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The world's top 5 managers

When Liverpool’s owners FSG recently revealed their managerial shortlist to replace Kenny Dalglish, they were roundly ridiculed for including the likes of Pep Guardiola, Marseille's Didier Deschamps, Borussia Dortmund’s Jürgen Klopp and Ajax's Frank de Boer.

It says much about the quality of managers now operating in the world – not to mention how far Liverpool have slipped – that only some of these names trips readily off the tongue as the world’s greatest.

But just who are the finest five managers in the world today, in no particular order, and where do they go from here? Total Football takes a look...

1) Sir Alex Ferguson

Club: Manchester United

Age: 70

Nationality: Scottish

Not just one of the finest today, but one of the greatest who has ever lived. Ferguson ranks alongside the likes of Paisley, Clough and Michels as a grandmaster of his craft.

Fergie began his managerial career at lowly East Stirlingshire aged just 32, but his time in Scotland is rightly remembered for his time at Aberdeen, where he usurped the Old Firm and ultimately led the club to European success against all the odds.

He moved to Old Trafford in 1986 and endured a troubled start at the sleeping giant, coming close to the sack at one stage before being rescued by that Mark Robbins goal.

From that point, he never looked back and the headlines alone from his records’ at United speak for themselves: 12 league titles, two Champions League triumphs and five FA Cups.

This includes numerous squad overhauls and continuing to achieve even when the team is in transition. The Scot has also shown considerable skill in the transfer market, bringing in world-class figures ahead of the game like Cantona, Ronaldo and Vidic.

While Fergie has been labelled tactically naive at times, the flipside is his sides play some of the most exciting football around. And, while he is rightly criticised for his behaviour at times, he is also highly respected by younger managers who speak in the highest terms of the man because of the advice he is always willing to offer.

Despite being 70, Ferguson shows no inclination for packing things in. As long as his health holds up, the rest of the Premier League will have to wait a wee while yet to raise a glass of red to his retirement.

And, having reached the Champions League final and failed twice in recent seasons, suspicions are that he’ll hold on for one more taste of European triumph.

2) Pep Guardiola

Club: Unattached

Age: 41

Nationality: Spanish

After a legendary career as a player at the club, Guardiola became Barcelona manager in 2008. His first and thus far, only job in management, but what a job!

In his first season alone he clinched the treble winning the La Liga, Copa Del Rey and Champions League trophies. He was the youngest ever manager to win the latter.

His subsequent time in charge, up until last season at least, brought only more success. More titles, more cups and more accolades for a team that some call the greatest ever.

And therein lays the rub. He knitted together the unbelievable talents of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta et al into a seemingly unstoppable force, but the sheer quality he had to play with is enough to leave question marks.

This is despite the fact he tactically bested many managers with vastly more experience in the game, or the clear evidence he thinks about tactics more than just about any other manager, always seeking new players (think Ibrahimovic) or new ways of playing to best his opponents.

These may not always pan out as planned (think Ibrahimovic again) but they undoubtedly reveal a man intent on evolution, rather than resting on the laurels of the supreme talents at his disposal.

Still, until Guardiola enjoys success at another club, there will continue to be those who wonder whether he is truly one of the greatest managers ever, or merely a great manager in charge of one of the greatest sides ever.

This is all the more reason for Pep to take his time picking his next project, despite the lengthy list of suitors who undoubtedly crave his signing. Right now, nobody knows where he will pitch up.

3) Jose Mourinho

Club: Real Madrid

Age: 49

Nationality: Spanish

Few divide opinion as much as one José Mário dos Santos Mourinho Félix. The self-styled “Special One” has achieved great success everywhere he’s gone and is renowned as a master tactician and man-motivator, but he has equally left a trail of controversy in his wake.

He first came to global attention during his time at Porto, where he master-minded a win over Martin O’Neil’s Celtic in the 2003 Uefa Cup final in a match marked by hysterical time-wasting by his team.

A year later, Porto bested Manchester United over two legs in a Champions League tie, scoring late to inspire a mad dance down the touchline from the main man.

His subsequent success in the final convinced Roman Abramovich to take him to Chelsea, hoping he could fulfil their European dreams.

That piece of silverware would ultimately elude Mourinho in his time at the Blues, but it was about the only one that did. He won the Premier League and League Cup in his first season, retained the title in his second, and later added a cup-double for good measure.

