Ranking all 32 Champions League group stage managers by their playing careers

The Champions League group stages officially starts on Tuesday night.

Juventus, Barcelona and Liverpool will all be vying to win the competition but perhaps the favourites are Manchester City.

Led by Pep Guardiola, City have a manager who has achieved it all as a player and a manager.

Guardiola won the European Cup as a player in 1992 and won the Champions League twice as manager of Barcelona.

But, out of all 32 Champions League manager’s in the group stages, did he have the most successful playing career?

We’ve decided to rank all 32 Champions League managers based on their success as players.

32= Felice Mazzù | Genk

Mazzu did not play professional football.

32= Jindřich Trpišovský | Slavia Prague

Trpišovský did not play professional football.

30. Bruno Lage | Benfica

Lage played youth football for Independente but never made it as a professional footballer.

He actually started his coaching career as a 21-year-old at Vitória Setúbal.

29. Maurizio Sarri | Juventus

Sarri had the opportunity to play professional football for Montevarchi and Pontedera but he never made the move from amateur side, Figline.

He eventually retired from Figline after persistent injuries.

28. Julian Nagelsmann | RB Leipzig

One of the most talented young managers in the Champions League did not enjoy a successful playing career.

Nagelsmann played youth football at FC Augsburg and 1860 Munich but persistent knee injuries forced him to retire before he made a professional appearance.

27. Thomas Tuchel | Paris Saint-Germain

Tuchel played youth football at FC Augsburg before moving to the 2. Bundesliga with Stuttgarter Kickers.

That spell was a failure and he ended up moving to German third-tier side, SSV Ulm.

He was a mainstay for Ulm for four years but was forced to retire at the age of 25 after suffering a chronic knee injury.

26. Luís Castro | Shakhtar Dontesk

Castro spent much of his career in Portugal’s lower leagues, but did play for Vitória S.C. and Elvas in the Primeira Liga.

With the latter, Castro played 28 times in the 1987/88 season as his side were relegated from Portugal’s top tier.

25. Jesse Marsch | RB Salzburg

Marsch spent his entire career in the MLS, featuring for D.C. United, Chicago Fire and Chivas USA.

He made 331 appearances across 13 years, scoring 31 times.

Marsch won the MLS Cup on three occasions and made two appearances for the United States.

24. Vladan Milojević | Red Star Belgrade

Milojevic spent his whole career in Greece, where he played for the likes of Red Star Belgrade and Panathinaikos F.C.

23. Jurgen Klopp | Liverpool

Klopp is a much better manager than he was a player.

The popular German spent the large majority of his playing days in the German second tier with Mainz 05, where he played for 11 years.

He retired as their record goal scorer, notching 56 times in total.

22. Pedro Martins | Olympiakos

Martins started his career at Feirense, before moving on to Vitória S.C. and then Sporting Lisbon.

He made one appearance for Portugal.

21. Gian Piero Gasperini | Atalanta

Gasperini started his career at Juventus but he never made the grade.

He spent the early parts of his career in Italy’s lower leagues, playing five seasons for Palermo in Serie B from 1978-1983.

The Italian midfielder finally got the chance to play in the Serie A with Pescara after helping them win promotion in 1987.

He made 469 appearances in his career, scoring just once.

20. Erik ten Hag | Ajax

Ten Hag made 336 appearances during his playing career, most of which came for Twente.

He helped them to a KNVB Cup triumph in 2001.

19. Yuri Semin | Lokomotiv Moscow

Semin spent all of his playing career in Russia.

He played for the likes of Spartak Moscow and Dynamo Moscow, while also having a three year spell with current side Lokomotiv Moscow.

As a forward, he scored 67 times in 386 professional games.

18. Lucien Favre | Borussia Dortmund

Favre spent much of his career in Switzerland playing with Servette, although he did spend a solitary season with Toulouse.

He played 24 times for Switzerland, scoring once.

17. Philippe Clement | Club Brugge

After impressing in a three-season stint with Genk, Clement moved to Premier League outfit Coventry in 1998.

His time in England proved to be a failure as he made just 12 appearances in one season for the Sky Blues.

The Belgian defender then went on to become a legend at Club Brugge as he made 256 appearances across 10 seasons.

Clement played 38 times for Belgium, scoring once.

16. Nenad Bjelica | Dinano Zagreb

A decent player, Njelica played for the likes of Betis, Las Palmas and Kaiserslautern during his 17-year playing career.

He also featured eight times for Croatia.

15. Christophe Galtier | Lille

Galtier had a solid career in Ligue 1, where he made 367 appearances playing for the likes of Marseille, Lille, Toulouse and Angers.

