Gerrard, Lampard, Vieira: Ranking every Premier League manager based on their playing career

Premier League managers

Frank Lampard was appointed as Everton manager on Sunday evening as he makes his return to the dugout.

The former midfielder was sacked by Chelsea in January 2021 but will be returning to the Premier League in another managerial role at Goodison Park.

It gives England’s top-flight a real Football Manager feel when it comes to current bosses. Those who have played the popular video game will have seen former players become managers as you play through the seasons.

That’s certainly the case in real life with the likes of Mikel Arteta, Steven Gerrard, Patrick Viera and Lampard all hanging up their boots and becoming coaches in recent years.

While everyone is aware how good the four aforementioned managers were during their playing days, what about the other 16 Premier League bosses?

Well, we’ve turned to trusty Tiermaker and cast our opinions on all 20 Premier League managers based on their playing careers.

Now, all 20 were better than we’ll ever be – even if some of them failed to make it in the professional game. So when we say they were ‘awful’ it’s relative compared to the manager considered to be ‘the best.’

So, without further ado, we’ve ranked all 20 Premier League managers from ‘awful’ to ‘the best’.

Premier League managers quiz: Can you name these coaches who were gone in an instant?

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Who is this manager who lasted just 84 days?

Awful

Thomas Frank (Brentford)
Bruno Lage (Wolves)

Frank failed to play professionally with the Dane entering coaching in his mid-20s. By 31, he was coaching Denmark’s youth sides and has gone on to be something of a revolutionary figure at Brentford.

Lage was as young as 21 when he started looking towards coaching at the Portuguese side Vitoria de Setubal. He spent eight years managing Benfica’s youth sides before working his way up to first team manager.

Thomas Frank

Not very good

Thomas Tuchel (Chelsea)
Ralf Rangnick (Manchester United)
Brendan Rodgers (Leicester)
Marcelo Bielsa (Leeds)
Graham Potter (Brighton)
Roy Hodgson (Watford)

Tuchel only played a few years in the second and third tiers of German football but had to retire at the age of 25 due to a knee injury.

Rangnick had a similarly underwhelming playing career. After coming through Stuttgart’s academy, he played in the lower leagues of German football.

Leicester boss, Rodgers, also had a knee injury to blame for ruining his playing career. Without that, there’s a belief he would have made it in the professional game. Instead, he played for Reading reserves as well as a few years in non-league.

A fantastic coach but Bielsa also didn’t have much of a playing career in Argentina. He played for Newell’s Old Boys, Instituto and Argentino de Rosaria before retiring aged 25. He then returned to Newell’s Old Boys to begin his coaching career.

Potter’s managerial career has probably already surpassed his playing career, which featured spells at Birmingham, Stoke and West Brom in the First Division. He retired at Macclesfield Town in League Two following the 2004/05 campaign.

Hodgson has managed far more clubs than he’s played for. The Watford boss was at Crystal Palace as a youngster but failed to make a first-team appearance. Spells in non-league continued with the likes of Tonbridge and Gravesend & Northfleet. He did also controversially play in South Africa for Berea Park, despite the sporting boycott of South Africa in effect at the time

Ralf Rangnick

Average

Eddie Howe (Newcastle)
David Moyes (West Ham)
Dean Smith (Norwich)
Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool)
Sean Dyche (Burnley)
Ralph Hasenhuttl (Southampton)

Howe is another who had to retire early due to a knee injury. However, the midfielder still played more than 200 times for Bournemouth in League One before a move to Portsmouth. He returned to Bournemouth but retired at 30.

Moyes won the title with Celtic in 1982 when his playing career peaked. He also had spells at Dunfermline and Preston before joining the coaching staff at the English club.

Norwich boss Smith never made it in the Premier League as a player. Instead, it was a lengthy career in the Football League playing for the likes of Walsall, Hereford United and Leyton Orient.

Klopp has previously insisted he wasn’t much of a player but he did play 11 seasons at Mainz in the second tier of German football. He was a striker at first but soon moved back to defence. Not a top tier player but certainly a top tier manager.

