Xavi to Barcelona: A brief, incomplete ranking of 15 legends who returned to manage the team they played for

It’s the default response of any besieged board: Get us somebody who is aware of the membership inside out. Typically it really works, however as Ronald Koeman can attest, merely having expertise of life on the high tier of soccer doesn’t essentially put together you for managing within the dressing room the place you have been as soon as a participant.

It could be that Xavi can be about to seek out out what life is like as a legendary former participant returning to his longtime membership. Who ought to he intention to copy if he does get the Barcelona job … and whose tenure stands as a warning to him?

Ten of one of the best

1. Pep Guardiola (Barcelona)

He may effectively argue that there are others who should rank extra extremely on this, not least the person he’s simply forward of, however his achievements between 2008 and 2012 because the supervisor of maybe the best membership aspect in historical past advantage his spot on the high of the sport. Having a clutch of the best gamers Barcelona ever produced actually helped ,however not everybody discovered it really easy to steer Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and firm to such sustained success, together with the treble in his first season and an additional Champions League title two years later.

It was not simply that Guardiola had such success with Barcelona. The fashion he carried out is maybe the defining tactical strategy of the final 15 years within the sport (Jurgen Klopp and Ralf Ragnick’s acolytes could argue in any other case). Equally considerably for this record, ever since Barca plucked their head coach out of the B group and started a decade of sustained success, each membership has been searching for their very own Guardiola.

2. Johan Cruyff (Ajax and Barcelona)

One of many best gamers within the sport’s historical past has a powerful declare to be in its managerial pantheon too. With Ajax, Cruyff gained a European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1987, setting the groundwork for the system that may take them to Champions League glory eight years later.

Then at Barcelona, he constructed the membership’s fashionable id. The Dream Workforce was all the pieces subsequent coaches aspired to, not least as a result of it introduced with it the Camp Nou’s first -ever European Cup. That aspect was the intoxicating mixture of top-tier worldwide imports (Hristo Stoichkov, Michael Laudrup, Koeman) and homegrown expertise (Albert Ferrer, Guardiola) that golf equipment aspire to.

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3. Zinedine Zidane (Actual Madrid)

Golf equipment didn’t actually retain the Champions League earlier than ZIdane took cost at Actual Madrid. When his holders reached the 2017 closing, they have been bidding to do what no aspect had managed in 27 years and retain the trophy. They barely wobbled for a second in a 3-1 win over Juventus … then they did it once more the subsequent 12 months.

Zidane’s Madrid did not revolutionize soccer. There weren’t essentially any tactical quirks that he carried out and others adopted. In some ways, his success got here from a capability to handle egos and a respect that may be a given for one of many best footballers of his technology. Most of all, they did probably the most Actual Madrid of issues: Win an terrible lot of huge trophies.

4. Bob Paisley (Liverpool)

A title winner as a participant and as Invoice Shankly’s assistant, Paisley masterminded Liverpool via the best spell of sustained success of their historical past between 1974 and 1983. In that point, he gained six English First Divisions, three European Cups and a UEFA Cup. At a fee of two.2 trophies a season, solely Guardiola can lay declare to such sustained glory at anyone membership; not a nasty return for a person who needed to be coaxed into the highest job.

5. Carlo Ancelotti (AC Milan)

Maybe the archetypal big-club supervisor, Ancelotti earned his status with an impressive spell on the San Siro. He shrugged off early allegations of adverse ways by membership proprietor Silvio Berlusconi to supply one of many dominant groups of the early 2000s, changing Andrea Pirlo into the heartbeat of his aspect on the base of midfield with the devastating frontline of Andriy Shevchenko and Filipo Inzaghi main the best way. That aspect grew to become the dominant power within the Champions League between 2004 and 2007, profitable it twice and reaching an additional closing.

6. Diego Simeone (Atletico Madrid)

It says all the pieces for what Simeone has achieved on the membership that Atletico are not a byword for close to misses and disappointment, maybe as they have been throughout his spell there as a participant, one the place we’re being exceedingly beneficiant with our definition of legend to suit him in. It’s price doing, nevertheless, as a result of what the Argentine has achieved over a decade has actually made him an icon now.

Getty Photographs

The duopoly of Actual Madrid and Barcelona could not have been solely damaged, however it isn’t unreasonable to broaden its membership a tad to incorporate Atletico; actually, there’s a gulf between the 2014 and 2021 Spanish champions and the remainder of La Liga. The taking part in employees could have modified however they’re all the time a group in Simeone’s picture: Robust, technically glorious, diligent and hell to play towards.

