Does a successful playing career equate to a successful manager? This question never escapes the mind of many football fans, which is why we at LV BET decided to dedicate an article to exploring exactly that.

In this post, we’ll identify the most successful managers to grace the football world, why ex-players tend to become managers and how to become a football manager. To close things off, we’ll reserve some space for a fascinating analysis.

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  • Past football players who became great managers
  • Why do ex-football players opt for a managerial career?
  • Can every football player become a manager?
  • How to become a manager
  • Does the manager’s past playing position affect their team’s play style?


Perhaps through a reluctance to let go of their dreamy playing days, many players obtain a coaching licence to kickstart their managerial career.

The goal? Achieve half as much success as a head coach as they did in their successful career as a player.

Granted, few players achieve this feat; but on the flip side, some players go on to win more in their coaching career than they ever did in their time playing football themselves.

Let’s start by having a cursory look at the most successful coaches of all time who once were football players.


Some would say that 1998 Ballon d’Or winner Zinédine Zidane was always destined for fame and glory, and while he achieved both as a player, he went on to repeat his success as the head coach of glory-hunters Real Madrid.

Zidane’s playing career started off from the youth of Cannes, France, before moving on to Italian giants Juventus and, finally, what went on to become his home in more ways than one: Real Madrid.

A stellar attacking midfielder, Zidane was a 1998 World Cup winner with France. He also bagged the 2001/02 edition of the UEFA Champions League, as well as many domestic titles in Italy and Spain.

After hanging his boots, the Frenchman shadowed Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid in 2014 as an assistant coach.

The Italian tactician was eventually sacked, and after Rafael Benítez’s brief interlude, Zidane was handed the keys to the kingdom.

Championing a classic 4-3-3 formation, the Frenchman went on to win 11 trophies with the Spanish giants; including the UEFA Super Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup, the UEFA Champions League, the Spanish Super Cup and two La Liga titles.


The Scot isn’t particularly known for his playing career, and for good reason. Ferguson’s career as a player was limited to the confines of Scotland, where he played for the likes of Queen’s Park, St Johnstone and Rangers, among other teams.

Ferguson’s managerial career, however, was much more prosperous than his playing career ever was.

After coaching East Stirling, St Mirren, Aberdeen and, for only 10 matches, Scotland, the Scot was appointed the role of first-team manager at Manchester United — a role he kept for a whopping 1,367 matches.

Winning leagues became somewhat of a habit for Ferguson, who hauled in so many trophies in the Manchester United trophy cabinet that it must have surely needed expanding at the time.

Ferguson won a total of 13 Premier League titles, 10 English Super Cup trophies, five English FA Cup trophies, two UEFA Super Cup trophies, two Champions League trophies and one FIFA Club World Cup title, solidifying his status as an incredible Manchester United legend.


Pep Guardiola is a man who has seen his fair share of trophies, both as a player and as a manager.

The Spaniard joined La Masia — Barcelona’s youth academy — at age 13 after showing great football prowess that ended up being brought into fruition over the years that followed.

After spending around a decade at Barcelona, Guardiola ventured to Italy, where he played for Brescia and Roma.

Over the course of his playing career, he won league titles, two Copa del Rey titles and two UEFA Super Cup titles, among others.

A return to his boyhood club was on the horizon for Pep Guardiola. In fact, he proved to be a world-class manager with both Barcelona and Bayern Munich before only somewhat repeating his success with Premier League side Manchester City.

At Barcelona, Guardiola coached the widely acclaimed ‘dream team’ to incredible success, winning the European Championship twice as well as other prestigious European cups. The tools of his successful spell were none other than Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, among others.

The only European title Guardiola has won since he parted from Barcelona was the FIFA Club World Cup, which he won with Bayern Munich in the 2013/14 season.

Since then, the Spaniard has been on the hunt for more European silverware; more specifically, bringing the Champions League trophy to Manchester.


Older football fans will likely remember Carlo Ancelotti’s playing days, when he played for only three teams in his entire career: Parma, Roma and AC Milan.

The Italian was a well-rounded central midfielder who won four Italian Cup titles with Roma and several European titles with AC Milan: two European cup titles, two European Super Cup titles and three Serie A titles.

Having said that, Ancelotti obtained something more important than any Champions League title during his time playing.

His most important time as a player was his tenure under the likes of Arrigo Sacchi — a pioneering Italian coach who completely revolutionised the world of football.

This important juncture in Ancelotti’s playing career meant that he’d opt for a coaching career post-retirement. When this eventually happened, he went on to coach several important European clubs; including Juventus, AC Milan, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

Ancelotti is the first coach and, to date, the only coach to win every major European domestic league title.

He won the Serie A during his time coaching AC Milan, the Premier League title as Chelsea manager, the LaLiga whilst coaching Real Madrid, the Bundesliga during his stint at Bayern Munich and the French league title while at PSG.


Johan Cruyff was a phenomenal Dutch attacking midfielder who played for Ajax, Barcelona and several other teams before his retirement.

A three-time winner of the Ballon d’Or, Cruyff also won several European cups, including three Champions League titles, one UEFA Super Cup and an Intercontinental Cup. This isn’t to mention his nine Dutch league titles, and six Dutch league cups.

