European football: Greatest managers of 2012/13

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Top class managers are hard to find, and the best clubs are always in a never-ending search for one. 

With the season about to end, and the manager merry-go-round about to start, this list includes some of the players who might state their claim as the best in Europe. Here's rating managers in Europe's top five leagues (Germany, Spain, England, Italy and France) this season:

15. Michael Laudrup | Swansea City

When Michael Laudrup took over from Brendan Rodgers as the manager of Swansea, he had a difficult job on his hands. The club had just lost Joe Allen, Scott Sinclair and Gylfi Sigurdsson, who were among the clubs best performers last season. But Laudrup delved into the market he knew best, the Spanish League, and bought in more than just able replacements. 

In Michu, he definitely bought the signing of the season. The Dane also lead the Swans to their first ever major trophy, with a win in the Capital One Cup in February. Swansea have also impressed with their all out attacking play in the Premier League, as they finished with a creditable ninth place finish.

14. Carlo Ancelotti | Paris Saint Germain

Even though PSG have by far the most talented squad in France, Ancelotti still had work to do to convert the group of stars into a well-functioning single unit in a short period of time. And in this, the Italian succeeded admirably. Sticking to the Italian mantra of keeping a solid defence, he let star signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic to run amuck in attack. 

He also bought out the best in players such as Marco Verratti and Maxwell - but especially so in Blaise Matuidi, who has evolved to be one of the most complete midfielders in the country. Ancelotti also drove his team into the Champions League quarterfinals, coursing through some tricky fixtures on the way.

13. Andre Villas-Boas | Tottenham Hotspur

Taking over from Harry Redknapp was not going to be an easy task after the Englishman had lead them to a fourth place finish last season. And despite the sales of Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart, AVB managed to still keep them competitive. With some brilliant buys in the transfer market, he increased the depth of the squad and made them play entertaining football.

AVB also showed great tactical awareness by moving Bale to the centre, a role in which he has been frighteningly effective. Even though Spurs missed out on Champions League football for next season, Villas-Boas has shown that he is capable of leading the club exactly there in the years to come.

12. Francesco Guidolin | Udinese

Francesco Guidolin never ceases to amaze. Despite his best players consistently leaving the club, Guidolin inevitably still finds a way to finish near the top every season. This season he was at it again, leading Udinese to a fifth place finish in Serie A despite the loss of star players Kwadwo Asamoah and Mauricio Isla to Juventus. 

This is indeed a great achievement for a team that has no established stars except for captain Antonio di Natale. The lion's share of the credit for this achievement should be given to Guidolin. 

11. Walter Mazzarri | Napoli

Another Italian coach who has over-performed again this season is Napoli's Walter Mazzarri, who lead his team to second place in the table despite the loss of star forward Ezequiel Lavezzi. Napoli have been on the rise ever since Mazzarri assumed the mantle and this season was probably his best fro Napoli. 

He changed tactics to accommodate for the loss of Lavezzi, and also saw through a minor overhaul in defence to maintain Napoli's status as a major force in Italian football - all working on a negative budget.

10. Tito Vilanova | Barcelona

As a result of their embarrassing 7-0 aggregate loss against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals, people tend to forget just how succesful the rest of Barcelona's season was. The Camp Nou outfit still leads the league by a long margin, and is on course to equal the record points tally for a La Liga season.

This has been in no small part due to Vilanova's tactics. He bought out the best in Cesc Fabregas by thrusting him into a prominent role within the team, and also showed ample maturity in rotating the squad. His importance has been underlined by the fact that Barcelona was in blazing form up until his tumour forced absence, wherein Barca's form started to stutter.

9. Antonio Conte | Juventus

After winning their first Scudetto in nine years last year, Juventus was again the best team in Italy this year, finishing a comfortable first - nine points ahead of Napoli. And much credit has again to be given to their dynamic manager - Antonio Conte. 

The Italian took charge of an ailing side and converted them into champions - and has kept them there as well. At no point in the season did Juventus look like slipping up on their hold on the title. Conte also took them to the quarterfinals of the Champions League in what was their first appearance in the competition after a three year hiatus.

8. Manuel Pellegrini | Malaga

Before the start of the season, Malaga lost their best player of last season in Santi Cazorla. Still Pellegrini was unfazed and led a Malaga charge on multiple fronts. Keeping things simple, and with an approach centred on a rock solid defence, Pellegrini dealt aptly with the loss of star players and lead his team all the way to the quarterfinals of the Champions League in its maiden appearance in the competition. 

The teams La Liga form was also impressive considering the squad, with the team challenging for  a top four spot until a few weeks ago.

