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Masterminds of the Game: The Best Managers in Champions League History

Posted 27 Jun 2023

The managers throughout the UEFA Champions League are true masterminds of the game, taking their team, and the sport, to new levels. We look at ten of the most influential managers in UEFA Champions League history.

Jupp Heynckes

A successful player known for his intelligence and scoring ability, it's not surprising that Heynckes has also found success as a manager. Heynckes has led Real Madrid, Tenerife, Benfica, and Bayern Munich, with the most success coming with Bayern Munich in the 2012-2013 season. That season, he led Bayern to championships in the Bundesliga League, the DFB-Pokal Cup, and the UEFA Champions League, marking a historical and unprecedented treble.

Arrigo Sacchi

Sacchi led AC Milan to back-to-back Champions League victories in 1989 and 1990, implementing an innovative and influential tactical approach. Sacchi led AC Milan to European Cup (later evolved into the UEFA Champions League) in 1989 and 1990. Sacchi was tactical and aggressive as a manager while implementing a "sacred zone" defence. His leadership, guidance, and style of play helped Milan find success throughout Europe and influenced numerous coaches.

Ottmar Hitzfeld

Hitzfeld won the Champions League with two different clubs. First with Borussia Dortmund in 1997 and later with Bayern Munich in 2001. With Dortmund, the club played a quick, exciting, and dynamic style of football. Bayern's championship squad had a strong defence and talented finishers at the net. Hitzfeld was strategic in his coaching style, adapting quickly to opponents and giving his teams the confidence to do the same, largely aiding their success.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson is widely regarded as one of the greatest managers ever. Ferguson led Manchester United to two Champions League titles in 1999 and 2008. In the 1998-1999 season, Ferguson's club won the treble by winning the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League. The Champions League victory was clinched dramatically and is one of the most memorable matches in Champions League history. Ferguson consistently managed disciplined teams. As a manager, he was regarded for his remarkable ability to inspire others and create winning cultures.

Carlo Ancelotti

Ancelotti has won the Champions League three times as a manager, with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007 and Real Madrid in 2014. Ancelotti coached numerous world-class players, including Paolo Maldini, Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Gareth Bale. He had a knack for guiding these stars while developing a strong supporting cast. His teams consistently showed strong teamwork, organisation, and a calm-under-pressure attitude, just as Ancelotti did.

Pep Guardiola

Guardiola has won the Champions League twice as a manager, with Barcelona in 2009 and 2011. Guardiola coached the likes of Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernandez, finding success with a high pressing and quick passing style. Utilising this, his squads were excellent at creating space, interchanging positions, and finding passing lanes. This style of play has been dubbed "tiki-taka," and many credit Guardiola with its invention. Now with Manchester City, Guardiola took the team to the 2021 Champions League Final before falling to Chelsea 0-1

Mauricio Pochettino

Pochettino has found recent success as manager of the Tottenham Hotspurs. In the 2018-2019 season, Pochettino leads the Spurs to the Champions League Final for the club's first time. Though falling to Liverpool, Pochettino's successful run has transformed Tottenham into a consistently strong team with young talent and a lively fan base. Now the incoming manager of Chelsea, there are high hopes that Pochettino will also lead them to success.

Zinedine Zidane

Zidane is one of the most successful and recognisable managers in Champions League history. In each of his first three seasons with Real Madrid, Zidane led his team to Champions League victory, making him the first modern-era manager to achieve such a feat. As a former Real Madrid player, Zidane quickly gained the trust of the fan base, players, and staff, aiding this successful campaign as manager.

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