Guardiola, Klopp, Solskjaer: Ranking every Champions League manager by their playing careers

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in action for Manchester United

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was a tremendous player.

He spent 11 seasons at The Red Devils, scoring 126 times.

The Norwegian enjoyed a stellar career, but how does his career match up against every manager in the 2021/22 Champions League?

We’ve ranked the 32 managers in this season’s Champions League from worst to best based on their playing careers.

View our rankings below…

32. Julian Nagelsmann | Bayern Munich

Nagelsmann was a promising youngster at FC Augsburg and 1860 Munich.

But persistent knee injuries forced him to retire before he made a professional appearance.

31. Thomas Tuchel | Chelsea

Tuchel spent four years at German third tier side, SSV Ulm. A knee injury cut short his playing career as he retired at the age of 24.



30. Matthias Jaissle | Red Bull Salzburg

Jaissle was part of the 1899 Hoffenheim side that won back-to-back promotions to the Bundesliga. He retired at the age of 26 after suffering a few severe injuries.

29. Yuriy Vernydub | Sheriff Tiraspol

Vernydub spent most of his career in Ukraine playing for the likes of FC Metalurh Zaporizhzhia and Torpedo Zaporizhzhia. He spent the last three years of his career at Zenit St Petersburg, helping them to a Russian Cup title in 1999.

28. Jorge Jesus | Benfica

Jesus spent most of his career in Portugal’s top flight, with spells at Belenenses, Vitória de Setúbal and S.C. Farense.

Benfica manager Jorge Jesus

27. Jesse Marsch | Red Bull Leipzig

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

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

26. Unai Emery | Villarreal

Emery made his debut for Real Sociedad but he failed to breakthrough, leaving after just five La Liga appearances.

He spent most of his career in the Spanish second tier with Toledo.

Unai Emery

25. Marco Rose | Dortmund

Rose played for Leipzig and Hannover before joining Jurgen Klopp at Mainz 05 in 2002.

He helped them reach promotion to the Bundesliga and made 150 appearances in the league across an eight-year spell.

24. Jurgen Klopp | Liverpool

A club legend at Mainz 05, Klopp played 340 times for the club and scored 56 times, all in the German second tier.

He was a decent player but he’s a much, much better manager.

Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp

23. David Wagner | Young Boys

Wagner played with Klopp at Mainz 05 before moving to Schalke 04, where he was part of their UEFA Cup winning side in 1997.

He also turned out for FC Gütersloh 2000 and Darmstadt 98.

22. Roberto De Zerbi | Shakhtar

De Zerbi turned out for Napoli in Serie A, scoring three times in 33 league appearances. He also played for Foggia, Catania and CFR Cluj.

Roberto De Zerbi in action for Cluj

21. Gian Piero Gasperini | Atalanta

After failing to make the grade at Juventus, Gasperini played five seasons for Palermo in Serie B from 1978-1983.

He 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 once.

20. Massimiliano Allegri | Juventus

Allegri played the whole of his career in Italy, turning out for 13 clubs.

His best spell came at Pescara, where he scored 12 Serie A goals from midfield in the 1992/93 season.

He also played for Cagliari, Perugia and Napoli.

19. Erik ten Hag | Ajax

Ten Hag made 336 league appearances during his playing career, with the majority coming for Twente.

He helped them to a KNVB Cup triumph in 2001.

Ajax boss, Erik ten Hag

18. Jocelyn Gourvennec | Lille

A midfielder with an eye for goal, Gourvennec scored 88 league goals during his career.

He played for numerous big French clubs including Lorient, Rennes and Marseille. He played in the UEFA Cup final with the latter in 1999.

17. Mircea Lucescu | Dynamo Kiev

Lucescu had a good career in Romania with Dinamo București, where he won six league titles. 

He was capped 70 times by his country.

16. Julen Lopetegui | Sevilla

Lopetegui, a goalkeeper, played for both Real Madrid and Barcelona, although he wasn’t successful at either.

The Spaniard spent most of his career in La Liga with Rayo. He made one appearance for Spain, coming against Croatia in 1994.

