Choosing the 10 best footballers of all time? That is easy. You simply take your pick of Diego Maradona or Pele and work your way down the list. But the 10 greatest post-war managers from around the world? That has been a fearsomely difficult challenge. No doubt some of the selections that follow will be regarded as highly provocative.
Attempts to establish strict criteria proved almost as difficult as choosing between Clough, Ferguson, and Zagallo. After all, you are not just comparing different eras but pitting club managers against some who have only worked in the international sphere.
Do you push for the great one-club men, like Busby or Paisley, or those who proved that they could succeed all around Europe, like Capello and Trapattoni? Do you give extra marks for the game's great stylists and how much should this list reflect the game's tactical innovators?
Here is my list:
10. Arsene Wenger
Ranked above managers who have won more and with very good reason. A champion of style and sporting beauty and, most remarkably, a football man you can take at his word. There is not a single club that has not coveted him in the last ten years.
9. Miguel Munoz
He inherited the great Real Madrid side and probably did not have to do much from the sidelines as Puskas, Di Stefano, and the rest stuffed Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 to win the European Cup in his first season. But he also went on to win nine titles and build the European club champions of 1966.
8. Bela Guttman
Jose Mourinho calls himself a special one but this brilliant and brash Hungarian is credited with establishing the cult of the manager. One of the pioneers of the attacking 4-2-4 formation, he enjoyed his greatest success at Benfica where, having recruited Eusebio, he secured successive European Cup victories in the early Sixties.
"The third season is fatal," he said, although he rarely stayed long enough to find out.
7. Brian Clough
No doubt he would put himself top of the pile and his feats were truly extraordinary. He turned Derby County into league champions and Nottingham Forest into the best team in Europe.
What a shame he was never given the opportunity to prove his talents with England but then he might have rubbed everyone up the wrong way like he did at Leeds.
6. Bob Paisley
Still the only coach to have three European Cup medals—although, unfairly, no knighthood—the unassuming son of a County Durham miner would have been too modest to trot out his great signings like Dalglish, Hansen, Souness, and Rush.
"Mind you, I wasn't only here for the good years," he once said. "One year, we came second."
5. Bill Shankly
The builder of another of football's great institutions, Shankly would surely have shared in Liverpool's later success in Europe had he not retired far too prematurely. It is hard to believe that Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan would have gone on to those later triumphs without his colossal influence.
4. Sir Alex Ferguson
After knocking over the Old Firm in Scotland, he has built a modern-day monster out of Manchester United and has done so with teams of flair and adventure. A giant of football and yet his CV will always have an unmissable hole without that second European Cup. Clinch that and perhaps we can elevate him into the top three.
3. Ernst Happel
A man of few words but many trophies, the Austrian was league champion in four different countries (Holland, Belgium, Germany, and Austria). He also led Holland to the 1978 World Cup final.
But what most impresses is that unfashionable Feyenoord and Hamburg have won the European Cup once each; Happel was the common denominator. Even Clough might be impressed at that CV.
2. Sir Matt Busby
If club-building scores high, then it is hard to look past the man who took over the reins at Manchester United in 1946 when Old Trafford was literally a bomb site. He then faced the most difficult of all rebuilding jobs when he lost a brilliant team, and almost his own life, in the great tragedy of Munich.
Fergie has won more trophies but was there ever a more deserved triumph than United's 1968 European Cup victory?
1. Rinus Michels
The Dutchman, who died in 2005, was named coach of the century by FIFA in 1999. For once, that organisation knew what it was doing.
The originator of Total Football, Michels won the European Cup with Ajax, the Spanish league with Barcelona and Euro 88 with Holland. He should also have won the 1974 World Cup. What's more, you would have paid Wembley prices to watch his teams.
I have chosen these 10 managers, managers with whom I was unfamiliar with look more deserving.
So, kindly comment on my selection.
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