 1994 and won trophies with Sampdoria and Lazio.

As a manager, he led Inter to three Serie A titles and won the Premier League with Manchester City in 2011/12. But his greatest achievement came in 2021, when he oversaw Italy's win at Euro 2020, beating England on penalties in the final at Wembley.

20. Luis Enrique

Luis Enrique celebrates with his coaching staff after Barcelona's Champions League win over Juventus in 2015.

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One of the finest Spanish players of his generation, Luis Enrique was capped 62 times by La Roja. Known for his work-rate, his ability to operate in different positions and his impressive goal record, the midfielder spent five years at Real Madrid and then eight at Barcelona.

It was at Camp Nou where he enjoyed his best years, scoring over 100 goals and winning seven trophies for the Catalan club. As coach, he later led Barça to the treble in 2014/15 and won nine trophies overall in three seasons.

19. Antonio Conte

Antonio Conte with the Serie A trophy at Inter in 2021.

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Antonio Conte won 20 caps for Italy between 1994 and 2000 and was a runner-up in two major finals for the Azzurri. He also lost two Champions League finals at Juventus, but won one and collected five Serie A medals with the Bianconeri.

As a coach, he started out by leading Bari to Serie A and later won league titles at Juventus, Chelsea and Inter. He also had a spell in charge of Italy, losing on penalties to Germany in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.

18. Brian Clough

Fans remember Brian Clough during a match between his former clubs Nottingham Forest and Derby County in 2014.

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Brian Clough is of course best remembered for his achievements as a manager at Nottingham Forest and Derby County, winning league championships at both clubs and also masterminding two European Cup victories with the Reds.

But before all that, Clough was one of the finest centre-forwards in the country. He only played twice for England, but scored an impressive 267 goals in 296 games for Middlesbrough and Sunderland before his career was cut short by injury at the age of just 29.

17. Frank Rijkaard

Frank Rijkaard celebrates a goal for Barcelona against Alaves in January 2006.

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One of the greatest defensive midfielders of all time, Frank Rijkaard won three European Cups as a player – two at AC Milan and one with Ajax – among many other honours. He was also part of the Dutch side which won Euro 88.

As a coach, he led the Netherlands to the semi-finals of Euro 2000, but is best remembered for his time at Barcelona. Following a difficult few years for the Catalan club, Rijkaard steered the Blaugrana to two La Liga titles and a Champions League crown. He also handed Lionel Messi his Barça debut in 2004.

16. Ernst Happel

Ernst Happel poses with the Bundesliga shield and the European Cup at Hamburg in 1983.

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A fine defender in the 1940s and 1950s, Ernst Happel helped Rapid Vienna to six league titles in that time and was part of the Austria side which came third at the 1954 World Cup.

As a coach, he became one of the greatest of all time, winning the European Cup with Feyenoord and Hamburg amid an array of silverware. He was a runner-up in the competition at Club Brugge in between and led the Netherlands to the World Cup final in 1978.

15. Fabio Capello

Fabio Capello celebrates during a game between Juventus and AC Milan in 2005.

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A fine midfielder in the 1960s and 1970s, Fabio Capello won trophies at Roma, Juventus and AC Milan and earned 32 caps for Italy.

As a coach, he did even better, leading Milan to four Serie A titles and a Champions League crown. His two titles at Juventus were revoked due to the Calciopoli scandal, but he bagged a Scudetto at Roma and won La Liga in each of his two seasons at Real Madrid across two spells. Later roles with England and Russia were less successful, but he remains one of the best club coaches of all time.

14. Jupp Heynckes

Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes is thrown into the air by his players after the club's treble triumph in June 2013.

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A prolific forward for Borussia Monchengladbach in the 1970s, Jupp Heynckes scored 14 goals in 39 appearances for West Germany and was a World Cup winner and a European champion with his national team.

Heynckes is better known these days for his exploits as coach, having led Bayern Munich to the treble in 2013 and Real Madrid to a first European Cup in 32 years as Los Blancos took home the trophy for the seventh time in 1998.

13. Luis Alberto Cubilla

Legendary Uruguayan coach Luis Alberto Cubilla pictured in May 2006.

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Luis Alberto Cubilla enjoyed huge success as a winger for Montevideo giants Peñarol and Nacional, winning four Uruguayan league titles with each and three Copa Libertadores titles overall.

Cubilla, who also played for Barcelona and River Plate, went on to become one of the most successful coaches in South American football. He won two Copa Libertadores titles at Olimpia in Paraguay, plus an Intercontinental Cup and eight league titles. Back at Peñarol, he also claimed another Uruguayan title.

12. Miguel Muñoz

Real Madrid coach Miguel Muñoz kicks a ball during a training session in 1973.

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Miguel Muñoz won three European Cups and four La Liga titles as a Real Madrid player in the late 1950s, captaining the team in two of those triumphs.

The midfielder, who scored the club's first ever goal in the European Cup, later went on to coach Los Blancos, winning nine La Liga titles and a further two European Cups. He also led Spain to the final of Euro 1984.

11. Giovanni Trapattoni

Giovanni Trapattoni at Juventus in 1994.

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A fine defender known for his man-marking skills, Giovanni Trapattoni won 17 caps for Italy and was a two-time European Cup winner with AC Milan in the 1970s.

As a manager, he is considered one of the greatest of all time. He led Juventus to six Serie A titles, two UEFA Cups and a European Cup across two spells. He also won league titles with Inter, Bayern Munich, Benfica and Red Bull Salzburg in a long career, which included spells in charge of Italy and Ireland.

