The Most Successful Soccer Managers Of All Time

Who's the most successful soccer manager of all time? With the 2018/19 season in full swing, we’ve decided to take a look at the tactical masters behind the beautiful game - the managers.

We delve into the history books to uncover the managers responsible for unprecedented success. With more than 900 clubs in Europe, and countless numbers of managers associated with each, it’s taken us a while - but here (in no particular order) are four who we think have earned their place in Cloudbet’s all-time Soccer Manager Hall of Fame.

1. Brian Clough

When Brian Clough, otherwise known as ‘Cloughie’, arrived at Derby County in June 1967, the club were bouncing between profitless mid-to-low positions in Division Two, clearly stuck in the midst of what had become a decade-long rut. That, however, was soon about to change. With Clough, came glory. And plenty of it.

During only his second season in charge, and with a record run of 22 unbeaten games, Clough led Derby County to promotion after an 11 year long wait. And it was anything but a long wait for more success, with the club topping Division One and becoming Champions of England only two years later in 1972.

Under their new manager, Derby had transitioned from a struggling Division Two side to serious contenders for the 1973 European Cup

But for Clough, there existed a bigger challenge off the pitch. Discord and disputes with the board of directors arose, as did his resignation in 1973, and Derby’s consequential fall from grace was all but imminent. Clough, however, continued his rise to fame.

Open to new challenges, the managerial sensation found himself back in Division Two, this time at the helm of a struggling Nottingham Forest. His revolutionary touch not only guided the club to promotion in 1977, but secured them a place in history - with their performance the following season securing the top spot of Division One for the first time in the club’s 113 year long existence.

As well as adding the League Cup and the FA Community Shield to their expanding trophy cabinet, Clough also led his team to dominance in Europe. Winning two successive European Cups in 1979 and 1980 not only earnt him silverware, but newfound global respect too.

Although he failed to reach the same levels of success during the remainder of his time at Forest, Clough’s managerial impact was all but indisputable. In bringing national and European fame to previous outcasts Derby County and Nottingham Forest, he did something that had never been seen before at either club - and hasn’t quite been seen since.

And whilst our opinion of the man may be a little lesser compared to that he had of himself, ‘I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one’ - we believe his ability to take clubs from rags to riches rightly affords him historical sporting recognition.

2. Sam Allardyce

Unlike Clough, Sam Allardyce didn’t achieve European soccer success. In fact, he didn’t really manage to gain extensive nationwide success, especially not when compared to the achievements of the other men he is listed amongst. So how exactly has Allardyce managed to secure himself a spot in our Hall of Fame?

Take a look at this:

  1. The year is 1996, and Allardyce has just taken over Notts County. Unable to adapt to his new style, the club are relegated after finishing at the bottom of the table. Next season, however, the club find their feet and the back of the net, topping the Third Division with an unbelievable 17 point margin.
  2. This time it’s 2008, and Blackburn Rovers are in trouble. 3 wins out of 17 are not enough for the club’s board of directors, who hastily replace manager Paul Ince with Allardyce in December. Starting off with an unbeaten run in nine games, he certainly makes his appointment known, and the Rovers manage to avoid the relegation they so fearfully dreaded.
  3. 2011 sees Allardyce summoned to a humiliated West Ham United, who - after having won just 7 out of 38 games the year before - had lost their place in the Premier League. One season under the main man is all that’s needed for the club to gain promotion from the Championship, and West Ham find themselves back amongst the big dogs just one year after their relegation.
  4. A struggling Sunderland turn to Allardyce in the October of 2015. 19th in the league, and with only 2 wins out of 10, relegation was looming - but that’s all it ever turned out to be. Safe in the hands of Allardyce, Sunderland manage to pull off the great escape from the relegation zone and keep their place in the Premier League.
  5. It’s 2016, and Crystal Palace are far from shining. Alan Pardew is sacked after managing just 1 win out of 11, and guess who is brought in to steer the club clear of the bottom of the table? Allardyce, of course, and he does just that - helping Palace to dodge the descent into the Championship in a mere matter of months.
His managerial reputation precedes him, and it’s for that reason that we’ve included him in our Hall of Fame.