7. Sir Alex Ferguson | Manchester United

After the last day drama of the 2011/12 season where the Red Devils lost the Premier league title in the dying seconds, many expected Sir Alex to return with a vengeance. And return he did. 

United played brilliant football throughout the season, and landed the Premier League crown with plenty to spare. With astute dealings in the transfer market, the Scot transformed a side which was at times uninspiring last season into genuine champions. Even though Ferguson is retiring this season, his legacy will still live on for long years to come.

6. Armin Veh | Eintracht Frankfurt

When Eintracht Frankfurt returned to the Bundesliga after promotion from the second division last season, few could have predicted the impact they would have on the top division. Frankfurt sizzled, and even led the league at one point. With no star names on their roster, much of the credit for the success of the team should go down to the coach. 

Veh, who won the Bundesliga with Stuttgart in 2007, lead the club to a sixth place finish, which guarantees them European action next season. For a club that was expected to struggle for survival within the league, this is indeed a remarkable achievement and for this Veh gets a spot on this list.

5. Philippe Montanier | Real Sociedad

Frenchman Philippe Montanier has been probably the biggest reason for Real Sociedad's push for Champions League football next season. Montanier rescued a side that had been lost in mid-table obsurit for over a decade and made them challenge for the top four. And irrespective of whether they achieve it or not Montanier can look back at a job well done.

He made la Real one of the best counter-attacking sides in the league and after a difficult start, their form has been exceptional. They were the first side to beat Barcelona this season, and have lost only two of their last 25 matches. With the Frenchman set to leave for Stade Rennais this summer, his successor will definitely have some big boots to fill.

4. Vincenzo Montella | Fiorentina

Few expected Fiorentina to challenge for Champions League places this season. But in the end, if it had not been for a late Milan surge in the final 10 minutes on the final day, the Viola could well have found themselves a spot in Europe's premier club event. The main catalyst for change at Fiorentina this season has been their manager Montella. 

The former Italian international striker built a side which impressed with their slick interplay and solid defence, and was at times the most exciting team to watch in the Serie A. He bought in arguably the signings of the season in Borja Valero and Gonzalo Rodriguez, as well as motivated the existing players to perform way beyond what was expected of them.

3. Jurgen Klopp | Borussia Dortmund

Even though Dortmund failed to retain the Bundesliga title that they had made their own over the past two seasons, there can be no doubt that their season has been successful. They reached the final of the Champions League for the first time since 1997, with some stellar displays throughout the tournament. They would eventually fall at the final hurdle, losing to domestic rivals Bayern. 

Their Bundesliga form was also decent, even though they finished a massive 25 points behind champions Bayern, it was still good enough for second place in the league. Still, this can be pardoned considering the fact that Klopp was managing a relatively small squad of players, and was trying to compete on multiple fronts with them.

2. Diego Simeone | Atletico Madrid

Diego Simeone has been a revelation at Atletico Madrid, with the Argentine galvanising the capital club into one that can challenge the likes of the very best. For much of the season, it looked as if someone would finally break the Barca-Real duopoly. 

They were comfortably the third best club in Spain - a title they have not held for some time now. Simeone also masterminded two title victories - with Atletico winning both the European Super Cup and the Copa del Rey this season, with Atletico beating teams with far superior sqauds for both these cups. Simeone has also shown great brains in the transfer market, wherein he managed to turn Atletico into a better side despite working on a negative budget. 

1. Jupp Heynckes | Bayern Munich

Sure, Bayern Munich have what is probably the best squad on the planet at the moment. But still, Bayern;s achievements this season are such that even the best team would find it hard to emulate. Heynckes led Bayern to a Champions League title for the first time in 12 years. The German also led Bayern to win the league with a record points tally (beating the previous best by a massive 10 points) and a record goal difference. This Bayern side also holds the record for the least number of goals conceded in a Bundesliga season, and the second most number of goals scored in one as well. 

These achievements speak volumes about the class of veteran manager Jupp Heynckes, and proves that he is more than worthy of the crown. In fact, after Bayern's mauling of Barcelona in the Champions League semis, England legend Gary Lineker commented, "Only one of these sides needs Guardiola, and its not Bayern Munich" - a statement which proves just how Heynckes has been this season. The veteran coach's success this season has ensured that the incoming Pep Guardiola of all people, will have extremely big shoes to fill.

Notable Mentions

Rafael Benitez (Chelsea), Steve Clark (West Bromwich Albion), Christophe Galtier (AS Saint Etienne), Remi Garde (Olympique Lyonnais), Christian Streich (SC Freiburg)


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