Julen Lopetegui in action for Rayo

15. Philippe Clement | Club Brugge

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

He failed to make his mark in England but then went on to become a legend at Club Brugge, making 256 appearances across 10 seasons.

Clement played 38 times for Belgium, scoring once.

14. Rúben Amorim | Sporting CP

Anorim started out his career at Belenenses before moving on to Benfica. He appeared 14 times for Portugal and was part of their 2014 World Cup squad.

Rúben Amorim in action for Portugal

13. Stefano Pioli | AC Milan

The Italian played 57 times for Juventus. He was part of the squad that won the European Cup in 1985 and Serie A in 1986.

He was never a regular during his time at The Old Lady and left three years after joining.

The defender went on to play for Verona, Fiorentina and Padova in Serie A.

12. Sergen Yalçın | Besiktas

Yalcin played his whole career in Turkey.

He started his career at Besiktas and went on to play for Fenerbahçe, Galatasary and Trabzonspor.

A goal scoring midfielder, he hit the back of the net 141 times in 486 games at club level. He also scored five times in 37 games for his national side.

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11. Sergei Semak | Zenit

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

He also played for Paris Saint-Germain before ending his career with Zenit.

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

10. Simone Inzaghi | Inter Milan

Inzaghi spent the majority of his career at Lazio, scoring 55 goals in 194 games. He made three appearances for Italy.

Simone Inzaghi in action for Lazio

9. Mauricio Pochettino | Paris Saint-Germain

Pochettino 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, scoring twice.

8. Sérgio Conceição | Porto

Conceição featured for 10 different clubs. He played for teams including Porto, Parma and Inter Milan but his best spell came at Lazio, where he won six trophies.

He also made 56 appearances for Portugal, scoring 12 times.

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7. Jon Dahl Tomasson | Malmo FF

Tomasson had success throughout Europe. He started his career at Køge and went on to play for teams including Feyenoord, Newcastle and AC Milan.

He spent three seasons with AC Milan and was part of their side that won the Champions League in 2003 and Serie A in 2004.

He scored 234 times in 574 games at club level, while notching a further 52 goals in 112 games for Denmark.

Jon Dahl Tomasson in action for AC Milan

6. Diego Simeone | Atletico Madrid

A combative midfielder with good technical ability, Simeone impressed in Spain and Italy.

After a spell at Sevilla, Simeone helped Atletico Madrid win the 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.

He played 108 times for Argentina, scoring 11 goals.

5. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer | Manchester United

Solskjaer was the definition of a lethal finisher.

He spent 11 years at Man United, scoring 126 times in 366 games for United and helping them  win 12 trophies.

His most famous goal came against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final, where he scored the winner with the last kick of the game.

Unfortunately, his career was blighted by persistent knee injuries, otherwise he would be further up this list.

4. Mark van Bommel | Wolfsburg

Van Bommel was an intimidating presence in the middle of the park.

The Dutchman won league titles in four European leagues: Eredivisie (four times with PSV), La Liga (once with Barcelona), Bundesliga (twice with Bayern Munich) and Serie A (once with AC Milan).

He played 693 times at club level, scoring 98 times, and also made 79 appearances for Netherlands.

Mark van Bommel in action for Bayern Munich

3. Carlo Ancelotti | Real Madrid

Ancelotti 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 titles with Milan.

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

2. Pep Guardiola | Manchester City

Guardiola is arguably the best manager in the world and he was a classy player too.

He graduated from La Masia and went on to play 382 times for Barcelona, winning 15 trophies with the club.

He played 47 times for Spain, scoring five times.

Pep Guardiola in action for Barcelona

1. Ronald Koeman | Barcelona

Koeman was a defensive minded player but his goal tally was ridiculous, scoring 253 goals during his career.

He enjoyed great success in Holland with Ajax and PSV and in Spain with Barcelona.

He won two European Cups – one each with PSV and Barcelona – as well as eight league titles across his career.

The Dutchman was also named in the Team of the Tournament as he helped his country win Euro 1988.

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