Despite this success, the Special One never truly saw eye-to-eye with the club’s owner, and he would ultimately depart and wind-up at Inter Milan.

His time at Inter was arguably even more impressive, adding another European success to his CV, together with Serie A titles and a couple of domestic cups.

The victory in the 2010 Champions League final over Bayern Munich would actually be his final game with the club, with Real Madrid snapping him up.

His time in Madrid has not been plain sailing, taking in ugly battles with Barca on and off the pitch. But by bringing the title back to Madrid, the first in four years, and overseeing record-breaking returns of points and goals in the process, Jose has been an undoubted success there.

Mourinho has now signed a two-year extension to his deal at the Bernabeu.

He reportedly harbours ambitions to succeed Sir Alex one day and build a legacy – the one thing missing from his CV. Still, fears he brings too much media baggage with him will likely linger with the club’s directors.

4) Jürgen Klopp

Club: Borussia Dortmund

Age: 44

Nationality: German

A recent addition to the “world’s greatest” stable in most people’s eyes, but the wonders Klopp has worked at Dortmund demand attention and respect.

He started his managerial career at Mainz 05, the club where he’d spent all his playing days, enjoying a mixed seven years.

The highs included taking the diminutive side into the Bundesliga for the first time and qualifying for the 2005-06 Uefa Cup. Although, just a year later he would oversee relegation and, having subsequently failed to secure promotion, Klopp resigned in 2008.

At that point, you’d have got great odds on his featuring in this list just four years later. That’s testament to his success since.

Klopp arrived at Dortmund after a season in which they finished 13th, but he guided them to victory in the DFB-Supercup over champions Bayern Munich in his first year in charge.

The club would finish sixth, then fifth the following year, as Klopp continued to implement his footballing philosophy. Broadly speaking, this mirrors that of the current German national team, with an emphasis on youth, swift attacking play and a confident but respectful mentality.

He won back-to-back Bundesliga titles in his next two seasons, setting a record of 25 games unbeaten in the latter season. Most recently, his side swept away Bayern Munich 5-2 in the German Cup final.

As mentioned, he has already ruled himself out of the Liverpool gig. In short, he’s staying put and rightly so.

A historic third consecutive title isn’t out of the question and his side are likely to make waves in the Champions League next year too.

A future in charge of the up and coming national side, if and when Joachin Löw eventually steps down, is also a distinct possibility. Don’t rule him out of being a World Cup winner one day, a feat that would put him on this list indisputably.

5) Vicente Del Bosque

Spanish national team manager

Age: 61

Nationality: Spanish

From a potential World Cup winner to a man with that already in his locker. Taking over from Luis Aragones, who had overseen Spain’s victory in Euro 2008, Del Bosque went one step further in South Africa, leading the nation to their first ever World Cup win by beating Holland.

To anybody who thinks this was a simple task with the talent available, one need only glance at the Argentina side managed by Diego Maradona in that same tournament.

Argentina, boasting the likes of Messi and Tevez, were destroyed by the Germans, who were then in turn put in their place by Del Bosque’s team. His Spanish side married mesmerising passing with devastating attacks, together with a surprisingly steely backline.

Of course, a World Cup victory is not, in itself, enough to write one’s names in this pantheon (one only has to look how far Scolari’s stock has slumped). But Del Bosque boasts an enviable record as a club coach too.

He coached Real Madrid from 1999 to 2003, overseeing the club’s most successful period in the modern era. This included two La Liga titles and two Champions League victories for his team of Galaticos.

Then, in what must rank as one of the most absurd sackings ever (even for Madrid), Del Bosque was dispensed with the day after securing the club’s 29th La Liga title, ostensibly because he had “lost the dressing room” but seemingly because he had failed to win the Champions League again.

Real Madrid would struggle and go through many a manager after this farce, with only the arrival of Mourinho restoring order and glory.

Next up for Vicente is taking Spain to this summer’s Euros. It will be a tougher gig and he will have to overcome the absence of Villa and coax better form from the likes of Torres.

Still, with him at the helm, few would bet against the Spanish achieving a historic third straight international title.

Narrowly missing out: Arsene Wenger, Jupp Heynckes, Guus Hiddink, Marcello Lippi, Roberto Mancini.

By Ian Ford

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