9 unbelievably young ballers we can’t believe are managers in 2024

Football tends to make us feel old, especially when all the players we grew up watching are now retired and in the managerial dugout themselves.

After hanging up their boots, most footballers head into a career of coaching or punditry, but we can’t believe the number of young players now in the managerial hot seat.

Ignoring some of the obvious names like Wayne Rooney and Xabi Alonso, we’ve identified seven former players aged 40 and under who are now football managers.

Tom Cleverley

This makes us feel very old. It seems like only yesterday that Cleverley was emerging as a prospect through the Manchester United academy. We simply refuse to believe that he’s now retired and is the interim manager of Watford, but that’s the reality we now live in.

After hanging up his boots last summer, Cleverley initially stepped into a coaching role for the Watford U18s. He’s since been promoted to interim boss of the first team, following the recent dismissal of Valerien Ismael.

Being just 34 years old, Cleverley is the youngest entry on this list. He’s set to make his managerial debut next weekend when Watford take on Birmingham.

Cesc Fabregas

Fabregas was destined to go into management, wasn’t he? Having played under the likes of Arsene Wenger, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, he’s learnt from the very best in the business.

The 36-year-old was handed his first managerial gig with Como in November last year. He took over the Italian club on an interim basis and managed five games before he stepped back into an assistant role.

Of all of the names on this list, we’d probably put our money on Fabregas becoming the most successful manager. Unlike some of the other players of his generation, he seems cut out for a career in the dugout.

Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas celebrates

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Carlos Tevez

The former Premier League icon is now making a name for himself in his native country as a football manager. He spent a short spell at Rosario Central in 2022 and is now the manager of Independiente.

Tevez certainly isn’t the stereotypical type of player to go into management, but the 40-year-old has done well for himself since stepping into the managerial dugout.

“Carlitos Tevez as a coach? People didn’t see it,” Argentine scout Jonathan Vidalle told The Times. “But he has gone to difficult clubs, taken on challenges and done very well.”

Independiente currently sit second in Group A in the Argentine Primera Division. We sure would love to see Tevez managing in Europe one day.

Nuri Sahin

Sahin is only 35 years old and yet he’s been in the managerial game for over three years now. The former Liverpool midfielder started his managerial career with Antalyaspor in 2021 and spent just over two years with the Turkish club.

He left his post as Antalyaspor manager at the end of 2023 to join Borussia Dortmund as Edin Terzic’s assistant. Having managed a total of 94 matches, he’s already got plenty of experience under his belt.

Troy Deeney

Alright, there’s no denying that his first managerial stint didn’t go to plan. Forest Green Rovers appointed the 35-year-old in December last year and he lasted less than a month in the job.

Having failed to win any of his six games and publicly calling out his own players in the press, it didn’t take long until things unravelled for the former Watford skipper.

“I think in my situation you have to be humble enough to know that you made a mistake,” Deeney told William Hill when discussing his dismissal.

“Unfortunately, we live in a time when even if you own up to your mistakes and apologise for them, that’s not good enough. It’s disappointing, but I’ve been down a lot of rabbit holes where I’ve made mistakes, and I’ve always bounced back bigger and stronger.”

Javier Mascherano

During his playing days, Mascherano always came across as tactically astute. A leader for Liverpool, Barcelona and Argentina, it’s no surprise that he’s begun to forge a career in management.

Since 2021, the 39-year-old has been in charge of the Argentina U20s and he’ll no doubt have his eye on a senior gig soon. Watch this space.

Argentina's Javier Mascherano reacting during Netherlands v Argentina, in Arena de Sao Paulo Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on July 9, 2014.

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Burak Yilmaz

One of the deadliest strikers to ever grace the Turkish Super Lig. Yilmaz called it quits on his playing career last year and he’s not wasted any time in heading into management.

He became the interim Besiktas boss for a short spell last year and he’s since been appointed as the Kayserispor gaffer. Since being appointed in January, Yilmaz has only lost one of the seven games he’s managed. That’s not too shabby.

Alberto Aquilani

The Italian midfielder called it quits on his playing career in 2019 and quickly turned his attention to coaching. He initially took up a role as a youth coach at Fiorentina before landing his first managerial job in June last year.

The 39-year-old now manages Serie B outfit Pisa who sit eighth in the league. We eagerly await to see how his coaching career unfolds over these next few years.

Fernando Gago

Gago announced his retirement from professional football in November 2020 at the age of 34. It then only took him a few months to land his first managerial job at Argentine club Aldosivi.

The former Real Madrid midfielder then made a name for himself with Racing Club where he spent the following two years. He even managed to win a couple of trophies during his time with the Argentine outfit.

He resigned as Racing Club manager in September last year and has since been appointed as Guadalajara boss. Impressively, he’s already managed 149 games and he’s yet to turn 38.

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