If you’ve never seen Dyche play before, you can probably guess what kind of footballer he was. He was a no-nonsense defender, becoming a Chesterfield legend. He captained the Non-League side to the FA Cup semi-final in 1997 where he scored during the first game that ended in a draw.

Hasenhuttl was a striker who played in his native Austria as well as Belgium and Germany. Between 1989 and 1994, he scored 56 goals in 172 games for Austria Vienna, winning three Austrian Bundesliga titles.

Jurgen Klopp

Very good

Mikel Arteta (Arsenal)
Antonio Conte (Tottenham)

Now we’re talking.

Arteta was a glorious player to watch. He never managed to break through at Barcelona but came to the UK after signing for Rangers. A move back to Spain and Real Sociedad followed before six enjoyable years at Everton. He finished his career with five campaigns at Arsenal, helping them win two FA Cups.

Fellow north London manager, Conte, was also a ‘very good’ player. Perhaps he can consider himself not to be in the ‘world class’ tier. After breaking through at Lecce, Conte played 13 seasons at Juventus and helped them to win the UEFA Cup, the Champions League and five Serie A titles. The fact he only managed 20 matches for Italy probably costs him an upgrade into the next tier.

Antonio Conte

World class

Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)
Patrick Vieira (Crystal Palace)
Frank Lampard (Everton)

Guardiola is remembered for being the midfield general for 11 years at Barcelona between 1990-2001. He helped the club to six league titles – including four on the bounce – as well as the European Cup in 1992. He finished his career with short stints at Brescia, Roma, Al-Ahli and Dorados de Sinaloa in Mexico.

English fans are fully aware of Vieira’s nine seasons at Arsenal where he captained the side to multiple trophies, including during the Invincible 2003/04 season. He went on to play for Juventus, Inter Milan and Man City.

While Vieira is an Arsenal legend, Lampard was very much a Chelsea legend. After starting his career at West Ham, the midfielder made 648 appearances and scored 211 goals for the Blues over 13 seasons. He’s the club’s record goalscorer and a true Premier League legend having won it three times.

He finished his career with a spell at Manchester City and then New York City FC.

Pep Guardiola

The best

Steven Gerrard (Aston Villa)

So we come on to ’the best.’

We all know what you’re saying. How can Gerrard be ranked higher than the likes of Guardiola, Vieira and Lampard if he didn’t even win the Premier League?

The answer? Because he was a better player in our opinion.

Don’t believe us? Well, Sir Alex Ferguson suggested that Gerrard would be the player he’d turn to if he wanted to replace Roy Keane at Man Utd by saying: “If you were looking for the player you would replace [Roy] Keane with, it’s Gerrard, without question,” Sir Alex Ferguson previously said. “He has become the most influential player in England, bar none.
“Not that Vieira lacks anything, but I think that Gerrard does more for his team than Vieira does.”

Meanwhile, Vieira himself said: “He was one of the best three players I faced in England.

“Keane and [Paul] Scholes were the others. Playing against Gerrard was . . . interesting. He was capable of doing anything in a game. He was always driving his team.”

Who are we to argue with Fergie and Vieira?

Steven Gerrard

Full rankings

So, there we have it. 

We’ve opted for Gerrard as the Premier League manager with ‘the best’ playing career.

But there’s no doubt a number of gaffers in the top-flight right now were pretty handy as players. 

We have three ‘world class’ midfielders in the form of Guardiola, Vieria and Lampard, while Arteta and Conte – two more midfielders – weren’t bad either.

But it’s also interesting to see a number of coaches who didn’t have a career of any kind as a player make the grade as managers. The likes of Frank and Lage didn’t play professionally while Tuchel, Rangnick, Rodgers, Bielsa, Potter and Hodgson are far better managers than players.

One thing is clear. Just because you were a good player, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be a good manager. And just because you failed to make a career for yourself as a player, it doesn’t mean you’re unable to cut your teeth as a manager at the top of the game.

Premier League managers

Bissouma to Man United | Aubameyang to Barcelona DONE | Hugo Ekitike to Newcastle (The Football Terrace)

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