Ferguson, Guardiola, Klopp: Who is the greatest football manager ever?

  • Rob Swan

December 31, 2021, marks the 80th birthday of arguably the greatest football manager in history: the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson.

Born in 1941, Ferguson enjoyed a decent playing career with the likes of St Johnstone, Dunfermline Athletic and, most famously, Rangers.

He began his managerial career with East Stirlingshire in 1974 and would cement his status as one of best managers of all time over the next 40 years.

Ferguson landed the United job in November 1986 after working miracles with Aberdeen, who won three Scottish league titles and the European Cup Winners’ Cup under the Scot.

Following an inauspicious start to life as Man Utd boss, Fergie managed to win the FA Cup in 1990 and never looked back.

Over the course of his glittering 26-year reign at Old Trafford, he won a remarkable 38 major trophies before stunning the world with his retirement announcement at the end of the 2012-13 campaign.


So, where does Ferguson rank among the greatest managers of all time?

FourFourTwo published a comprehensive list of the top 100 in 2020, ranking managers based on trophies won, tactical ideas and motivational skills.

Let’s take a look at the rankings in full:

Greatest managers ever: 100-91

100. Roy Hodgson
99. Fatih Terim
98. Vaclav Jezek
97. Roberto Mancini
96. Gerard Houllier
95. Hassan Shehata
94. Ferruccio Valcareggi
93. Antonio Conte
92. Juan Lopez Fontana
91. Raymond Goethals

Vastly-experienced English coach Roy Hodgson snuck into the top 100. Other notable names in the 100-91 category include Roberto Mancini, who won Euro 2020 with Italy, the late Gerard Houllier and Tottenham’s current manager, Antonio Conte.


Greatest managers ever: 90-81

90. Claudio Ranieri
89. Jupp Derwall
88. Stan Cullis
87. Mircea Lucescu
86. Vic Buckingham
85. Richard Moller Nielsen
84. Alberto Suppici
83. George Ramsay
82. Fulvio Bernardini
81. Silvia Neid

Despite winning the Premier League with Leicester City (unquestionably one of the greatest achievements in sporting history), Claudio Ranieri only finds himself 90th on FourFourTwo’s list.


Greatest managers ever: 80-71

80. Sepp Herberger
79. Enzo Bearzot
78. Leo Beenhakker
77. Marcelo Bielsa
76. Guy Roux
75. Walter Smith
74. Tina Theune
73. Didier Deschamps
72. Dettmar Cramer
71. Howard Kendall

Marcelo Bielsa, the current Leeds boss, inspired a whole generation of coaches with his football philosophy and finds himself 77th in the rankings.

Did you know that 76th-placed Guy Roux spent more than 40 years as manager of French side Auxerre?


Greatest managers ever: 70-61

70. Carlos Bianchi
69. Hennes Weisweiler
68. Cesar Luis Menotti
67. Gavriil Kachalin
66. Joachim Low
65. Carlos Bilardo
64. Fernando Santos
63. Emerich Jenei
62. Stefan Kovacs
61. Nevio Scala

Carlos Bianchi won titles in Argentina with Velez Sarsfield and Boca Juniors and is a five-time South American Coach of the Year.

Just above him in 66th place is Joachim Low, who spent 15 years as Germany’s head coach, winning the World Cup in 2014.


Greatest managers ever: 60-51

60. Tomislav Ivic
59. Vittoria Pozzo
58. Luis Carniglia
57. Frank Rijkaard
56. Don Revie
55. Carlos Alberto Parreira
54. Willie Maley
53. Franz Beckenbauer
52. Sven-Goran Eriksson
51. Jimmy Hogan

Don Revie has a statue outside Elland Road after leading Leeds United to the title in 1968-69 and 1973-74. He also won the FA Cup in 1972.

Franz Beckenbauer won the World Cup with West Germany in 1990, plus league ttles with Marseille and Bayern Munich. The legendary former footballer finds himself one place behind ex-England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.


Greatest managers ever: 50-41

50. George Graham
49. Aime Jacquet
48. Luis Aragones
47. Otto Rehhagel
46. Bobby Robson
45. Bill Struth
44. Tele Santana
43. Diego Simeone
42. Albert Batteux
41. Rafa Benitez

We’re now into the top 50 and the legendary names of management are coming thick and fast.

Sir Bobby Robson is ranked above the likes of Otto Rehhagel, Luis Aragones and Aime Jacquet, but Diego Simeone and Rafa Benitez sit above the former England manager in FourFourTwo’s eyes.


Greatest managers ever: 40-31

40. Jill Ellis
39. Luiz Felipe Scolari
38. Udo Lattek
37. Guus Hiddink
36. Zinedine Zidane
35. Bill Nicholson
34. Viktor Maslov
33. Kenny Dalglish
32. Jupp Heynckes
31. Helmut Schon

After becoming the first coach in history to win three consecutive Champions League titles, Zinedine Zidane is ranked as the 36th best manager of all time.

Jill Ellis led the United States to victory at the 2015 and 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cups and makes the top 40.


Greatest managers ever: 30-21

30. Jock Stein
29. Jurgen Klopp
28. Jose Villalonga
27. Mario Zagallo
26. Alf Ramsey
25. Herbert Chapman
24. Fabio Capello
23. Arsene Wenger
22. Bob Paisley
21. Bela Guttmann

Liverpool hero Jurgen Klopp was ranked 29th when FourFourTwo published their top 100 list in 2020. Give it a few more years and the revered German coach will certainly be pushing towards the top 20, if not the top 10.

Sir Alf Ramsey is, of course, the man who led England to World Cup glory back in 1966.

The late English coach is ranked just behind a host of legendary names including Herbert Chapman, Arsene Wenger and Bob Paisley.


Greatest managers ever: 20-11

20. Louis van Gaal
19. Nereo Rocco
18. Carlo Ancelotti
17. Ottmar Hitzfeld
16. Miguel Munoz
15. Vicente del Bosque
14. Giovanni Trapattoni
13. Marcelo Lippi
12. Jose Mourinho
11. Brian Clough

Jose Mourinho won’t be impressed to find himself outside the top 10, although the Portuguese’s stock has fallen even further since 2020.

Similarly, the late Brian Clough would no doubt have plenty to say after being omitted from FourFourTwo’s top 10.


Greatest managers ever: 10-1

10. Valeriy Lobanovskyi
9. Ernst Happel
8. Helenio Herrera
7. Matt Busby
6. Arrigo Sacchi
5. Pep Guardiola
4. Bill Shankly
3. Johan Cruyff
2. Rinus Michels
1. Alex Ferguson


All of these coaches are contenders for the title of greatest manager of all time.

However, it’s Ferguson who took the crown thanks to his extraordinary spell with Man Utd.

The Scot finished ahead of Pep Guardiola, Bill Shankly, Johan Cruyff and Rinus Michels to take top spot.

Congratulations, Sir Alex – and many happy returns on your 80th birthday!


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