Ranking all 20 Premier League managers by their playing careers

Chelsea's Frank Lampard (L) chases down Manchester

The common step for football players upon retirement is to move into management.

Sure, not everybody fancies it. Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher went straight into punditry.

And not everybody is cut out for a career in the dugout. See: Gary Neville (and possibly Thierry Henry, too).

But the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have all made the transition from player to manager and currently find themselves in charge at prestigious clubs.

The aforementioned names all enjoyed hugely successful playing careers.

But reaching the top isn’t always a prerequisite for being a top manager. Just look at Jose Mourinho, who never achieved success on the pitch.

With that in mind, we’ve decided to rank all 20 Premier League managers based on their success as players.

20. Roy Hodgson | Crystal Palace

Hodgson has carved out a successful coaching career - his Crystal Palace side are currently fourth in the league - but he was never a top player.

He played for Palace at youth level and, after failing to make the first team, spent several years in non-league football.

Hodgson was in his early 20s when he began to pursue a coaching career.

Sheffield United v Crystal Palace - Premier League

19. Brendan Rodgers | Leicester City

Rodgers was signed by Reading at the age of 18 but a genetic knee injury forced an end to his playing career when he was just 20.

Sheffield United v Leicester City - Premier League

18. Daniel Farke | Norwich City

Farke spent a brief career playing in the lower levels of German football, appearing for SV Lippstadt, Bonner SC and SV Meppen.


17. Chris Wilder | Sheffield United

Wilder supports and manages Sheffield United - and he once played for them, too.

He spent six years at the club, although he had four different loan spells during that time.

Wilder, a right-back, was eventually sold to Rotherham in 1992. He played for 11 clubs across his rather uneventful career.

16. Dean Smith | Aston Villa

Smith’s playing career spanned 16 years but he didn’t enjoy much success.

He was a part of two play-off final losses with Leyton Orient and also played in the second tier of English football with Sheffield Wednesday, whom he joined in 2003.

Smith called time on his career in 2005 before beginning his coaching career as a youth team coach at Leyton Orient.

15. Eddie Howe | Bournemouth

Like Rodgers, injuries forced Howe to cut short his playing days.

He started at Bournemouth and joined Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth in 2002, but suffered a knee injury shortly afterwards.

Howe returned for the opening game of the 2002-03 season but another knee injury just nine minutes in ruled him out for the entire campaign.

He returned to Bournemouth and hung up his boots in 2007 aged 29.

AFC Bournemouth v SS Lazio - Pre-Season Friendly

14. Jurgen Klopp | Liverpool

"I had fourth-division talent and a first-division head.”

That’s how Klopp described his playing career, having spent his entire time in Germany but never reaching the Bundesliga.

He played for five different German clubs but enjoyed his best days at Mainz, spending 11 years there.

Liverpool FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League

13. Sean Dyche | Burnley

Dyche’s career began with promise at Nottingham Forest but a broken leg held him back.

“I broke my leg, still got a bend in my leg, and that inhibited my career early on,” Dyche said in an interview with the Telegraph in 2013.

He then played for some lower division clubs, reaching the FA Cup semi-final with Chesterfield in 1997.

Dyche scored a penalty in the game against Middlesbrough but, after a 3-3 draw, Chesterfield missed out on a place in the final after losing the replay 3-0.

After leaving for Bristol City in 1997, Dyche helped the Robins gain promotion to Division One in his first season.

He also helped Millwall get promoted to Division One in 2000/01 and was a part of Northampton’s promotion to League One in 2005/06.

Northampton Town v Bury

12. Marco Silva | Everton

The Toffees boss played two games in Portugal’s top flight - one for Belenenses and one for Campomaiorense - but the majority of his career was spent at second and third division clubs in his home country.

11. Graham Potter | Brighton

Some may feel as though Potter has come from nowhere but he enjoyed a 13-year playing career, even playing for Southampton in the Premier League and appearing for England’s Under-21s.

In total, Potter made 320 appearances across the top five divisions of English football.

10. Manuel Pellegrini | West Ham

Thirteen years. One club.

Pellegrini made 451 appearances for Universidad de Chile, helping them through a difficult period in the 1970s to win the league title in 1979.


9. Unai Emery | Arsenal

Emery, a left-sided midfielder, was a youth graduate at Real Sociedad but five La Liga appearances are as good as it got.