Cruyff, however, was far from done when it came to the world of football. His coaching career kickstarted at Ajax, where he spent a little more than two seasons before flying to Spain and managing Barcelona.

In total, Cruyff secured a total of nine trophies as a manager, among which were one Champions League title and four Spanish league titles.

The Dutchman came close to winning a total of two European cups, but Barcelona fell short in the famous 1994 Champions League final loss to AC Milan, where the Italian side won 4-0.


Who we’ve mentioned above is only a small portion of players who, as managers, won Champions League titles or other major trophies.

There have been countless other players whose managerial careers did not bear fruit, which often results in their abandoning the role as the years roll on.

What more opportune moment to ask the real question: why do past football players opt for a managerial career after retirement?


As we’ve mentioned above, a player’s reluctance to abandon their footballing lives is most likely one of the strongest motivators for them to seek out a coaching licence immediately after their retirement.

This is especially the case for players who have won it all. Pulling together as a team and lifting a trophy at the end of a tiresome season is a sentiment that few players are willing to give up after hanging their boots.

The sad truth is that not many successful players go on to become equally successful coaches. Of the players mentioned above, only Zidane, Ancelotti and Cruyff qualify as both top-tier players and managers.

There are many examples of players who haven’t been half as successful as their playing career was, such as Frank Lampard, Gennaro Gattuso, Steven Gerrard and Patrick Vieira.

With that said, we might need to give these managers some more time to rack up more experience before flinging them into the ‘bad manager’ category.


Dressing room leaders are bound to occupy important positions in the future — ones which involve overshadowing operations, as well as the heavy responsibilities that come with them. This position can be anything from sporting directors and player agents to managerial careers.

The personality of the player in question weighs heavily on their job prospects, and it may well determine their performance as well.


Some players decide to become managers simply to put their experience and knowledge to good use.

Although both experience and knowledge aren’t strict prerequisites to becoming a successful manager, they do help. Zidane, for example, had Ancelotti as a mentor during his time as an assistant at Real Madrid.

The Frenchman had the opportunity to learn from the very best, giving him a head-start compared to other, more green managers his age.


If the appropriate licence exams are completed, yes, any football player can become a manager.

Yet, can any football player become a successful coach? Our answer wouldn’t remain the same.

As we’ve discussed above, players have several avenues that they can take after retirement; sporting directors, managers, player agents, sports pundits and so on.

The problem is that a footballing career full of success doesn’t necessarily translate into a managerial career full of success, and vice versa.

There have been many players who have obtained coaching licences after hanging their boots, but failed to bring anything out of it. Two examples are Jurgen Klinsmann and Jaap Stam.


There are more than 200,000 people who have obtained valid UEFA-endorsed coaching licences at the time of writing.

Although each licence is only valid for three years, this is a very suitable option for people who would like to dive deeper into the intricacies of the sport.

In order to be admitted to a UEFA-coaching diploma course, you must:

  • Possess sufficient spoken and written skills in the official course language.
  • Meet the organiser’s admission criteria, which should include an aptitude evaluation.
  • Submit all admission documents required by the course organiser.
  • Have no criminal record for crimes incompatible with the coaching profession.

There are four UEFA diplomas in total: C, B, A and Pro, in that order. Candidates must obtain experience in lower-level courses before moving on to higher-level ones.

The UEFA C Diploma requires a minimum of 60 hours of education, the B Diploma requires 120, the A Diploma requires 180, and the Pro Diploma requires 360.

There are several other coaching licences and diplomas available for people interested in other areas of the sport, for example, youth development, goalkeeping and futsal.


This is perhaps one of the most complicated questions to answer, but it is one that deserves research.

The best way to begin tackling this idea is to outline the two basic aspects of football: attacking and defending, despite the fact that football is much more nuanced than that.

To that end, we’d expect that a past player who used to play as a defender would intrinsically instil a defensive mindset in their team, whereas a once-attacking player would be expected to invoke an attacking mindset in their team.

The best way to attempt to verify whether this is true is by taking a sample of ex-players who have chosen to pursue the coaching route.

  • Pep Guardiola, who was once a defensive midfielder, is known for his teams’ attacking traits and domination of possession.
  • Antonio Conte, who was a central midfielder for Juventus, is best known for his defensive-minded teams that tend to absorb their opponent’s pressure before striking back in a counter-attack.
  • Marcelo Bielsa, who was once a defender, is famous for his pioneering 3-3-3-1 aggressive pressing formation, meant to wrestle for full control of the pitch.
  • Carlo Ancelotti, who was a central midfielder, is known for his teams’ clinical attack — soaking up the pressure to then relay the damage with a goal.

Although we have only taken a very small sample to test this idea, there seems to be no correlation between the manager’s past playing position and their team’s playing style.

A larger influence on a team’s play style seems to be their manager’s past coaches. Pep Guardiola once had this to say about Marcelo Bielsa: “everyone who works with him is a better player and the teams are better. That’s why he’s a special manager and special person.”

Other managers who claim to have been influenced by Bielsa were Mauricio Pocchettino, Marcelo Gallardo and Diego Simeone.

In that light, it seems that the persons involved in the making of a player’s career might be much more influential than their playing position at the time.


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*Odds subject to change. Odds correct at time of publishing

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