10. Vicente del Bosque

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque lifts the World Cup trophy in 2010.

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Vicente del Bosque was one of Real Madrid's finest players in the 1970s and early 1980s and the defensive midfielder won nine trophies with Los Blancos – including four La Liga titles. He also earned 18 caps for Spain.

As a coach, Del Bosque led Madrid to two Champions Leagues and two La Liga titles before his surprise sacking in 2003. Later, he was in charge as Spain won the 2010 World Cup and the European Championship two years later.

9. Mario Zagallo

Brazil coach Mario Zagallo pictured during the 1998 World Cup in France.

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Mario Zagallo is the only man in football history to be involved in five World Cup finals and the legendary player and coach won four of those.

A left-winger with Flamengo and Botafogo in the 1950s and 1960s, Zagallo featured in the World Cup-winning sides of 1958 and 1962, before leading Brazil to the title as coach in 1970. He was a coordinator as the South Americans claimed the title again in 1994 and led the Seleção to the final at France 98, when they were beaten by the hosts.

8. Carlo Ancelotti

Carlo Ancelotti celebrates with the Champions League trophy after AC Milan's victory over Liverpool in 2007.

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Carlo Ancelotti was one of the most technically gifted midfielders of his generation. A four-time Coppa Italia winner and Serie A champion with Roma, Carletto went on to feature in the hugely successful AC Milan side of the late 1980s.

Ancelotti won two European Cups with Milan and later returned as coach to lead the Rossoneri to another two Champions League crowns. A Champions League winner again in both of his spells at Real Madrid, the Italian has also won trophies at Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.

7. Kenny Dalglish

Kenny Dalglish celebrates the Division One title with Liverpool colleagues Ronnie Moran and Roy Evans on his final appearances as a player for the Reds in 1990.

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One of the finest footballers in Liverpool's history, Kenny Dalglish won three European Cups and later became the Reds' player-manager, leading the club to three league titles and two FA Cups before his shock resignation in 1991.

After leaving Liverpool, Dalglish took Blackburn Rovers to the Premier League and then to the Premier League title in 1995. He later managed Newcastle and went on to win the League Cup in a short second spell at Anfield in 2012.

6. Didier Deschamps

Didier Deschamps holds the World Cup trophy in 2018 after France's win over Croatia.

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Although described disparagingly as a "water carrier" by former France team-mate Eric Cantona, Didier Deschamps was one of the best defensive midfielders in the world during his playing days.

A World Cup winner and European champion with Les Bleus, Deschamps won a series of trophies for his club sides – including Champions League titles with Marseille and Juventus. As a coach, he led France to World Cup glory in 2018 and to the final again in 2022.

5. Pep Guardiola

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola celebrates with the trophy after winning the Champions League in 2011.

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Pep Guardiola is more known for being one of the best coaches in the world these days, but the Catalan was also an elite midfielder in his playing days.

Operating as a deep-lying playmaker for Barcelona, Guardiola was at the heart of Johan Cruyff's Dream Team and later under Louis van Gaal, winning six La Liga titles and a Champions League crown at Camp Nou. As coach, he has won numermous trophies – including trebles at both Barcelona and Manchester City – and his style of play has earned admiration throughout the world.

4. Diego Simeone

Diego Simeone celebrates with sons Giuliano and Gianluca after winning the Europa League for a second time with Atletico Madrid in 2018.

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One of Argentina's greatest midfielders, Diego Simeone won over 100 caps for the Albiceleste and was part of the teams which won the Copa America in 1991 and 1993.

Simeone also won a UEFA Cup with Inter, a Serie A title at Lazio and a La Liga and Copa del Rey double at Atletico Madrid, where he later returned as coach to transform the Rojiblancos' fortunes as he led the club to a series of trophies in a long tenure which began in December 2011.

3. Franz Beckenbauer

West Germany coach Franz Beckenbauer smiles during the 1990 World Cup semi-final against England.

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A World Cup winner with West Germany as a player in 1974, Frank Beckenbauer also starred for Bayern Munich in their three consecutive European Cups in the 1970s. The only defender to have won the Ballon d'Or twice, he is credited with inventing the role of sweeper or libero.

As a coach, he led West Germany to another World Cup win in 1990 and claimed league titles with Bayern Munich and Marseille, plus the UEFA Cup with the Bavarians in 1996. 

2. Zinedine Zidane

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane celebrates with the trophy after winning the Champions League for a third year in a row in 2018.

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Zinedine Zidane won it all as a player: World Cup, Euros, Champions League, domestic league titles, cups and the Ballon d'Or. For his success and above all, his elegant playing style, Zizou is regarded as one of the best ever.

As a coach, he led Real Madrid to three Champions League titles in a row between 2016 and 2018 and also won a couple of La Liga titles across two spells at the Santiago Bernabeu.

1. Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyff watches Barcelona training in October 1991.

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Johan Cruyff won three consecutive European Cups as an Ajax player, led Barcelona to a La Liga title after a long drought and helped a memorable Netherlands side to a World Cup final in 1974.

Considered one of the greatest players of all time, the Dutchman's influence as a coach is also huge. At Barcelona, Cruyff's Dream Team won four La Liga titles in a row between 1991 and 1994, plus a first ever European Cup in 1992. And his style of play has become a blueprint for many modern coaches, including Pep Guardiola.

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