7. Antonio Conte (Juventus)

One other who could be stated to have introduced a brand new tradition to his membership, Juventus appointed Conte in 2011 to assist them rediscover the ferocious profitable mentality of the edges he performed in earlier than the Calciopoli referee match-fixing scandal introduced them to their knees. It labored to a tee, three titles in three years and the formation of a group {that a} decade on nonetheless bears the hallmarks of Conte’s depth and aggression.

8. George Graham (Arsenal)

A sublime, scoring midfielder nicknamed ‘Stroller’ returned to Arsenal to show them into some of the ferocious defensive outfits the English sport has ever seen. He re-established them as a power within the First Division after they have been prone to drifting to irrelevance within the mid-Eighties, profitable probably the most dramatic of league titles at Anfield in 1989 and repeating the success two years later with only one defeat to their identify. Since Graham took the helm, Arsenal have all the time discovered themselves amongst England’s preeminent golf equipment.

9. Hansi Flick (Bayern Munich)

Bayern’s monitor file of excellence and their capacity to hoard the best German expertise means we’re as soon as extra stretching the boundaries of legend to rejoice a supervisor whose feats within the dugout actually deserve notice. Flick was an essential member of the squad that gained 4 Bundesligas between 1986 and 1990, reaching the European Cup closing in 1987. He went one higher as a coach and his season and a half with Bayern helped re-establish themselves on the very high of the continent’s footballing pile, culminating of their supreme run to the Champions League title in 2020.

10. Roberto Martinez (Swansea Metropolis and Wigan Athletic)

A fixture within the English decrease leagues within the mid-Nineties and early 2000s, Martinez was the star of the Wigan aspect that escaped Division Three in 1997, profitable the Soccer League Trophy two years later. His managerial profession started by guiding Swansea into the Championship, setting the taking part in template that may make them so beloved of English soccer after they quickly arrived within the Premier League. 

Welsh supporters could not have forgiven him for shifting to Lancashire, however at Wigan, he saved the wolf of relegation on the door for many of his reign. Although he couldn’t maintain them up any longer in 2013, he did not less than depart on probably the most exceptional of highs, beating Manchester Metropolis within the FA Cup closing, their first and up to now solely top-tier trophy.

5 of the remainder

11. Frank Lampard (Chelsea)

Maybe Chelsea’s greatest-ever participant, his first season as their supervisor was a relative success as he ushered them via a switch embargo, blooding a number of younger gamers (a few of whom would type the core of Thomas Tuchel’s European champions just a few months later) whereas securing Champions League qualification. In the end, he by no means fairly laid down a convincing tactical blueprint and struggled to combine the quite a few top-tier signings he was furnished with the next 12 months, costing him his job.

12. Andrea Pirlo (Juventus)

Having intimated beforehand that he didn’t notably fancy administration as a future profession, Pirlo dedicated a radical volte-face that may culminate in him being appointed Juventus supervisor 9 days after he had been handed the job at their Below-23s. Handed a job that was getting progressively more durable as gamers aged out of their primes, there was merciless irony within the man who had propelled Conte’s aspect again to the highest of Italian soccer being the one who shepherded them away from the Serie A summit.

13. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Manchester United)

The hero of Camp Nou, 1999, was imagined to be a secure pair of arms to sift via the rubble of post-Jose Mourinho United. Then the outcomes began flowing, the pundits bought overly excited and right here we’re three trophyless years later. That’s maybe the harshest of doable assessments for Solskjaer’s reign, one through which issues have stabilized at Outdated Trafford, albeit at a stage barely beneath that which others might need reached.

Getty Photographs

14. Thierry Henry (Monaco)

Appointed to a membership in disaster, Henry aspired to greatness with a Monaco squad that maybe couldn’t attain it. He appeared to have explicit points within the dressing room, making an attempt all the pieces he may to impress a response out of an bizarre squad, while the deficiencies of the gamers requested quite a lot of him as a tactician. In brief, he maybe picked the unsuitable surroundings through which to be taught on the job.

15. Diego Maradona (Argentina)

The Golden Boy’s close to two-year reign within the Argentina dugout was nothing if not dramatic. The highs have been blistering (huge wins over South Korea and Mexico on the World Cup) however the depths he plumbed have been a number of the deepest the nationwide aspect had reached, together with a 6-1 defeat to Bolivia. His closing sport in cost, a 4-0 loss to Germany within the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup, somewhat uncovered Maradona’s deficiencies as a supervisor. His group was chaotic at set items whereas in assault and protection it appeared to lack any actual technique.

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