When you think of a great football manager through the years, a lot of those that spring to mind have won European’s greatest competition – the Champions League.
It’s the biggest prize of all at club level and here we chart some of the best football managers from the competition’s history.
Carlo Ancelotti – 2x AC Milan 2003, 2007 / 1x Real Madrid 2014
Arguably one of the greatest Champions League managers of all time, Ancelotti is tied with Bob Paisley for three Champions League/European Cup triumphs.
It could have been so much more for the Italian as well, who also finished runner-up in the competition following that mighty collapse against Liverpool in 2005 when leading 3-0 at half time, before eventually losing on penalties to Rafa Benitez’s underdogs in one of the greatest Champions League finals of all time
He added to the two with AC Milan, by completing ‘La Decima’ with Real Madrid in 2014 with victory over Atletico Madrid.
Ancelotti became a Premier League manager with Chelsea intending to add another European title to his extensive trophy cabinet but was never able to fulfil Roman Abramovich’s hopes and ambitions of another European title during his time at Stamford Bridge, despite being successful at domestic level.
His European success has meant he’s very rarely been out of a top-level club job, having managed seven sides in the competition – adding Parma, Juventus, PSG, Bayern Munich and Napoli to those who he has won the competition with.
Pep Guardiola – 2x Barcelona 2009, 2011
Despite domestic dominance with Bayern Munich and Manchester City, his record over the last few years in the competition is poor, however he deserves to be in this shortlist for those two victories.
He swept all before him in 2009 and considering it was his first season in full-time management, it was some achievement to pick up the treble and pick up the Champions League title.
Guardiola’s style of play transformed the European game as he brought two European successes to the Nou Camp.
But much like Ancelotti, he could have added to the titles but for their semi-final failure against Inter Milan in one of the most famous knockout ties in the history of the competition.
A Jose Mourinho masterclass led the Italian side came back from 1-0 down with a fine showing to win the first leg 3-1, and only lose 1-0 at the Nou Camp in the second leg.
Add to that the fact that the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted, closing airspace and forcing Barca to travel 1,000km by bus, then it was a tie of epic proportions.
Add to that the dramatic semi-final with Spurs last season, and there are few occasions where his sides have underperformed, but despite all that, he definitely deserves to be amongst the top managers for the way he achieved the two Champions League titles.
Sir Alex Ferguson (2x Manchester United 1999, 2008)
You couldn’t have the list of best Champions League managers without including the Manchester United legend.
As well as being one of the best Premier League managers around, the Scot scooped two Champions League titles, the first back in 1999 with that famous win over Bayern Munich.
Going into stoppage time, the Red Devils trailed 1-0 before Teddy Sheringham levelled matters and then the comeback was complete as current boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer flicked in another Sheringham shot to spark wild scenes of celebration in the Nou Camp.
‘Fergie’ had to wait another nine years before reaching the final, and again it ended in glory in dramatic circumstances.
They came up against fellow English side Chelsea, and neither side could be separated in the pouring rain in Kyiv, meaning the dreaded penalty shootout.
Cristiano Ronaldo missed from the spot, but Nicolas Anelka fired wide for the Blues before skipper John Terry untimely slipped on his run-up and fired wide to give United a second title.
His 100 per cent winning record ended though when they were outclassed by Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in 2009, and they repeated the feat in 2011.
Despite those disappointments, he will go down as one of the true European greats.
Jose Mourinho (Porto 2004; Inter Milan 2010)
How could we have a list of the best Champions League managers without ‘The Special One’ making an appearance?
His 2004 success with Porto was one of the biggest surprises as his side took on a number of the European big boys, including Manchester United, before seeing off Monaco in the final.
That paved the way for the Portuguese to move into the big leagues, starting with Chelsea, and with the backing of Roman Abramovich, turned them into Premier League title winners, but European success was never to follow.
Arguably his greatest achievement though was winning the European title with Inter as he produced a tactical masterclass against the previously unstoppable Barcelona in the semi-final in 2010, preventing them from a potential third title in as many years.
He couldn’t quite muster any further success when moving on to Real Madrid despite helping them progress past the Round of 16, which had previously been a bit of a jinx for Los Galacticos in recent years.
Since then it’s all been a tad disappointing, and though he won the Europa League with Manchester United in 2017 following the arrival of one of the biggest Premier League transfers in Paul Pogba, he has been unable to reproduce the goods on the biggest stage of them all.
Even though it’s been a bit downhill of late, you cannot underestimate the impact he had in the competition.
Zinedine Zidane (3x Real Madrid 2016, 2017, 2018)
He may not have fared that well domestically for the Spanish giants, but you can certainly say he’s delivered on the European level at the Bernabeu.
The fact he picked up three titles in his first three years as manager says it all, and though some may say with the squad at his disposal they should be winning the competition regularly, it’s altogether different achieving it year after year.
In winning his first European title as manager in 2016, he joined an illustrious list of men to win the competition as both a player and a manager (Miguel Munoz, Giovanni Trapattoni, Johan Cruyff, Carlo Ancelotti, Frank Rijkaard, and Pep Guardiola).
He joins another illustrious list with only Carlo Ancelotti and Bob Paisley to win three titles and after a brief break away from the hotseat at the Bernabeu, he will be keen to add to that tally in 2020.
If he does it, he will have to go down as one, if not, the best manager in the competition’s history and you cannot argue with statistics, surely?
Champions League Winning Managers from 1993 to 2019
|Louis van Gaal
|Vicente del Bosque
|Vicente del Bosque
|Roberto Di Matteo