Surprised? We’re not. Whether he’s keeping clubs afloat, or reversing relegations, Allardyce has become somewhat of a soccer saviour for those desperate to see their clubs survive, or avoid, the depths of despair.

Yes, he may not have reached the highest of heights, but you can’t deny that he’s got a undeniable talent for avoiding the lowest of the lows.

3. Sir Alex Ferguson

When Sir Alex Ferguson joined the struggling Manchester United in the winter of 1986, the club were 21st in the First Division and facing the serious risk of losing their coveted spot in the top tier of English soccer. Results on the pitch were on the decline, and the situation off the pitch wasn’t much better. The destructive drinking culture associated with the sport had consumed the players, hampering their fitness and impacting the outcome of matches. Manchester United were in need of an overhaul, and that’s exactly what Sir Alex set about to do. He pushed for winning performances through the enforcement of discipline, the promotion of ambition, and the implementation of ruthlessness. The overall aim? To win, at all costs.

26 years. 38 trophies. 1 manager.

Unlike Clough and Allardyce though, Sir Alex didn’t produce immediate results. Five years into his career, Manchester United were still without a League win - but the general skepticism surrounding his appointment, along with the shouts of ‘Ta ra Fergie’ from the stands, quickly dissolved. Sir Alex had acquired an undeniable sense of respect as a result of his management style, and the trophies and titles inevitably followed.

In 1993 the team become League Champions, after a 26 year wait. In 1999, they manage the Treble - claiming the League, the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League title. In 2000, they achieve a record League win, with the team ending the season with a clear 18 point margin. In 2008, the Red Devils do the double, winning the League and their second UEFA Champions League title.

And those are just the highlights.

Throughout his career with the Reds, Sir Alex won 13 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 2 Champions League titles, 1 Cup Winners’ Cup, 1 UEFA Super Cup, 1 Intercontinental Cup and 1 FIFA Club World Cup. When he retired in 2013, he left Manchester United as its longest serving and most successful manager to date. Five years later and no one, across any League or club, has even come close to matching such a record.

4. Josep ‘Pep’ Guardiola

Unlike the others in this list, Pep Guardiola is still in the middle of his career - making his inclusion in our Hall of Fame all the more significant. His mere 11 years in the job have produced statistics that most coaches could only dream of achieving, but it’s his time managing Barcelona F.C that really set the benchmark for success in the soccer industry.

Having spent the majority of his career as a player at the club, Pep returned to Barcelona F.C. in 2007 to begin his competitive coaching career with their B Team. He restructured the team, increased the amount of freedom players had on the pitch, and demanded results. By the end of the season, the B team were challenging the finesse and quality of teams a whole League ahead of them. They won the playoffs, and were promoted, but so was Pep - who found himself in charge of the first team after only 1 year of coaching.

What he then went on to do was nothing short of astonishing.

In his first season in charge, Pep created history by winning the treble.

Barcelona became the first ever club in Spanish history to lift the La Liga trophy, the Copa del Rey, and the UEFA Champions League trophy in the same season. Over the next three years he continued to guide Barcelona to dominance, and he ended his time at the club with 14 titles to his name; another record breaking statistic, and a clear indication of his exceptional coaching talent.

After a sabbatical in America, Pep arrived in Germany ahead of his appointment to Bayern Munich in 2013. Unsurprisingly, the club won four trophies in his first season, and continued to win the League in every other season under his authority.

Having proved himself in Spain and Germany, Pep then looked to England in 2016. His first season at Manchester City proved far less fruitful than his previous campaigns, with the manager openly calling the trophyless year a failure for his career. And whilst he’s still yet to deliver more than a Carabao Cup and a singular League win at the club, 2018 has the potential to be a record-breaking year for the Mancunian side.

But whatever the outcome of City’s 2018 campaign may be, Pep has already secured his place in our Hall of Fame. His ‘take the ball, pass the ball’ mentality has revolutionised the way his teams play, encouraging a free-flowing style of soccer that is steeped in creativity. Johan Cruyff, former manager and mentor to Pep, once said ‘Guardiola wants to make football better’, and we think he has done just that.

Have we missed any? Which soccer manager do you think deserves a place in our hall of fame? Tweet us with your selection

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