After that he resumed his career in the second division of Spanish football, making more than 200 appearances.

He retired at the age of 32.


8. Ralph Hasenhuttl | Southampton

Hasenhuttl enjoyed a successful playing career in Austria.

He won three Austrian Bundesliga titles and two Austrian Cups with Austria Wien in the early 1990s, before adding another title and the Austrian Super Cup with Austria Salzburg in 1995.

The Southampton boss then had fairly joyless spells in Belgium and Germany, finishing his career in 2004 with Bayern Munich II.

7. Javi Gracia | Watford

Gracia helped UE Lleida gain promotion to La Liga in 1992/13, scoring 12 goals in 38 appearances.

He was a regular in Spain’s top fight for the next six years, appearing for Real Valladolid and Real Sociedad.

He returned to the Segunda Division with Villarreal in 1999 but helped them go up after just one season in the second tier.

Gracia closed out his playing career with Cordoba.

Watford v Real Sociedad - Pre-Season Friendly

6. Nuno Espirito Santo | Wolves

Nuno won many trophies at Porto, including the Champions League in 2003/04 under Jose Mourinho.

He also won the Primeira Liga four times and the UEFA Cup during his trophy-laden Porto career.

That said, it must be noted that he was Porto’s second-choice goalkeeper.

Mourinho let Nuno score a penalty in a 2003 Taca de Portugal match against Varzim SC, which Porto won 7-0.

Nuno was also a part of the Deportivo La Coruna squad that won the Copa del Rey in 2002, beating Real Madrid in the final.

Crusaders v Wolverhampton Wanderers – UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying round: 2nd Leg

5. Mauricio Pochettino | Tottenham

Pochettino is among the best managers in the Premier League but he was also a fine player, too.

The former centre-back enjoyed a 17-year playing career, 10 of which were spent across two spells with Espanyol.

He also spent two years at French giants Paris Saint-Germain, where he could count Ronaldinho as a teammate.

England fans will also remember Pochettino giving away a penalty during the Three Lions’ win over Argentina at the 2002 World Cup.

His honours as a player include the Primera Division with Newell’s Old Boys in 1990/91, two Copa del Rey titles with Espanyol and the 2001 UEFA Intertoto Cup with PSG.

Michael Owen of England

4. Steve Bruce | Newcastle United

Bruce enjoyed plenty of highs at Manchester United, winning three Premier League titles, three FA Cups and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in the 1990s.

Considered one of the best players never to have played for England, the centre-back also represented Gillingham, Norwich City, Birmingham City and Sheffield United, winning the League Cup with the Canaries in 1984/85.

Steve Bruce and Bryan Robson with the FA Carling Premiership Trophy 1994

3. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer | Manchester United

Solskjaer’s winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final has cemented his status as a Man United icon.

The Norwegian also won six Premier Leagues and two FA Cups during his time at Old Trafford.

The talent surrounding him meant he was a fringe player at the club. But he was a fine striker nonetheless, scoring 91 goals in 235 appearances for the Red Devils.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 1999 UEFA Champions League Final

2. Pep Guardiola | Manchester City

Before becoming one of the finest managers football has ever seen, Guardiola had a great playing career.

He came through the youth ranks at Barcelona and established himself in the first team, making 263 appearances for the Blaugrana.

A defensive midfielder, Guardiola won six La Liga titles as a player in the 1990s.

He also played in the 1992 European Cup final win over Sampdoria.

Throw in two Copa del Rey titles and an Olympic gold medal with Spain at the 1992 games in Barcelona and you’ve got a hugely successful career.

Zinedine Zidane, Josep Guardiola, Pierluigi Collina

1. Frank Lampard | Chelsea

If Lampard’s managerial career is as successful as his playing career, he’ll be chuffed.

The 41-year-old is without a doubt one of the best players the Premier League has ever seen.

He was named Premier League Player of the Season in 2004/05 and was named in the PFA Team of the Year on three separate occasions.

Chelsea’s all-time leading goalscorer, Lampard won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, the Champions League and the Europa League.

He also finished second to Ronaldinho at the Ballon d’Or awards in 2005.

Lampard also won 106 England caps. What a player he was.

Chelsea's British midfielder Frank Lampa News Now - Sport News