Alonso is on the right path.

11 footballers who turned into brilliant managers: Alonso, Beckenbauer, Conte…

The transition from football player to coach is a seriously difficult task, but several household names have made the switch look ridiculously easy through the years.

There’s no hiding in football management which – forgive the cliche – is a results business. Players can be extraordinary, but to turn that talent on the pitch into a career as a leader, an organiser, a tactician and more takes another level of footballing mastermind.

Having looked at the brilliant footballers who have turned out to be terrible managers, we’ve flipped it on its head and taken a look at the footballers who found success on the touchline.

Franz Beckenbauer

The late, great Beckenbauer not only boasted perhaps football’s greatest nickname, but is one of only three people to have lifted the World Cup as a player and later a manager.

‘Der Kaiser’ modernised the role of the defender through the 1960s and 70s with his innovative sweeper style, spearheading Bayern Munich’s post-war revival in a mammoth 13-year stint with Die Roten, eventually retiring from playing in 1983 as a four-time Bundesliga winner and European Cup winner and two-time Ballon d’Or winner among countless other accolades.

After changing the game forever as a player, Beckenbauer took his brain to the touchline and took West Germany to the final of the 1986 World Cup, before going one better and winning it in 1990, before Germany’s reunification.

He managed Bayern after that and served as an influential presidential figure at the club.


Carlo Ancelotti

One of the game’s greatest-ever managers, Ancelotti is still somewhat underrated compared to his peers, despite having won the Champions League a record four times from the touchline.

Ancelotti’s longevity in management is such that plenty forget – or have never even known – that the Italian was actually one hell of a player, too.

Helping Parma up to Serie A in the ’80s, Don Carlo got his big break as a Serie A winner with Roma and was eventually a part of Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan side in the late 80s and early 90s that began to dominate Italian and European football.

He retired in 1992 a three-time Scudetto winner capped 26 times for Italy.

Zinedine Zidane

Everybody knows just how good Zizou was as a player. The midfielder made football endlessly joyous and plied his trade across Europe, picking up trophies for fun along the way.

But his exploits as a manager still somehow split opinion. Learning the ropes in Real Madrid’s academy, the Frenchman has taken the top job at the Bernabeu on two separate occasions and won two La Liga and three Champions League titles.

He’s not managed anywhere else, though, and appears to be incredibly careful about which job he takes next. Probably for the best. Rome, Italy. 15th Apr, 2021. Erik ten Hag coach of Ajax at the Roma vs Lazio Europa League Quarter-finals

READ: Ranking the most iconic bald managers by how ‘complicated’ they are ft. Ten Hag, Pep…

Didier Deschamps

Staying in France with the man Zizou has been linked with replacing a number of times, Deschamps enjoyed a playing career long before his success on the touchline with Les Bleus, playing for the likes of Chelsea and Juventus.

A defensive midfielder in his day, the Frenchman was always known for leadership qualities as well as obvious attributes such as reading of the game and recycling possession.

Deschamps was a part of the Marseille squad to lift the European Cup in 1993 – the only French team to date to win the competition.

He was capped 103 times for his country and sits alongside Beckenbauer in the club of those who have won the World Cup as a player and a manager.

Mario Zagallo

Completing the trio alongside Beckenbauer and Deschamps, Zagallo was the first person to win the World Cup as a player and a manager, lifting it in 1958 – and then 1962 – with Brazil, before guiding them to the trophy again in 1970 from the touchline – and again in 1994 as assistant manager.

While his managerial career took him around the world after the Selecao, his career as a player was much more straightforward.

Capped 33 times by his country, the forward spent seven years with Flamengo before moving to Botafogo in 1958, where he remained until his retirement in 1965.

He died in 2013 aged 92.

Pep Guardiola

For many, Guardiola needs no introduction. Possibly the greatest manager of all time, younger football fans might be shocked to hear that Guardiola enjoyed a fine playing career before coaching, which set him up nicely.

The only manager to win a continental treble twice – at two different clubs, too – Guardiola was a product of Barcelona’s academy and was a key cog in Johan Cruyff’s dream team of the 1990s.

He captained La Blaugrana from 1997 to 2001 and was capped 47 times for Spain, also playing in Italy, Qatar and Mexico – although his time in Italy was marred by a drugs ban.

Johan Cruyff

Speaking of all-time greats, Cruyff is that in the eyes of many.

Mr. ‘Total Football’ himself won the Ballon d’Or three times and completely revolutionised the game with Ajax and Barcelona in the 1970s, sweeping up domestic and European honours in his homeland before repeating similar feats with the Catalan giants.

He retired in 1984 and embarked on a truly special managerial career which inspired a generation of coaches – Dutch and beyond – and continues to do so now. One of the game’s most influential minds.

Xabi Alonso

Are we jumping the gun massively? Quite possibly. But between Bayer Leverkusen’s exhilarating football and the insane touchline outfits, it’s hard to see a world where Alonso doesn’t become an all-timer manager.

After winning it all as a player and turning out for Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, retiring in 2017 littered with honours and a reputation as one of the greatest midfielders of his generation, Alonso turned to coaching and hasn’t looked back.

He returned to Spain for his foundations on the touchline, managing Real’s under-14 side before taking over at Real Sociedad B.

Two years there set him up perfectly for a rescue mission in Leverkusen, transforming them from relegation-threatened giants to Bundesliga high-flyers in about a year.

Watch this space.

Xabi Alonso on the touchline.

READ: Xabi Alonso-ball is in full swing at Bayer Leverkusen & it’s officially melted our brains

Antonio Conte

Long before the win-at-all-costs sufferball and serial winner gimmick, Conte was doing it on the pitch.

Yet another midfielder who made the seamless transition to management, the Italian was capped 20 times for the Azzurri, finishing as a World Cup and Euros runner-up, while making 295 appearances for Juventus and becoming a club legend.

He lifted five Scudetti, a UEFA Cup (now Europa League) and a Champions League among others.

Roberto Mancini

It’s not often we see a forward shine as an elite manager, but Mancini has broken the mould throughout his coaching career.

With well over 500 games under his belt for Sampdoria in their heyday during the ’80s and ’90s, he retired in 2001 having won six Coppa Italia and two Serie A titles, as well as being named the Serie A Footballer and Italian Footballer of the Year in 1996-97.

A brief loan spell to Leicester before retirement wouldn’t be his last job in English football, returning in 2009 to lead Manchester City to their first Premier League title. He currently manages the Saudi Arabia national team after lifting Euro 2020 with the Azzurri.

Diego Simeone

Managers like El Cholo are a dying breed. Having been in charge of Atletico Madrid since 2011, he’s by far and away the longest-serving manager at the same club in Europe’s top five leagues.

Before his success with Atleti, though, the Argentine was a formidable midfielder enjoying two spells with his current employers, as well as spells with Sevilla, Inter and Lazio among others.

Simeone also represented Argentina in three different World Cups and four different Copa America tournaments across a whopping 108 caps.

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