14. Peter Bosz | Leverkusen

Bosz enjoyed his best playing days at Feyenoord, where he made 155 appearances across five years and helped them win the Eredivisie in 1993.

He made eight appearances for the Netherlands.

13. Fatih Terim | Galatasary

Terim played for just two clubs in his career: Adana Demirspor and Galatasaray.

In 11 years with the latter, Terim made 327 appearances and scored 16 times.

He made 51 appearances for Turkey.

12. Ernesto Valverde | Barcelona

Valverde started his career at Alaves before making a name for himself with Espanyol.

He played briefly for Barcelona between 1988-1990, where he helped them to the Copa del Rey title.

Valverde then moved on to Athletic Bilbao where he enjoyed his best spell, making 170 appearances and scoring 44 times across five years.

He made a single appearance for Spain in 1990.

11. Sergei Semak | Zenit St. Petersburg

Semak made a name for himself at CSKA Moscow, where he scored 69 times in 289 games.

He went on to play for Paris Saint-Germain before ending his career with Zenit.

Semak played 65 times for Russia, scoring on four occasions.

10. Mauricio Pochettino | Tottenham Hotspur

Pochettino is a world-class manager and he was also a handy player, too.

He enjoyed his best playing days at Espanyol, where he played from 1994-2001 and won two Copa del Rey titles.

He later joined Paris Saint-Germain. Pochettino managed 20 appearances for Argentina.

9. Albert Celades | Valencia

Valencia’s recently appointed manager had a solid playing career. 

He started off at Barcelona and would later help Real Madrid to the Champions League in 2002.

Celades played four times for Spain.

8. Niko Kovac | Bayern Munich

Kovac enjoyed a long and successful playing career.

He made his Bundesliga debut for Leverkusen in 1996 and helped the club to two runner-up finishes.

After a spell with Hamburg, he joined Bayern in 2001 and helped them to the Bundesliga in 2003.

He also racked up 83 caps for Croatia.

7. Sylvinho | Lyon

A dependable left-back, Sylvinho played for the likes of Arsenal, Barcelona and Manchester City across his 16-year playing career.

He was named in the PFA Team of the Year in 2001 for Arsenal, before winning three La Liga’s and two Champions League’s with Barcelona.

Sylvinho was unlucky to only make four appearances for Brazil, which is mostly down to not being able to get into the team in front of Roberto Carlos.

6. Carlo Ancelotti | Napoli

Ancelotti played for just three teams: but what a trio they were.

He started his career at Parma, before featuring for Roma and AC Milan.

He won 12 major honours as a player, including three Serie A titles and two Champions League’s with Milan.

Ancelotti made 26 appearances for Italy and was part of the team that finished third in the 1990 World Cup.

5. Antonio Conte | Inter Milan

You’ve got to be pretty handy if you spend 13 years at Juventus, right?

Conte signed for Juventus from Leece for €3.60m in 1996, quite a big fee at the time.

And he would justify that price tag in a highly successful spell.

He helped Juventus to 13 major honours, including five Serie A titles and a Champions League victory in 1996.

He made 20 appearances for Italy.

4. Diego Simeone | Atletico Madrid

The Argentinian is a world-class manager and he was also a brilliant player.

Simeone made his name in Spain with Sevilla before moving to Atletico Madrid in 1994.

He helped the club to a domestic double in 1996 as they lifted the Copa del Rey and La Liga.

He would then have success with Inter, before winning the treble with Lazio in 2000.

The defensive midfielder also made his mark on the international stage, appearing 106 times for his country and winning two Copa America’s.

3. Pep Guardiola | Manchester City

A defensive midfielder in the mould of Sergio Busquets – Guardiola was a classy player.

He came through the youth system at Barcelona and would spend 11 years in the first team.

Guardiola won six La Liga titles and one European Cup during his time with the club.

He also made 47 appearances for Spain and was named in the Euro 2000 Team of the Tournament.

2. Frank Lampard | Chelsea

What a player. You could go on all day listing Lampard’s achievements for Chelsea.

After joining the Blues in 2001, Lampard made 648 appearances and scored a club record  211 times.

He also won 13 major honours with the club and featured 106 times for his country.

1. Zinedine Zidane | Real Madrid

Lampard was world-class. But Zidane was in a league of his own.

Zidane was a genius with the ball and that was in display throughout his career.

Zidane is a legend at Juventus, Real Madrid and for France, where he made 108 appearances and helped them to the Euro 2000 title.

The Frenchman is and forever will be remembered for two episodes in his career: his sublime goal against Leverkusen in the 2002 Champions League final and for his infamous head butt in the 2006 World Cup final.

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